Moonlight and Pomegranates

Living Sanskrit Ayurveda, Ritual

by Hema Patankar

Companions for a healthy journey through late fall to the threshold of winter

In the beautiful fall season known in Sanskrit as Sharad Ritu, the heat of summer seems to leave the trees in a blaze of red and gold leaves. It extends from mid September to mid November. While we watch the magnificent display of fall colors the accumulated heat of summer is leaving our organs and senses in a less magnificent way than the dazzling leaves.  It’s quite common to feel that the heat of summer is leaving us in a blaze of various burning symptoms.  Rashes suddenly flare up, fevers have kids home from school, acidity makes a nuisance of itself.  Pockets of inflammation can take many forms. Doctors are busy in this season.

What’s going on?  Aren’t we supposed to be feeling cool, breezy relief from the heat of summer?  The increasingly cool nights we experience in California and most of North American, help us release the accumulated heat of summer.  But then the sunny Indian summer days warm things up again.  So this big daily fluctuation in the temperature makes the days seem hotter than they really are. In India, we cool down drastically during the monsoon season, only to experience a fresh blast of hot days when the monsoon clouds clear.  And this heat can overpower our enjoyment of the lush, post monsoon beauty.

In Ayurvedic terms, both these scenarios aggravate Pitta Dosha, those fiery forces that are normally busy helping us digest food and all the experiences our senses perceive, and transform them in ways that nourish and sustain us.  When this same force is on overflow in fall, that’s when people experience burning this and burning that – unless you know the antidotes.

Moonlight and pomegranates are the best medicine for this season.

Moonlight is the most soothing and charming elixir not only for the mind and senses, but for the physical body as well.  It’s fascinating that the festivals of the Vedic tradition in this season have us celebrating outside in the moonlight in the early evening. If you can’t find time time for sit in the moonlight, set a glass of water on a porch or windowsill and let it soak up moonrays through the night.  Then drink it in the morning.  And if you happen to have any pearls, wear them during this season.  They are cooling like the moon.

The tastes that Ayurvedic wisdom recommends we feature in our fall meals are sweet, bitter and astringent.  That right, it’s not time for those hot winter spices yet.  They will just add to the heat that’s trying to escape from your body in fall.

There is a prized fruit that’s both sweet and astringent and abundantly available in fall: pomegranate.  Drink it as juice (no ice!), sprinkle the colorful seeds on top of rice or butternut squash – use your imagination here.  Or just open a pomegranate and enjoy the way the juice explodes from the seeds with each bite. Sweet pomegranate is quite an amazing medicine.  It has a cooling, cleansing yet invigorating effect on the process of digestion.  It cools our eyes and nourishes the mind. It’s qualities are particularly easy to absorb.  And it’s so much more attractive than a powdered medicine from the pharmacy.

Are you getting a sense of why traditional Ayurveda places so much focus on understanding how to eat and move in harmony with the characteristics of each season?  Sharad Ritu may bring health challenges if it’s not understood, but it’s also a season that is so beautiful and filled with celebrations that the sages of the Atharva Veda sang repeatedly, “May we live to see a hundred Sharad Ritus!”