June – What shall we celebrate this month?

June is a month when there are no major festivals in India.

Why is it so?

June is the month when we have the onset of monsoon all over India. It generally sets in around the 1st of June in Kerala and by the end of June, slowly, steadily and gradually spreads all over India.

India with cloud

 We all know that, from time immemorial, India has been an agrarian society and what is important for such an agrarian society relying on agriculture, to survive, to prosper?

Water!

Water for agriculture in India is mainly provided by the monsoon rains. If there are major festivals in this month when the monsoon starts, then the attention of the people will be diverted towards the festival, instead of harnessing the water when it rains and diverting the water towards their fields.

Dam 2 copy

If there are no festivals, then all their attention will be towards, sowing the seeds, transplanting them when they are big enough to be transplanted, spaced about correctly for them to grow as healthy plants and removing the weeds as the crops grow so that the young plants get all the nourishment and water for them to grow.

Sowing of rice

This work is a time bound activity and has to be completed within a short time window so that the crops get the required amounts of water at the right stage of their growth and the monsoon is leveraged properly.

This activity therefore requires the whole family, male and female, elders and youngsters, to be involved whole heartedly. All hands at the field!

Given this fact of nature, its timing and the need of the society, an agricultural economy, isn’t it wonderful that this phase of the year in India, has been kept devoid of festivals, so that people can focus on work – agriculture.

To make this work a joy and fun, the farmers in India used to celebrate work in the form of the sowing festival. Songs were sung as they sowed and planted the seedlings. The fields would come alive with a riot of colours and music as the women descended into the fields, against the backdrop of a cloudy sky. This festival is celebrated in a very few parts of India today but continues to be celebrated with fervour in many other parts of Asia even today.

This month in the Indian calendar, is known as Jyeshta in Hindi and Aani in the Tamil calendar.

From all this, it is obvious that the festivals of India are designed in such a way, keeping in mind the agrarian society and its needs. The festivals were not randomly celebrated but were in sync with nature and the society.

Given this understanding, there is one very important astronomic event happening every year, year after year, in the month of June. This event among other events is a time marker and affects us in our daily life. What is this event?

As we know, the earth is tilted on its axis by 23.4 degrees. Because of this tilt and the revolution of the earth around the sun, we perceive the sun to be moving northwards and southwards between the 2 lattitudes, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, successively, in its annual six monthly journey each way.

On June 21st of every year, our sun reaches the northern end of its journey at the Tropic of Cancer and transits into its journey southwards towards the tropic of Capricorn. The northern journey of the sun is known Uttarayan, Uttar meaning north and the Southern Journey is called Dakshinayan, Dakshin meaning southward.

21st June is the day the sun reaches the northern most point of its journey and is “still’ on that day at the Tropic of Cancer. It is called the Summer Solstice.

summer solstice

For the people living in the northern hemisphere this consequently happens to be the longest day of the year. It is the mid summer day. A month before and after this day is peak summer in the northern hemisphere. This season in Indian languages is known as Greeshma Rthu, Greeshma meaning warm or hot. That is why we have the Hindi word ‘garam’ for hot.

Rthu means season. The flow of seasons happens repeatedly without fail every year, year after year, come what may, June after May, come rain or shine. That is why it is called rthu.

The root word for Rthu is Rtha, from which also comes the English word rhythm.

Seasons are a rhythmic flow that happen regularly every year without fail. This understanding of how the earth revolves around the sun in a rhythmic manner giving rise to the rhythmic movements of the sun across the sky, creating seasons for us, led to the design of the calendar and the festivals of India embedded, woven in sync with our culture, society and civilization, in this ancient and continuously lived in land. Festivals, of India are in rhythm and in sync with Nature.

Everything in our body, our lives, our festivals, our activities are in rhythm with ourselves, our livelihood, our societies, our earth, our sun and the cosmos.

This month of June, when there are no major festivals, reminds us of this rhythm and gives us an opportunity to celebrate this understanding of every society having to be in tune with nature’s rhythm.

So, in June, let us celebrate all that the monsoons augur.

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