• In India, the cycle of 6 seasons occur in every 12 months. Rutucharya means scientific food habit and lifestyle according to different season
• People who follow Rutucharya will be free from diseases. It is also helpful for diseased person for early curing of disease.
• Festivals are arranged in particular season as per our dietary need. So we should understand the relation in ancient scientific arrangement of special type of food in respective festivals.
It is said in Ayurveda:
शीर्यते अनेन इति शरीरं (Chakrapani commentary on च.सं.सू. that which deteriorates or that which is always in a state of change towards degeneration is called as शरीरं (human body). Our ancestors were aware of astronomy; they keenly observed the changes in seasons with respect to sun, moon, stars, winds, and rainfall.
यत् पिण्डे, तत् ब्रह्माण्डे । Whatever there is in the environment is also there is the human body The concept of “यत् पिण्डे, तत् ब्रह्माण्डे” (whatever there is in the environment is also there is the human body) was applied, which led to appreciating changes in the human body according to seasons and regimens were made accordingly. Seasonal regimens main aim was to prevent diseases due to seasonal derangement of doshas. Hence Rutucharya is one of the ways to be in sync with ever-changing nature and being healthy all at the same time.
About basic knowledge of ऋतुचर्या)
What is a Ritu (ऋतु)? - ऋतु means द्वौ मासौ (dvau māsau) or two months.
How many Ritus we have and which are they? - Since 2 months make one Ritu, we have 6 Ritus, unlike western seasons which are 4 i.e. Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn.
So the 6 Ritus are:
|ऋतुए ( Season )||मास ( Month )||सूर्य बल ( Sun Power )||चंद्र बल (Moon Power )||मनुष्य बल (Human Power )|
|शिशिर ( Late Winter )||15 Jan. to 15 March||पूर्ण||क्षीण||उत्तम|
|वसंत ( Spring )||15 March to 15 May||पुर्णतर||क्षीणतर||मध्यम|
|ग्रीष्म ( Summer )||15 May to 15 July||पुर्नतम||क्षीणतम||अल्प|
|वर्षा ( Rains )||15 July to 15 Sept.||क्षीण||पूर्ण||मध्यम|
|शरद ( Autumn )||15 Sept to 15 Nov.||क्षीणतर||पुर्णतर||मध्यम|
|हेमंत ( Early Winter )||15 Nov. to 15 Jan.||क्षीणतम||पुर्नतम||उत्तम|
- The first three Ritus are together called as आदान काल ādāna kāla (उत्तरायण uttarāyaṇa – tilt of northern hemisphere of earth away from the sun) and next three together called as विसर्ग काल visarga kāla (दक्षिणायन dakṣiṇāyaṇa – tilt of southern hemisphere of earth away from the sun).
- There is a gradual decrease of बलं balaṃ (physical strength or immunity due to the seasonal effect) during उत्तरायण uttarāyaṇa and gradual increase of बलं balaṃ during दक्षिणायन dakṣiṇāyaṇa
- What is चर्या (caryā)? नियम-अपरित्याग: (शब्दकल्पद्रुम) – not giving up certain rules or following certain आहार (food habits) and विहार (physical activities).
- What is RituCharya ऋतुचर्या? Here is the definition of Ritucharya as given in Ashtanga Hridaya Sutram – ऋतुविशेषवशाच्च आहारविहारसेवानप्रतिपादनार्थं ऋतुचर्याया: ।
- There occur some special changes in environment and humans in every Ritu and hence certain foods and exercises are specifically told for each Ritu, this process is as Ritucharya ऋतुचर्या Source – (अरुणदत्त (aruṇadatta) commentary on अष्टांग ह्रुदय सूत्र ३/१ (aṣṭāṃga hrudaya sūtra 3.1)
- Why RituCharya ऋतुचर्या is necessary? Following ritucharya diet supplies your body with everything it needs to tackle illnesses caused by seasonal changes. The research also claims that ritucharya diet can be the answer to a plethora of lifestyle disorders such as blood sugar, blood pressure, weight gain, obesity, physical inactivity, various kinds of cancer etc. To properly adopt ritucharya diet, you must be aware of what types of foods to have and avoid in each season throughout the year.
