Ritucharya – Healthy Seasonal Regimen – Introduction, Divisions

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
The universe is a wonderful and divine creation. The Sun, Moon and Air, their movements, balance, position and direction determine the day, night and seasons which keep visiting and vanishing throughout our life, only to come back on turns. As the day changes to night and as the night switches over to day, we need to adjust ourselves and get adapted to these changes and lead a healthy and active life. 

Similarly the seasons keep changing every few months and we need to adjust and adapt to these changes in quick time.
Ayurveda explains Dinacharya as a set of rules to follow daily to keep ourselves healthy.
Ayurveda explains Rutucharya as a set of rules to follow in each season to keep ourselves healthy and to prevent seasonal diseases.

Read related – Dinacharya – Daily Regimen, Ayurvedic perspective, an introduction

Rutucharya

Rutucharya (Ritucharya, Rtucharya) – Seasonal Regimen
 The word Rutucharya is made up of two terms i.e. Rutu = Season, Charya = Regimen

Therefore, Rutucharya means the list of activities which are meant to be done as well as those activities which are meant to be avoided in various seasons.

Definition

Definition of Rutucharya
According to Dalhana, Rutu is a synonym of time. Charya is the regimen one needs to follow. According to this definition, the regimen which needs to be followed with change of time and seasons are called Ritucharya.

According to Acharya Vagbhata, the regimen which is wholesome to everyone with respect to diet and practices in various seasons is called Rtucharya.

Acharya Vagbhata also defines Rutucharya as – ‘The changes in diet and practices in response to the change in climatic (seasonal) conditions like cold, hot, rain etc is called Ritucharya. 

Classification of seasons

According to Ayurveda, the year is divided into six seasons depending on the changes occurring in the climate.

They are as below listed:

  • Shishira Rtu – Late Winter season
  • Vasanta Rtu – Spring season
  • Greeshma (Grisma) Rtu – Summer season
  • Varsha Rtu – Rainy season
  • Sharat Rtu – Autumn season
  • Hemanta Rtu – Winter season

These six seasons occurring in the Indian (Hindu) calendar are broadly included into two Ayanas or solstices, depending on the direction of movement of Sun. The 2 Ayanas are –

Uttarayana

Uttarayana (Northern solstice) or Adana Kala
In Uttarayana Kala, there is ascent of the Sun or we can tell that there is northward movement of the Sun.

Uttarayana – Adana Kala comprises of 3 Rutus – seasons, they are:

  • Shishira
  • Vasantha
  • Grishma

Dakshinayana

Dakshinayana (Southern solstice) or Visarga Kala
In Dakshinayana Kala, there is descent of the Sun or we can tell that there is southward movement of the Sun.

Dakshinayana comprises of 3 seasons, they are:

  • Varsha
  • Sharad / Sharat
  • Hemanta

Adana and Visarga Kala

Adana and Visarga Kala and varying Bala (strength)
In the beginning of Visarga Kala (Varsha) and ending of Adana Kala (Greeshma), weakness occurs in the beings i.e. Alpa Bala

In the middle of both Visarga Kala (Sharad) and Adana Kala (Vasanta), the living beings will have moderate strength, i.e. Madhyama Bala

At the end of Visarga Kala (Hemanta) the living beings will have good strength i.e. Uttama Bala but at the  beginning of Adana Kala (Shishira), one will have considerably good strength (not as much as in Hemanta) in comparison to all the other seasons of Adana Kala.

How are seasons caused?
According to Charaka, causation of all the seasons is the function of Vata.

Creation of clouds, raining, springs from the Earth, flowering, fruiting, seeding, growth, drying and division of Rutu all are caused by the motivation of the Vata.

Effect of Sun, Moon and Wind on the Universe
Moon by the virtue of its smoothing rays (Visarga) will make the universe moist. Sun, by the virtue of his scorching rays (Adana) will dry up the universe. Vayu with the help of Sun and Moon will maintain the climate (Vikshepa) of the universe.

Representation of seasons in a day

Representations of the seasons in a day

We can find the characters of various seasons being exhibited in different times of a day.

  • In morning time (Purvahna) – the features of Vasanta Rutu are seen
  • In the afternoon (Madhyahna) – the features of Greeshma Rutu are seen
  • In the mid-day (Aparahna) – the features of Pravrut Rutu are seen
  • In the evening (Pradosha) – the features of Varsha Rutu are seen
  • In the midnight (Madhya Ratri) – the features of Sharad Rutu are seen
  • In the early morning (Pratyusha) – the features of Hemanta Rutu will be seen

If we consider the day (single day) as a year, the sheeta (cold), ushna (hot) and varsha (rainy) seasons will or the features of these seasons can be seen throughout the day as explained above. The accumulation (chaya), prakopa (aggravation) and shamana (pacification) of doshas also occur accordingly.

Seasons as per Charaka

Name of the season according to Charaka
Vasanta, Grishma, Varsha, Sharat, Hemanta, Shishira

Seasons as per Sushruta –
Vasanta, Grishma, Pravrit, Varsha, Sarat, Hemantha

Dalhana’s clarification on nomenclature of seasons and difference of opinions in naming them.

Dalhana gives a clarification for this difference as follows. In southern parts of Ganga plains, the rain is more, so Pravrt and Varsha Rutu are explained excluding Shishira. Pravrut and Varsha Rutu explain different ranges of rainfall. Shishira is excluded as extreme cold is absent in these zones. Similarly, the Northern parts of Ganga are extremely cold. So Hemantha and Shishira are included excluding Pravrut (by Charaka).

Basic rules and principles of Seasonal Regimen
During Hemantha, Shishira and Varsha Ritus – Madhura, Amla and Lavana rasas should be consumed respectively.

