Pleasures of Shishira

केशानाकुलयन्दृशौ मुकुलयन्वासो बलादाक्षिप-

न्नातन्वन्पुलकोद्गमं प्रकटय्न्नावेगकम्पं गतेः।

वारं वारमुदारसीत्कृतरवैर्दन्तच्छदं पीडय-

न्प्रायः शैशिर एष संप्रति मरुत्कान्तासु कान्तायते॥

 Keśān ākulayan dṛśau mukulayan vāso balād ākṣipann

Ātanvan pulak’-odgramaṃ prakaṭyannāvega-kampaṃ gateḥ |

vāraṃ vāram udāra-sītkṛta-ravair dantacchadaṃ pīḍayan

prāyaḥ śaiśira eṣa saṃprati marut kāntāsu kāntāyate ||

 Ruffling their hair, making them close their eyes, violently snatching their clothes away, giving them goose bumps, making their limbs tremble with excitement and eliciting from them again and again loud gasps that chap their lips – this śiśira wind now seems to be these women’s lover.

Verse 3944 in the Śārṅgadharapaddhati and verse 1854 in the Subhāṣitāvali – anonymous in both

Descriptions of Śiśira almost invariably include bedroom scenes.  In the eyes of classical Sanskrit poets, the seasons as a whole are closely aligned to the erotic, and each season has its own peculiar relationship with Love – both as a god and an abstract noun – and Love’s activities.  Nevertheless, descriptions of śiśira (and hemanta) deal with sex in a much more straightforward way.  There is less of the subtle interplay between what is happening in the external world and what takes place within the heart.  Many verses are set inside and contain little reference to the lovers’ surroundings at all, save perhaps for the cold which has successfully been defeated either by the warmth of the house or the warmth of their partner.  As the verse above illustrates, at times even the negative aspects of the season – in this case the bitterly cold northern wind – are turned into welcome stimulants to sex.  The verse anthologies have specific sections on subjects such as śiśira-sukha (pleasures of śiśira) or dṛṅ-mīlana-krīḍa (games that make you shut your eyes).

The several morning-after scenes of the ṛtusaṃhāra, such as this, are fairly typical:

प्रकामकामैर्युवभिः सुनिर्दयं

निशासु दीर्घास्वभिरामिताश्चिरम्।

भ्रमन्ति मन्दं श्रम-खेदितोरवः

क्षपावसाने नययौवनाः स्त्रियः॥

prakāma-kāmair yuvabhiḥ su-nirdayaṃ niśāsu dīrghāsv abhirāmitāś ciram |
bhramanti mandaṃ śrama-khedit’-oravaḥ kṣapā-‘vasāne nava-yauvanāḥ striyaḥ ||

 Mercilessly and endlessly enjoyed through long nights by uncontrollably passionate young men, women fresh with youth walk slowly when the night draws to an end, their thighs aching from their exertions.

5.7, Rtusamhara – Kalidasa

Why should śiśira have such an overdose of surata or love-making?  The poets seem to imply it is a natural consequence of being shut up indoors.  Perhaps so.  But given that there is little else to describe in this season – the references to various flowers and trees in śiśira is very roughly about a fifth of the total found in the succeeding season, vasanta – were the poets simply short of subject matter?  Even Rājaśekhara has little to say about śiśira save for how to mitigate its effects – by smearing saffron on your body for instance – and celebrates the season chiefly for the love-making opportunities the long nights bring.  He also notes that śiśira is praised only by the rich, to whom alone the pleasures of śiśira are available.  This final verse furthers this idea:

सद्यो धूपितमुत्प्रदीपमभितः संरुद्धवातायनं

शुब्रं वेश्म मरालपक्ष्ममृदुला शय्या सचन्द्रातपा।

अङ्के कुङ्कुमपिञ्जरा च रमणी पूगं मुखे नूतनं

स्याच्चेत् तद्विधिवञ्चितः स्पृहयति प्रावारभाराय कः॥

Sadyo dhūpitam utpradīpam abhitaḥ saṃruddha-vātāyanam

śubhraṃ veśma marāla-pakṣma-mṛdulā śayyā sa-candr’-ātapā |

aṅke kuṅkuma-pinjarā ca ramaṇī pūgaṃ mukhe nūtanaṃ

syāc cet tad vidhi-vancitaḥ spṛhayati prāvāra-bhārāya kaḥ ||

 A white-washed house just then perfumed and lit up throughout, with the windows closed.  A bed soft with duck feathers and bathed in moonlight.  Your mistress, her face yellowed with saffron, lying in your lap.  Fresh betel nut in your mouth.  With all of this, who, cheated by fate, would long for a thick cloak?

 4th verse of the śiśira-sukhāḥ section of the Sadūktikarṇāmṛtam, attributed to Virinci


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