The year, according to Ayurveda, is divided into two parts (kaals) based on the position of the sun: Aadaan kaal (Uttarayan) (Northern Solstice) & Visarga kaal (Dakshinayaan) (Southern Solstice). Aadaan implies absorbing, sucking or taking away and Visarga means giving. In Aadan kaal, the sun and wind are dominant. The sun sucks away the strength of the people and the cooling qualities of the earth, thus weakening the body. In Visarga kaal, the sun releases strength to the people. The moon is more powerful and the earth cools down due to clouds, rain and cold wind.
According to Ayurveda, there are six different seasons (ritus) that occur in a year. Each ritu lasts for 2 months and three ritus together form a kaal. The six ritus are:
Sishiram (winter) – mid January to mid March
Vasantham (spring) – mid March to mid May
Greeshma (summer) – mid May to mid July
Varsham (rainy season) – mid July to mid September
Sarath (autumn) – mid September to mid November
Hemanta (dew) – mid November to mid January
Sisiram (Winter), Vasantham (Spring) and Greeshma (Summer) are the seasons that occur in the Adaan Kaal (Northern Solstice). Hemanta (Dew), Sarath (Autumn) and Varsham (Rainy Season) are the seasons that occur in the Visarga Kaal (Southern Solstice).
Changing seasons have a significant impact on the human body. Changes in the climate can cause certain diseases to get activated and affect individuals. In Ayurveda, Ritu-charyas (translated as Season (Ritu) and Schedule (Charya)) direct humans to keep themselves protected from diseases that can occur due to climactic changes. Not all geographies experience all the six seasons, but the ritucharya can be formed based on the climate that are dominant in respective geographic locations.
Vata dosha pre-dominates during the dry/dehydrating heat of the summer and aggravates during the rainy season. Pitha pre-dominates during the rainy season and aggravates during autumn when the heat returns. Kapha pre-dominates during the cold season and aggravates during spring.
Guidelines for Hemanta (Dew) and Sishiram (Winter) (mid November to mid March)
Kapha dosha is prominent during this season. Thus, one could consume energy rich food items like milk and milk products, carbohydrate rich food items like rice, wheat, whole gram, etc to help restore the balance in the body. Wine prepared from jaggery (molasses) can also be consumed. Typically, one could get a hot oil massage and an udvartanam (application of dry powdered herbs on the body that is anointed with oil) with fine paste/powder of kumkum (kesar or saffron).
Guidelines for Vasantham (Spring) (mid March to mid May)
During this season, increased kapha is liquified by the heat of sun, causing the digestive activity to diminish. One must consume easily digestible food such as barley, honey, roasted meat, mango juice etc. Beverages such as asava (fermented infusion), arista (fermented decoction), sidhu (fermented sugarcane juice), honey mixed with water and water boiled with extracts of chandan (sandal wood) also help during this season. Hard to digest food items, cold food, sour, sweet and fatty food must be avoided as it increases kapha. Typically, dry massages and nasal medication is taken during this season. The use of chandan (sandal wood) and karpura (camphor) is also recommended.
Guidelines for Greeshma (Summer) (mid May to mid July)
Vata dosha is prominent during this season. One must increase the intake of water, juice, butter-milk, lemon juice, etc. All possible seasonal fruits must be included in one’s diet. Heavy physical exertion must be avoided in this season. Wine should be avoided or taken in very little quantities as it can cause burning sensation and/or debility. One could anoint the body with chandan (sandalwood) paste and bathe in cold water during this season.
Guidelines for Varsham (Rainy Season) (mid July to mid September)
This is the season when humans are most prone to diseases. The digestive activity of the body weakens further and gets vitiated by doshas. Hence all methods to mitigate doshas and measures to enhance digestive activity should be adopted. One should consume easily digestible food items to avoid further irritation of the digestive system. Pulses, meat juice, soups, old grains and thin water of yoghurt can be taken in food. Thippali (Indian long pepper), honey, dried ginger could also be consumed with grains like rice, wheat etc. One could get a Panchakarma (purification and detoxification) treatment to help restore the balance of the doshas in the body. Sleeping in the daytime and heavy exertion must be avoided in this season.
Guidelines for Sarath (Autumn) (mid September to mid November)
Pitha dosha is prominent during this season. Thus, one could include bitter, astringent and sweet tastes in their food consumption. The diet must include easily digestible food items like honey, small peas, green vegetables, green berries, red-rice, etc. Heavy food, curd, oil and strong liquors must be avoided in this season. One could get an udvartanam with chandan (sandalwood).