- 1 & 2) Ritucharya for हेमन्त (hemanta) and शिशिर (śiśira)
हेमन्त (hemanta) (early winter, mid-November to mid-January), शिशिर (śiśira) (late winter, mid-January to mid-march) Cold environment causes vasoconstriction of blood vessels in the periphery leading to more blood supply to the core, which leads to secretion of digestive juices in the stomach, ultimately it means more hunger than any other seasons. Cold and dry winds reduce the moisture in the skin; contraction of muscles which leads to heat generation in the body. Hence application of oil or moisturizer helps the skin, it also increases peripheral blood supply and relaxes the muscles. Wine and rum increase peripheral blood supply, giving a sense of warmth in a cold environment. According to Ayurveda, Lavana (salty), Amla (sour) and unctuous food are heavy to digest and are apt to be used when there is more digestive fire to digest it.
Environmental changes: Dry and cold winds, intense sunlight. Bodily changes: Digestive fire is increased as cold weather blocks heat in the periphery of one’s body (vasoconstriction). Accumulation of deranged Kapha dosha begins, which leads to diseases like asthma, common cold, diabetes mellitus, Atherosclerosis, etc. Ahara (Diet): Eating Sour, salty, heavy, unctuous, thick meals. Using more by-products of sugar cane, gram/wheat flour. Drinking milk and milk products, wine, rum, and hot water are recommended. Vihara (lifestyle): Abhyanga (application of oil to the whole body), Utsadana (applying medicated powder of drugs to the body), oil to the scalp. Staying in warm and less windy places. Warm clothes are recommended. To be avoided: too much of Spicy (black pepper, capsicum, etc), bitter (bitter gourd, Guduchi leaf, broccoli, etc.), astringent (cauliflower, potato, etc.) food is to be avoided or eaten less. Exposure to cold winds as well as consuming cold drinks and foods are to be avoided too. Avoid sleeping during day time. Ritucharya for वसन्त (vasanta)
- 3.वसन्त (spring- mid-march to mid-may)
Spring season is marked by longer day time with more exposure to sunlight. Sunlight exposure leads to the release of hormone serotonin in the human body, leading to a better mood. During the long darkness of winter months, the body naturally produces more melatonin. For people prone to seasonal affective disorder, all that melatonin triggers a winter depression. In spring, when melatonin production eases up, so does depression.
Environmental changes: increased intensity of sunlight than in Shishira Ritu.
Bodily changes: Deranged Kapha dosha accumulated in Shishira Ritu is liquefied in Vasanth Ritu leading to reduced digestive fire resulting in many diseases or aggravation of diseases that were there in winter. Moderate बल (strength) present in humans.
Ahara(diet): old यव (barley), गोधूम (wheat), rice, green gram, and lentil to be consumed. Food tasting predominantly Tikta (bitter), Katu (pungent) and Kashaya (astringent) which are light for digestion are to be consumed. Drinking liquids like honey mixed with water recommended.
Vihara (lifestyle): Vamana therapy – medicated vomiting exercise
Udvartana – rubbing medicated dry powders over the body before bath
Dhumapana – inhaling and exhaling smoke of specific medicines for a certain time according to the diseases, body type, etc.
Kavala Graha – filling the mouth with medicated oil, medicine decoction or hot water till mouth fills with saliva
Anjana (collyrium) – applying a medicated paste from inner edge to outer edge of the lower eyelid
Sexual intercourse – once every three day-one way to reduce deranged Kapha dosha
To be avoided: Eating sweet, sour, salty and oily food which is heavy for digestion and sleeping in the day time is to be avoided.
- 4.Ritucharya for ग्रीष्म (Grishma)
ग्रीष्म (Summer- mid-May to mid-July)
Environmental changes: The intensity of मयूख (mayūkha, Sunlight) is at its peak.
Bodily changes: There is a maximum loss of सौम्य (saumya, moisture like constituents) in one’s body, leading to least बल (strength). Deranged Kapha dosha comes back to normalcy due to seasonal changes and Deranged Vata dosha starts accumulating in its main site.
Ahara(diet): स्वादु (sweet), शीतं (cooling), द्रवं (liquids) and स्निग्ध (unctuous) food and drinks, मन्थं (churned juice of sweet and sour fruits with water and sugar), ghee, milk, rice can be consumed. Those who are habituated of drinking मद्य (fermented drinks-wine, rum, etc) should drink in the least quantity or with food or by diluting it with more water.
