Tag Archive for 'Seasons'

What’s happened to the seasons?

From temperate England to tropical India, the cycle of the seasons is fundamental to life. But lately they seem to have changed their patterns, with profound consequences. John Parker at Intelligent Life:

In the Indian state of Orissa, the black-headed oriole is the messenger of spring. It appears in the villages in January to greet the season’s start and flies away to the forest in March, signalling its end. Richard Mahapatra’s mother used the oriole’s fleeting appearance to teach her son about the natural rhythms of the world. “People like my mother remember six distinct seasons,” says Mahapatra, an environmental writer who now lives in New Delhi. After spring (basanta) and summer (grishma) came the rainy season (barsha). Between autumn (sarata) and winter (sisira) came a dewy period called hemanta. Each season lasted two months and the appearance of each was marked by religious festivals. “She had precise dates for their arrival and taught me how to look for signs of each.”

Damselflies gathered thickly a week before the rains began. Markers of the monsoon, they did not cluster at other times. The open-billed stork alighted on the tamarind tree on Akshaya Trutiya, a festival which usually fell in April or May and traditionally marked the start of the agricultural year. Farmers said that if you forgot the day, the bird would remind you, so predictable was its arrival. In the Mahapatra family’s garden, the nesting of bats in the peepal tree marked the onset of winter; when the tree flowered, it was midsummer.

Lately the heralds of the seasons have become unreliable. Damselflies swarm not only in the rainy season but in winter, the driest time of year. The stork no longer appears just on Akshaya Trutiya, but at other times, too. Villagers hear the song of the oriole in summer and the rainy season, not just spring. And this, Mahapatra says, is because spring is no longer a distinct season. Instead of six periods of equal length, Orissa now has two, a brief rainy season and a burning eight-month summer. Winter is a mild transition between the two, and spring, autumn and hemanta have been relegated to little-noticed interludes of a mere week or so.

“When I return home”, says Mahapatra, “my mother mourns the death of the seasons. More:

The unending holiday season in India

Aakar Patel in The News, Karachi:

In India, secularism is inclusive. Europe’s secularism measures distance of the state from Christianity. Indians think of secularism as equal respect for all religions. This is supposed to reflect the Hindu belief in tolerance. One famous Sanskrit line is: Vasudhaiva kutumbakam. Vasudha is mother earth and kutumb is family and so the line means the whole world is a family. However, our recent record of religious violence shows that inclusive secularism isn’t always followed. Often unhinged views on religion are tolerated under this formulation of non-interference, and journalist George Verghese described Indian secularism as ‘equal respect for everyone’s communalism’.

But the doctrine of inclusive secularism is India’s constitution and perhaps at some point we will become good enough to deserve that fine document. Since the state tries to be inclusive, every religion’s celebrations are official holidays in India. Our calendar is the most colourful in the world.

Many urban Americans now greet each other this season with the words ‘Happy holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’. This is typical European thoughtfulness of the feelings of others. The ‘happy holidayers’ want to share their joy but want not to offend Jews and others. Personally I like ‘Merry Christmas’ and see no reason why anybody should be offended that Christians are celebrating the birth of their saviour. In India, however, you couldn’t say ‘Happy holidays’ because we have them through the year. Let’s have a look. More: