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Ritucharya (Seasonal Routines):

[EXCERPT from Up-coming book “Ayurvedic Wellness Tips”]

© Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham/Arogya Ayurvedic Health Ltd.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form, without direct permission from the author. Quotes may be used in research works, providing proper citations and references are given.

Ayurveda considers the effects of seasons on our lives, due to their constant changes due to exogenous effects, that can affect our daily metabolic functions, both physically and mentally.

We have discussed in the beginning, how Ayurveda correlates various times of the day and correlates them with the doshas and their aggravation. Likewise, as a part of the Ayurvedic circadian clock, Ayurveda also looks at various effects relative to seasons (ritu), which we will now discuss here, as an important topic, relative to the scope of this book.

As a part of its preventative medicine scince, Ayurveda thus looks at the effects of these seasons and the changes they have relaive to affecting us, as individuals.

According to the traditional six-season model in India, vata accumulates in the summer-time and aggravates in the early rainy-season; pitta accumulates in the rainy or monsoon season and aggravates in the autumn and kapha accumulates in pre-winter and aggravates in the spring.

Here, the six seasons are:

Vasanta
or Spring
Grishma or Summer
Varshaor Monsoon season
Sharada or Early autumn
Hemanta or Late autumn
Shishira or Winter

Today there are many that claim to use the classical six-season system of the classics of Ayurveda (introducing shishira or late-winter / cold season and varsha or rainy / monsoon season) and apply them to western and other environments. Yet, the reality is that that we cannot use the six-season model of Ayurveda as in India, as we don’t have six seasons! Moreover, the seasons also differ in the Northern and Southern hemisphere! In Australasia for example, we celebrate Christmas in the summer-time, not in the cool winter as in the Northern Hemisphere and hence the same regimens and times cannot be superimposed. India is also a tropical nation, whereas others are not and change accordingly.

Moreover, these differ as per nation as per specific climates and cycles also, especially in relation to the North and South pole, which Ayurveda understands well with desha (land or region)etc. which all of this also comes into.

The climates across the US alone can change quite dramatically, especially the South closer to the equator and the North which is closer to the North Pole! This reveals that different models are here required as seasons have different properties even in the North American continent, let alone between continents themselves and localised variations of weather patterns. Land-locked regions of the south are also different in the desert to those bordering coastlines etc.

Even ecologists today employ four-seasonal systems in temperate and sub-polar regions, but employ a six-season system for more temperate or tropical regions. Kerala for example has to be treated as a kind of “rainy season / monsoon” (varsha season) climate due to having the highest rainfall of India. Hence, such issues need to be addressed relative to these sciences, as such again doesn’t apply to the rest of the world – just as the consumption of turkey, chilies, potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, avocados etc. native to the Americas[1] is suitable for those habitually used to other foodstuffs in their diets for thousands of years (as Europeans) – whereas such are anti-doted with spices to aid in their digestions in the orient where they were introduced through trade in the past 400 years[2] – what is known as satmya or suitability in Ayurveda, as per cultural and social norms in dietary, lifestyle and other habits that are not always the same. Not all nations eat curries or spiced foods as India does for example and thus may not be able to handle the hotter, more pungent spices (such as Indian long pepper, ginger and garlic) traditionally used in South Asia.

Here we must remember that regions nearer the equator will have different kinds of seasonal effects to those nearer the poles, especially relative to summer and winter. India as a more tropical climate has its system centered more upon this system which differs from many other nations here and thus such properties must be assessed in a more unique manner – just as one should differentiate between predominating doshic factors in a patient, as also their vayas (age) in which doshic predominating factors are high, as also relative to their ethnicity also, as such variations exist. Smaller eyes for example are not always a sign of a vata person, just as a larger nose is not a sign of a kapha person when it comes to race. India possesses various racial types from Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Australoid and Negrito. We have to allow for differences here, just as we do for seasonal changes and changes in climatic factors and properties relative to them.

As such, the following four-season model is adapted to the west and such relative to Ayurveda. We must remember that Ayurveda considered such things as desha (location) and the effects of such regional changes, relative to how it assessed various things and gave such various properties accordingly. We know these by our own regions, once we have understood the gunas or properties of these.


[1] As per Ayurveda, these foods wouldn’t necessarily cause issues to people habitually suited to them, but may for others newly adopting them. Ayurveda often,as Indian cooking, uses spices to “anti-dote” these toxic effects of new foods and those we are unaccustomed to. 

Here, Charaka Samhita, Chikitsasthana, XXX.321-325 gives examples of, just as how the diets of Chinese, Europeans etc. doesn’t affect them, though sometimes contrary to disease, so sometimes like qualities of the doshas can alleviate them, as pitta deep within the tissues can be brought out by heat as in poultices or hot application and that excreta from a fly, though causing vomiting sensations, can also cure it (things which are normally contrary, but in certain cases help the disorder)!

