Ritu means Season and Charya means moving or following. Ritucharya is the observance of diet and regimen according to the seasonal changes. In Ayurveda, a year is divided into 2 kaala or periods based on the apparent position of the sun in the north and southern directions. They are
- Uttaraayana – north and
- Dakshinaayana – south
Ayana means journeying. Uttaraayana is also called Aadaana kaala or the taking away period. The sun and wind are powerful during this period. The sun takes away the energy of the people. Due to the heat, air becomes hot and drains the cooling effect of earth. Due to this, people get dehydrated and weakened and the atmosphere becomes hot and dry.
Dakshinaayana is also called Visarga kaala or the giving away period. The moon becomes powerful during this period. The sun releases its energy to the people, the earth cools down due to cold winds and rain. People regain their strength and nourishment that was lost in the Aadaana kaala.
Each year consists of six Ritus or seasons. Each Ritu comprises two Maasas or months and three such ritus constitute one kaala. Hence Aadaana and Visarga kaalas each consist of six months and three ritus.
The six ritus and their characteristics can be summarized in the following table:
|Kaala (Semester)||Ritu (Season)||Maasa (Month)||Characteristics of the Season|
|Aadaana||Sisira||Magha and Phalguna
(mid January to mid march)
|Cold and dewy|
|(Uttaraayana)||Vasanta||Chaitra and Vaisakha
(mid March to mid May)
|(Northeren Solastice)||Greeshma||Jyeshthaa and Aashaadha
(mid May to mid July)
|Visarga||Varsha||Shravana and Bhadrapada
(mid July to mid September)
|(Dakshinaayana)||Sharat||Aashvina and Kartika
(mid September to mid November)
|(Southern Solastice)||Hemanta||Margshirsha and Pausha (mid November to mid January)||Winter|
Seasons and Tastes
The following table summarizes the tastes which are more powerful and hence can be included in the diet in each of the six seasons.
|Sisira||Cold and dewy||Tikta (bitter)|
The Dosha – Ritu Connection
As we already know, our diet, activities and routine have a direct impact on our health. The environment we live in and the changing seasons also affect our health. The doshas keep changing according to the season. Hence it is important to make some changes in our diet and regimen according to the season. Following the respective Ritucharya builds body’s immunity and checks the adverse impact of seasonal changes on body. The following table illustrates the dosha activity in each season.
In this season the digestive activity becomes more powerful. Vayu is accentuated and needs to be satisfied by a heavy diet.
Hemanta Ritu (Winter Season)
- Intake of sweet,sour and salt taste food helps reducing the vata
- Wheat/gramflour products, milk products, sugarcane products and corn/edible oils can be taken as a part of food
- Carrots, tomatoes, figs, dates, cane sugar, nuts to be taken.
- Warm water should be taken as it aids digestion and also increases life span.
- bitter, astringent and pungent food must be avoided
- Massage with oil followed by steambath
- Udvartana with fine paste/powder of kumkum (kesar).
- Exercise (vyaayaama).
- Clothing-leather, silk and wool.
- Exposure to sunlight and fire to keep yourself warm.
- Be under the Sun for sometime – Sunlight is rich in Vitamin D – lest you be affected by the Seasonal Affectional Disorder ( lack of Sunlight )
In Sisira ritu or late winter, the diet and regimen of Hemanta ritu is to be followed
In this season, increased kapha is liquified by the heat of sun and comes out of its aasaya or receptacle and spreads all over the body. This causes diminished agni (digestive activity) causing diseases of kapha origin like cold, cough, heaviness and fluid accumulation in the joints, increased phlegm in the lungs, and etc.
Vasanta Ritu (Spring Season)
- Easily digestible food.
- Barley, honey, mango juice can be taken as food.
- Beverages such as asava (fermented infusion), arista (fermented decoction), sidhu (fermented sugarcane juice), honey mixed with water and water boiled with extracts of chandan (sandal wood).
