Ritusamhara is Kalidasa’s poetic tribute to the six Indian seasons. Ritusamhara in the context of his work means the collection of seasons. Some even translate it as the pageant of seasons.
India is one of the countries where the contrasting elements of the six seasons are so pronounced -especially in the central part of India where the great poet Kalidasa is said to have spent most part of his life. In coastal India the summer and winter may not be severe. In higher Himalayas summer may not be harsh. Many geographical regions of the globe may experience just four seasons, some three, some two, and some even one. During early education in India it is customary to remember the names of seven days of a week and twelve months and six seasons of a year. I wonder how many seasons do the children in other countries are made to learn as part of their basic education.
My present chosen place of residence Bengaluru never subjects me to the extremes of any season as they do in my native place in Odisha. That is the reason I find it easy to associate my native place with Ritusamhara even though Karnataka is full of natural beauty.
Ritu Samhara was written when electricity and other modern amenities were not even imagined. In those days even cities were like rural areas in the sense that one could have unhindered access to the sun and the moon and other elements of nature. Perhaps man made flower gardens too were a rarity in those days. So nature expressed itself unhindered through its various seasons. Other than perhaps the rice plant, all the plants mentioned in Ritusasmahra are wild ones.
These days when forests are destroyed with impunity for the sake of roti and makan we are likely to miss the wild kandali plant that becomes resplendent with dew in pre-winter and the red-velvet mite (Indragopaka / patapoka) in rainy days. Also, a kind of colonialisation is slowly creeping in replacing the native plants with the imported ones. During my childhood kadmba, shikakai, bakula and shfali plants used to be so common. Now a days in my visit to my native place I rarely find one.
As it is, global warming has become a reality in my native place so much so that so that winter is for name’ s sake. Coupled with that, the flowering plants you see do not remind you of the current season as they used to do earlier. Even the vegetable and fruits you get do not remind you of the current season. The seasonal nature of vegetables and fruits have completely been destroyed.
Spring and autumn were the two most enjoyable seasons. Their enjoyability was enhanced by the contrasting seasons that preceded and succeeded them. Now we have devised all artificial ways not to feel the severity of any season.
Suppose you are living in a city. It does not matter which part of India it is. You live in a high rise that has room heaters and air conditioners. You travel to office in an air conditioned car. Your office too has temperature controlled interiors and all other gadgets to prevent you from coming in contact with the sun moon and other elements of nature. What will changes of season mean to you in such a situation.
Added to that what we are losing is ‘the stand and stare’ time. Our minds are either too much preoccupied with the targets and reports or with the artificial stimulations provided by modern gadgets. While global warming has created disruptions in the cyclic flow of nature and reduced the distinctive features of many seasons, the use of gadgets and our style of living has made us insensitive to the seasonal changes happening around us.
So when I read books like Ritusamhara these days things seem more like nostalgia than something that is happening in our present age. There was a time in our earth’s history when there was only winter for a very long time. It was the ice age. The way things are going, before long we may have to face a very scorching summer for a very long time. After the revival of life on earth in the distant future, who knows, this period maybe called as the great fire age.
By the way another literal meaning of Ritusamhara is – destruction of seasons.