[2] There is evidence to support the use of potatoes, chillies, maize, pumpkins etc. in India and Indian cooking in the pre-Columbian period.  Maize is seen on Hoysala and other sculptures in earlier times, as as early as 100AD (Sorenson, John L & Johannessen,  Carl  L: Scientific Evidence for Pre-Columbian Voyages Sino-Platinoc Papers,  Dept. of  East Asian Languages and Civilisations,  University of Pennsylvania, April 2004.).        Amaranth has also been culyivated since Indus-Valley times (source: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/indus-valley-non-vegetarian-national-museum-6278349/).

Here, we know that India-America relations were possible in the earlier centuries AD, as also as early as the Ramayana and the Chola etc. Empires. Thus, it’s possible we used chilies much earlier!

According to the Asian Scientist magazine (June 1, 2018), sweet potatoes have have first been cultivated in India itself, and not the Americas as history tells us., due to fossils of leaves around 57 million years ago (Source: https://www.asianscientist.com/2018/06/in-the-lab/fossil-sweet-potatoes-asia-india/ ).


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Categories
ayurveda diet

India’s Curry Influence

Today we see many curries across the globe, from the Indonesian and Thai to the classic India, as well as other influences. Many ask how this came to be?

Curries originated in the Indus Valley civilisation, which began as early as 7,000BCE in Northern India, however, many spices came from India to the West, notably cinnamon, cardamom, pepper and condiments such as sugar. Aubergines and cucumbers were also natives to India.

Across SE Asia, from the Khmer people of Cambodia, to the people of Thailand, was a great influence from Hindu and Buddhist India – including why such people use adaptations of the ancient Indian (Brahmi) scripts, via Southern India, where Buddhist and Hindu Monks, as also kings spread their influence of these religions to Japan to SE Asia. Ancient universities at Nalanda (northern India) and Takshashila (ancient Gandhara) attracted students from Greece, Rome as well as the Arab world to Japan, SE Asia and beyond to learn Indian sciences such as Ayurveda (medicine – out surgery came from India, transmitted west by Arabs), mathematics (out decimal system, zero and numerals came from India, as also algebra, trigonometry etc.), Astronomy, Politics etc.

With the height of southern empires as the Chola Dynasty came more influence in the Austronesian world; Austronesians include the Malays, Indonesians, Filipinos, Vietnamese as well as Polynesians (Hawaiians, Maori etc.). These people originated from Taiwan and then to the Northern Philippines, where they dispersed. From early times, the influence of India, including culinary was strong – the use of banana leaves, South-Indian inspired cocnut-based curries with tamarind and black pepper (before tomatoes and chillies were introduced) and various preparations became the norm in these areas, as we see today.

The South Indian influences of various breads (parottas etc.) have worked their way into Malay cuisine, such as Roti Cenai etc., as well as numerous other dishes. In Thailand, red, green and yellow curries with their galangal and ginger, tamarind and coconut milk and creams are strong with south Indian influence to this day, as also their use of Sanskrit (Hindu) place names, names of their Kings, art, dress, writing and architecture, as across the Khmer and Austronesian world also.

In the ancient Indus-Valley culture around 3,000BCE, Indians consumed curries with garlic, ginger, turmeric and other spices and condiments. Aubergines, chickens and others were eaten, and the existence of tandoor ovens for making breads and the classical “tandoori-chicken” are thus the same today in northern India as they were some 5,000 years ago! Not much here has changed, nor in SE Asia.

The genius Piper longum or Indian Long Pepper (Pippali) is the hotter of peppers, originally used to give curries their pungent flavours and fiery tastes, prior to chillies. By contrast, Piper nigrum or Indian Black Pepper (Maricha) was imported by the Romans from India, who, it seems, confused the names (Piper from Pippali – Indian Long Pepper, as opposed to Black Pepper).

India’s influence in areas more traditional still stands, especially in Bali in Indonesia. The influence of Japan also, via Buddhism, martial arts and the Siddha script (derived via Devanagari), as also on China and SE Asia via Indian Vegetarianism has shaped many countries to this day. Here, it has influenced the numerous vegetarian options such as tofu and soy-based faux meats in curries and other dishes across China.

Likewise, India also received various “Manchurian” dishes via trade and influences with Chinese sailors, traders and monks visiting, as Indo-Chinese, blending both worlds.

From 600BCE onwards, Indian universities were homes to various cuisines. Nalanda around 500AD – 1200AD boasted over 10,000 students at a time from, as noted, as vast of Greece, Rome, Egypt to Persia, Central Asia and the Arab world to as east as Japan, and across SE Asia from Thailand to Indonesia, Malaysia etc. This is also how much came to cross-over.

Even the pilaf, which also spurned the Paella and other dishes, originated in the Indian world from the dish of Pilau, which was first seen the Indo-Bactrian and Sindhi world by Alexander the Great and his people, which was taken back to Europe. This rice-dish is mentioned in many Indian classics as well as other literatures.

Thus, let us savour some ancient Indian tastes and contemplate the variations of curries originating in India across the Asiatic world when we next sit down, or chow down on our Thai green curries!


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