- Avoid foods that is hard to digest, cold, sour, sweet and fatty. Such food increase kapha causing dosha imbalance and hence genesis of disease.
- Yoga physical exercise.
- Dry massage.
- Nasal medication can be done after massage and bath with karpura / chandan/kumkum.
- Avoid sleep during day
Grishma ritu is the season of dehydration, exhaustion, lack of energy and lethargy. During summer, there occurs decrease of kapha due to the heat of the sun and dryness in the air. Hence the kapha which increased in Sarat is pacified in Greeshma. At the same time, there occurs mild increase of Vaata dosha due to the dryness of the atmosphere.
Greeshma Ritu (Summer Season)
- Sweet, light, fatty and liquid food can be taken.
- Wine should not be taken as it can cause burning sensation and even debility. If neccesary take in very little quantity.
- Boiled rice, cornflour, curd (yoghurt) can be taken in food.
- Drink cold water from mud pot.
- Panak Panchsara, a syrup prepared with draksha (sugarcane), madhuka, date, kashmarya and parshuka fruits all in equal quantity cold with cardamom powder.
- Fresh juices and juicy fruits, salads, buttermilk can be taken in abundance.
- Anoint body with chandan paste and take bath with
- Stay in cool places.
- Wear loose and light cotton dresses to keep the body temperature cool.
- Use perfumes made from substances that possess cold properties
- Sleep during day is permitted as nights are short.
- Too much exertion and sunshine should be avoided.
The agni (digestive activity) weakens further and gets vitiated by Vaata. Lack of sunshine as well as a cloudy atmosphere are uncongenial to health. Hence all methods to mitigate doshas and measures to enhance digestive activity should be adopted.
Varsha Ritu (Rainy Season)
- Easily digestible food to be taken.
- Pulses, soups, old grains and mastu (thin water of yoghurt ) can be taken in food.
- Ginger, black pepper and lemon juice may be taken to reinforce appetite.
- Leafy vegetables should be taken sparingly.
- Foods should be hot and light with ghee, curd and honey.
- River water is to be avoided for drinking.
The dry and hot atmosphere aggravates pitta. Sudden exposure to sunlight after the rains and cool atmosphere increases pitta.
Sarat Ritu (Autumn Season)
- Ghee processed with bitter herbs can be taken.
- Bitter, astringent and sweet taste can be included in food.
- Take easily digestible food like rice, green gram, aamla, honey and sugar.
- Avoid heavy food, curd, oil, strong liquors.
- Udvartan with chandan.
- Bath with warm water.
- Pearls give soothing effect from aggravated pitta.
- Avoid breeze, liquor and sleep during day
Ritu Sandhi and its significance
Sandhi means conjunction. Here Ritu Sandhi is the period of the last 7 days of the present ritu and the first 7 days of the subsequent ritu. For instance, it is Vasanta ritu during Vaishakha month, after which it will be Greeshma ritu during Jyeshta month. So Ritu Sandhi will be the last 7 days of Vaishaaka and the first 7 days of Jyeshta.
During Ritu sandhi the diet and regimen that is being followed should be stopped gradually and that of the subsequent ritu be followed.
Ritus and Purificatory therapies, the Pancha karma
As seasons change so does the balance of the doshas inside our body and in the environment. To bring back the dosha equilibrium in our body, the vitiated doshas have to be expelled out of the body. This is done by performing purificatory therapies.
The purificatory therapies are five in number and are called panchakarma. They are Vamana – emesis, Virechana – purgation, Vasti – enema, Nasya – nasal drops and Rakta mokshana – bloodletting.
The following table illustrates the purificatory therapy done in the respective season and the dosha getting pacified.
|Ritu||Purificatory therapy||Pacified dosha|
|Vasantd||Vamana (emesis), Nasya (nasal drops)||Kapha|
|Sarat||Virechana (purgation),raktd mokshana (bloodletting)||Pittd|
Following the diet and regimen of the respective season helps to maintain good health, improves our immunity and also prepares our body and mind to face changes in the environment.