Grishma

वहद्बहलमारुतप्रसरदग्निखण्डैरिव

स्फुरद्द्युमणिमण्डलद्युतिवितानकैस्तापिता।

विसारि वपुरात्मनः सपदि वासरश्रीरियम्

चलन्मरुमरीचिकासिचयपल्लवेनाञ्चति॥

Vahad-bahala-māruta-prasarad-agni-khaṇḍair iva sphurad-dyu-maṇi-maṇḍala-dyuti-vitānakais tāpitā |

Visāri vapur ātmanaḥ sapadi vāsara-śrīr iyaṃ calan-maru-marīcikā-sicaya-pallavena ancati ||

This day-time brilliance, heated by the lustrous expanse of the glittering sun’s orb which seems to consist of fragments of fire shot forth by the thousands of gusting breezes, bends itself as it expands, its robe billowing into a quivering desert mirage.

Verse 42 from the Subhāśitaratnabhaṇḍāgaram

Like the mirages that the heat produces, grīṣma has an unreal quality to it.  Love is laid low by the fierce sun, and with it poetic convention: descriptions of grīṣma contain some unusual verse. The sun itself tries to flee the fiercest heat by climbing high into the sky at midday.  The flames of the forest fire are tongues sent forth by trees desperate for water.  The water shades itself with umbrellas formed of lotus-leaves.   Shadows cling to trees or men’s feet, seeking the shade themselves.

परपुरुषादिव सवितुः संप्रति भीताः कराग्रंस्पर्शात्।

कुलवध्व इव सलज्जाः प्रविशन्ति गृहोदरं चायाः॥

parapuruṣād iva savituḥ saṃprati bhītāḥ karāgra-saṃsparśāt |

kula-vadhva iva sa-lajjāḥ praviśanti gṛh’-odāraṃ chāyāḥ ||

Shadows, shrinking from contact with the tip of the sun’s rays as if from a man’s fingertips, enter the house’s innermost recesses like blushing faithful wives.

Verse 1698 in the Subhāśitāvali, attributed to Rāmilaka

The mysterious figure of the prapāpālikā, a beguiling and dangerous siren-like woman who is stationed on the road to offer travellers’ water and appears in many of the subhāṣita collections, only adds to the fantastical quality of this season.

The laws of the animal kingdom too are inverted.  Conventional hostility between predator and prey is forgotten as the peacock makes for the foot of the tree unmindful of the snake’s lair, and the snake emerges from his hole to shelter in the shade formed by the peacock’s tail. Boiling in the muddy shallow water, the frog abandons his pond and lies down in the shade of the snake’s head.  The elephant mistakes the lion’s tail for a tender lotus stalk.  The snake tries to climb into the cool, moist tube of the elephant’s trunk.

There are two remedies for the heat: money and passion.  Those with either, or both, have all manner of resources at their disposal to negate the effects of the season.

The wealthy enjoy the summer in elaborate jewelled fountain houses with sophisticated cooling systems.

यन्त्रप्रवाहैः शिशिरै परीतान्रसेन धौतान्मलयोद्भवस्य।

शिलाविशेषानधिशय्य निन्युर्धारागृहेष्वातपमृद्धिमन्तः॥

Yantra-pravāhaiḥ śiśiraiḥ parītān rasena dhāutān malay’-odbhavasya |

Śilā-viśeṣān adhiśayya ninyur dhārā-gṛheṣv’ ātapam ṛddhimantaḥ ||

16.49 of the Raghuvaṃśa of Kālidāsa, translated by CR Devadhar

Lovers indulge in ‘jala-keli’ – water sports – here and in rivers and lakes.

प्रभ्रष्टैः सरभसमम्भसो ऽवगाहक्रीडाभिर्विदलितयूथिकापिशङ्गैः।

आकल्पैः सरसि हिरण्मयैर्वधूनामौर्वाग्निद्युतिशकलैरिव व्यराजि॥

prabhraṣṭaiḥ sarabhasam ambhaso ‘vagāha-krīḍābhir vidalita-yūthikā-piśaṅgaiḥ |

ākalpaiḥ sarasi hiraṇmayair vadhūnām aurv’-āgni-dyuti-śakalair iva vyarāji ||

As they lay in pieces after the energetic water games, yellow with fragments of yūthikā jasmine, women’s golden jewels glittered on the lake floor as if they were the flashing splinters of Aurva’s submarine fire.

Verse 106 from the Subhāśitaratnabhaṇḍāgaram

The water serves to dishevel women’s hair, jewels and clothes rendering them even more attractive.  Freshly-bathed women, smeared with cooling sandal wood paste, soothe their lovers’ heat and awake the slumbering god of love. Bāṇa has women’s wet hair as chowries fanning grīṣma, a king fresh from his conquest of vasanta.  More conventional verse reasserts itself with descriptions of couples sipping wine on moon-bathed terraces.

But as Bhaṭṭabāṇa writes, you do not need to neutralise the heat to enjoy grīṣma.  The extreme weather allows us to appreciate simple pleasures all the more:

श्वेताम्भःकणिकाचितेन वपुषा शीतानिलस्पर्शनं

तर्षोत्कर्षजुषा मुखेन शिशिरस्वच्छाम्बुपानादरः।

दूराध्वक्लमनिःसहैरवयवैश्चायासु विश्रान्तयः

कश्मीरान् परितो निदाघसमये धन्यः परिभ्राम्यति॥

Śveta-ambhaḥ-kaṇikā-citena vapuṣā śīta-anila-sparśanaṃ

tarṣa-utkarṣa-juṣā mukhena śiśira-svaccha-ambu-pāna-ādaraḥ |

dūra-adhva-klama-niḥsahair avayavaiś chāyāsu viśrāntayaḥ

kaśmīrān parito nidāgha-samaye dhanyaḥ paribhrāmyati ||

The touch of a cool breeze upon skin soaked in drops of sweat.  The service a sip of cold pure water renders to a mouth tormented by thirst. Resting limbs weak with the exhaustion of a long journey in shady spots.  In the hot season, small blessings are to be found all over Kaśmīra.

Verse 1710 in the Subhāśitāvali, attributed to Bhaṭṭabāna

To view a full list of all posts on the seasons and their flowers, click here.

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