Vihara (lifestyle): During day time, one should stay in cold places or home and at night, one should sleep under the moonlight by applying Chandana (sandalwood powder) to his/her body. More cooling drugs like Chandana, Ushira (vitiveria zizanoides) are to be kept in water for touching frequently and cooling one’s body. Wearing pearls, corals made jewelry at night and visiting cool forest areas and water bodies filled with flowers is recommended.
To be avoided: लवण (salty), अम्ल (sour), कटू (pungent) and उष्ण (hot) food and drinks are to be taken less or avoided. व्यायामं (exercise) is best avoided in this season, as there is the least strength in body.
There is loss of fluids in the form of sweat during the summer season, hence more liquids are preferred in the form of juices and more carbohydrate-rich foods like rice which provides quick energy is advised in this season.
It’s told in Ayurveda that the people and plants from dry regions have more strength and endurance against diseases than those in regions of more rainfall. Since animals of dry regions are stronger and light to digest, they are preferred in summer season as meat in Ayurveda.
In Ayurveda, pearls are said to have a cooling effect on the body if worn or taken internally after proper processing. As it is formed in the ocean, that is cool, its effect on one’s body is also cooling.
- What is दक्षिणायन (dakṣiṇāyaṇa)?
i.e. सौम्य/विसर्ग काल (saumya/visarga kāla)
Before we start dealing with each season, it is important for you to understand the concept दक्षिणायन (dakṣiṇāyaṇa). It is the tilt of southern hemisphere of the earth away from the sun causing the increase in बलं (immunity or strength due to seasonal effect) gradually during दक्षिणायन.
सोम (moon), अनिल (wind), वृष्टि (rain) and मेघ (clouds) having cool properties are dominant than the सूर्य (sun) having hot properties.
These cool properties cause the dominance of स्निग्ध रस (unctuous tastes) like आम्ल (sour), लवण (salty) and मधुर (sweet) in the environment, during वर्षा, शरद् and हेमन्त ऋतु respectively.
What we just talked in given in this Shloka.
आदानदुर्बले देहे पक्ता भवति दुर्बलः| स वर्षास्वनिलादीनां दूषणैर्बाध्यते पुनः||
भूबाष्पान्मेघनिस्यन्दात् पाकादम्लाज्जलस्य च| वर्षास्वग्निबले क्षीणे कुप्यन्ति पवनादय:||
(च सू सं ६/३२-४०)
- 5.Ritucharya for वर्षा (varṣā, rainy season)
(Rainy season, mid-July to September)
The body is weakened at the end of आदान काल (ādāna kāla, Northern Solstice) and in the वर्षा ऋतु, the body is further weakened. Presence of water in the form of vapor in clouds leads to reduced अग्नि (Agni, digestive fire) in the body hence all the 3 दोष (doṣas) get vitiated in this season.
तस्मात् साधारणः सर्वो विधिर्वर्षासु शस्यते | उदमन्थं दिवास्वप्नमवश्यायं नदीजलम् ||
व्यायाममातपं चैव व्यवायं चात्र वर्जयेत् | पानभोजनसंस्कारान् प्रायः क्षौद्रान्वितान् भजेत् ||
व्यक्ताम्ललवणस्नेहं वातवर्षाकुलेऽहनि | विशेषशीते भोक्तव्यं वर्षास्वनिलशान्तये ||
अग्निसंरक्षणवता यवगोधूमशालयः | पुराणा जाङ्गलैर्मांसैर्भोज्या यूषैश्च संस्कृतैः ||
पिबेत् क्षौद्रान्वितं चाल्पं माध्वीकारिष्टमम्बु वा | माहेन्द्रं तप्तशीतं वा कौपं सारसमेव वा ||
प्रघर्षोद्वर्तनस्नानगन्धमाल्यपरो भवेत् | लघुशुद्धाम्बरः स्थानं भजेदक्लेदि वार्षिकम् ||
(च सू सं ६/३२-४०)
Ahara (Diet): Use a bit of क्षौद्र (kṣaudra, honey) in drinks and food. Food dominant in आम्ल (āmla, sour taste), लवण (lavaṇa, salt) and स्निग्ध (Snigdha, unctuous) should be consumed in cold morning hours to combat vitiated वात दोष (vāta doṣa). यव (yava, barley), गोधूम (godhūma, wheat), शालि (śāli, rice) collected and stored for 1 year are to be consumed along with यूष (yūṣa, 1 part of grains cooked in 18 parts of water). The meat of animals from grassland can be consumed. माध्वीकारिष्ट (mādhvīkāriṣṭa, a fermented drink made of honey as the base) can be drunk in small quantity along with water to dilute it. माहेन्द्र (māhendra, Rainwater) collected, boiled and cooled; कौप (kaupa, well water) and सारस (sārasa, lake water) can be consumed.