During Greeshma Rutu – Madhura Rasa should be consumed.
During Sharat Rtu – Madhura Tikta Kashaya Rasas should be consumed

In Sharat Rtu and Vasantha Rtu – Ruksha (dry) and Sheeta (cold) foods should be consumed.
In Shishira and Hemanta Rtu – Snigdha (unctuous) and ushna (hot) foods should be consumed.

Rutu Kriya Kala

Aggravation and Pacification of Doshas according to Season (Rutu Kriya Kala)

DoshaChaya (accumulation)Prakopa (aggravation)Prashama (pacification)
VataGreeshma (May-June)Varsha (July-Aug)Sharat (Sept-Oct)
PittaVarsha (July-Aug)Sharad (Sept-Oct)Hemantha (Nov-Dec)
KaphaShishira (Jan-Feb)Vasantha (March-April)Greeshma (May-June)

Modern aspect of Seasons (in brief)
The movement of the Earth is responsible for occurrence of the seasons. Three types of movements are exhibited by the Earth. They are:

  • Rotation
  • Revolution
  • Precision

Day and Night occur when the Earth moves around its own axis. This is called Rotation.

Earth also revolves around the Sun in certain pathway called orbit (in the space). This movement is called Revolution of Earth and is responsible for causation of various seasons.

Apart from the above said movements, the Earth rotates around itself with an axis of 30 degrees. These changes gradually by 11,000 years, at that time there will be change in seasons.

During Uttarayana – the rays of the Sun fall perpendicularly at 30 degree meridian of North Pole on June 21 of every year. It is called Northern Summer Solstice.

Then gradually the Earth moves and the Sun Rays fall on the Equator perpendicularly on 21st of September. On this day, the length of the day and night are the same. This is called Equinox.

During Dakshinayana – the Earth continues its movement and now the Sun Rays fall directly over 30 degree meridian of South Pole perpendicularly on December 21 every year. This is called as Southern Summer Solstice.

The movement continues and the Sun rays fall directly on the Equator perpendicularly on March 21. This is called Equinox.

According to our classics and Hindu calendar, the Uttarayana starts from Jan 15th which can be related to the falling of Sun Rays perpendicularly, the movement start from South towards North which has been described as Uttara Disham Prati Gamnam or Uttarayana.

Similarly, the Dakshinayana starts from July 15th which can be related to the movement of the Sun from North towards South which has been described as Dakshina isham Prati Gamanam or Dakshinayana.

Physical constitution-dosha-season triangle It is very important for everyone to know how favourable or unfavourable a season is to their physical constitution.

  • A vata body type should know that vata increases in summer and aggravates in monsoon. Therefore he needs to be extra cautious in these seasons and follow seasonal regimen of these seasons religiously. If he does follow, vata naturally gets subsided in season following monsoon season, i.e. autumn season. If he doesn’t follow seasonal regimen, vata doesn’t subside in autumn season but will further vitiate in an aggressive way. Later, it will invade tissues, lodge therein and cause many vata diseases.
  • Pitta body type person should know that pitta increases in monsoon and aggravates in autumn. Therefore he needs to follow seasonal regimens of these two seasons. If he does follow, pitta naturally gets subsided in season following autumn season, i.e. early winter season. If he doesn’t follow seasonal regimen, pitta doesn’t subside in late winter season but will further vitiate in an aggressive way. Later, it will invade tissues, lodge therein and cause many pitta diseases.
  • Kapha type of personality should know that kapha increases in late winter and aggravates in spring season. Therefore it makes sense for him to follow seasonal regimen of these seasons. If he does follow, kapha naturally gets subsided in season following spring season, i.e. summer season. If he doesn’t follow seasonal regimen, kapha doesn’t subside in summer season but will further vitiate in an aggressive way. Later, it will invade tissues, lodge therein and cause many kapha diseases.

Benefits of Rutucharya

Rutucharya helps in enhancing the strength and complexion
The strength (bala) and luster and color (varna) of a person who thoroughly knows and follows the suitable and recommended diet and regimen for every season (rutu) and practices them religiously and regularly will get enhanced without doubt.

Ritucharya helps in preventing dosha vitiation and disease manifestation – Following Ritucharya religiously will help in avoiding many diseases. This will also help us to keep our doshas under control not allowing their untoward vitiation. Thus the knowledge of Ritucharya has a preventive dimension.

Knowledge of Rutucharya will help us to get rid of the diseases in their grass-root level itself – Precise knowledge of the food and activities which need to be followed during a particular season and those which needs to be avoided will help in curing the minor ailments occurring during those seasons. Ayurveda has said that the doshas which aggravate during their favorable climates will have a natural regression i.e. Prashamana. This will happen if rules and regulations of season are followed properly. If not, the aggravated diseases will not get subsided and will in fact progress to the further stages of pathogenesis and will cause various diseases.

Knowledge of Ritucharya will help us plan and be equipped for the upcoming season – Knowledge of Ritucharya will help us to plan our diet and lifestyle activities for every season. Rutu Sandhi or the knowledge of the seasonal junction will help us to slowly let go the practices of the previous seasons and gradually practice the practices of the coming season beforehand so as to get easily adapted to the coming season.

Knowledge of Rutucharya will help in keeping ourselves fit and healthy Knowledge of Rutucharya and religiously following them will abort any disease process in its root level itself. We also will get immunity to all seasons. This will help us to keep healthy and fit throughout the year.

Just before Finishing –
Changing seasons are a part of our life and we are a part of changing seasons. They show and remind us that it is not only the changes in the heat and cold that mark the seasons in the external world but also that there are different seasons of everyone’s life and these seasons come as we reach different platforms of ageing process, like childhood, adolescence, middle age and senility. We need to respect, admire, blend and adapt with both the outer and inner seasons and the changes occurring in them so as to live healthily.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype

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