Vihara (lifestyle): प्रघर्ष उद्वर्तन (pragharṣa udvartana, the act of rubbing dry medicated powder during bath), स्नान (snāna, bathing), गन्धमाल्य (gandhamālya, applying medicated drugs as a paste over body after bath) are to be done daily during this season. To be avoided: Drinking cold juices, sleeping during day time, drinking river water, exposing to sunlight for a longer time and sexual intercourse.
Research: Honey collected in rainy and dry seasons were compared for their anti-fungal and antioxidant effect. It was found that honey collected in the rainy season had more anti-fungal and antioxidant activity that collected in the dry season. Hence this may be one of the reasons for using honey in rainy season as fungal infections are more during this season Cold juices aggravate doshas, sleep during day time causes Kapha and Pitta aggravation. Exercise and sexual intercourse lead to Vata aggravation since the body is weaker in this season.
- 6.Ritucharya for शरद् (Sharad, Autumn)
(Autumn season, mid- September to mid – November)
Human body and earth which were once cooled due to rain in वर्षा (varṣā, rainy season) will be heated again by sun rays in Sharad Ritu causing vitiation of Pitta Dosha.
तत्रान्नपानं मधुरं लघु शीतं सतिक्तकम् | पित्तप्रशमनं सेव्यं मात्रया सुप्रकाङ्क्षितैः ||
शालीन् सयवगोधूमान् सेव्यानाहुर्घनात्यये | तिक्तस्य सर्पिषः पानं विरेको रक्तमोक्षणम् ||
धाराधरात्यये कार्यमातपस्य च वर्जनम् | वसां तैलमवश्यायमौदकानूपमामिषम् ||
क्षारं दधि दिवास्वप्नं प्राग्वातं चात्र वर्जयेत् | दिवा सूर्यांशुसन्तप्तं निशि चन्द्रांशुशीतलम् ||
कालेन पक्वं निर्दोषमगस्त्येनाविषीकृतम् | हंसोदकमिति ख्यातं शारदं विमलं शुचि ||
स्नानपानावगाहेषु हितमम्बु यथाऽमृतम् | शारदानि च माल्यानि वासांसि विमलानि च ||
रत्काले प्रशस्यन्ते प्रदोषे चेन्दुरश्मयः ||
(च सं सू ६/४०-४८)
Ahara (Diet): Food dominant in मधुरं (sweet taste), लघु (light to digest), शीतं (cooling), तिक्त (bitter taste) properties bringing normalcy in पित्त dosha should be consumed in proper मात्र (quantity). शाली (rice). यव (barley) and गोधूमा (wheat) to be consumed. In this season, one must consume the water which is heated by the sun rays and cooled by the moon rays at night and this water is called हंसोदक (haṃsodaka). This water can be used for drinking, bathing and washing clothes.
Vihara (lifestyle): Undergoing विरेचन (virecana, therapeutic purgation), रक्तमोक्षण (raktamokṣaṇa, bloodletting procedure) and consuming तिक्त सर्पि (tikta sarpi, bitter medicated ghee) are to be consumed. Exposure to moon rays during night time is helpful in this season.
To be avoided: Exposure to sun rays when the sun is at its peak. Consuming meat of animals from marshy land, क्षारं (kṣāraṃ, alkaline drinks or substances), दही (dahī, curd), दिवास्वप्न (divāsvapna, day time sleeping) and प्राग्वात (prāgvāta, exposure to winds) are to be avoided. Solar water disinfection is one of the easiest and effective methods to disinfect water.
In this method, water is exposed to sun rays for some time which leads to the destruction of the cell structure of pathogens and activation of oxygen in water leading to the formation of hydrogen peroxide which kills pathogens.