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Meghadoot: The Monsoon musings

This is that time of the year when we look up to the skies to expect the Monsoon Clouds to shower all the moisture in form of rains on the dry parched soil and equally thirsty souls.  But imagine a poet approximately 1600 years ago using his imagination looking at a lonely advancing monsoon cloud around this time of the year and describing the journey of this monsoon over the Indian subcontinent.   The romanticism of poetic mind of Kalidas is equally amazing as his scientific mindset of the Monsoon Process. I know some people will have an objection to romanticize science in olden scriptures but when it comes to Monsoon one can forget the nitty-gritty, debate, and enjoy the beauty of Sanskrit coupled with Magic of Monsoons.

Meghadoot meaning a cloud messenger is a Sanskrit poem written by Kalidas.  There are 160 Sholkas or stanzas.  Here goes the story as translated by scholars: Yaksha is banished from the Himalayan abode of gods. He shares his sorrow of separation from his beloved and requests this cloud to send a message about his well-being to his beloved. He lives in a place called Ramgiri in central India which many believe it to be modern-day Ramtek near Nagpur.  He is standing on the top of the mountain peak on the first day of Ashadha month looking at this lonely cloud. This solitary cloud overlooks the region around standing proudly over this mountain. The cloud announces the arrival of monsoon rains to people suffering from the scorching heat of prolonged summer.  How Majestic feeling it is to have brought happiness and relief to everybody. This cloud is spearheading the monsoon movement of the cloud and ensuring that the path is clear for clouds following. Yaksha requests him to deliver a message to his beloved as an additional responsibility apart from his noble cause.

Kalidas’s Yaksha knows that cloud has to reach from Ramgiri in Central India to Alakapuri in the foothills of the Himalayas.  To gain the cloud strength he asks him to rejuvenate himself by resting awhile over several rivers like Vetravati, Shipra, Gambhira, Ganga, and others.  Was he suggesting a process of evaporation of water to cloud formation? Yaksha also suggests an itinerary for clouds to visit places like Vidisha, Ujjaiuini, and Devgiri which were beautiful places then.  Yaksha tells the cloud to gain height to move faster. As observed by modern-day meteorologists, monsoon clouds over northern India are taller than those over peninsular India and are associated with thunder and lightning.  Kalidas’s Yaksha also describes the contents of clouds: Water (Salila), Wind (Marutam), Smoke (Dhoomra), and Electricity (Jyoti). Imagine 1600 years ago someone tried to correlate science with poetry.   In the end, Yaksha wishes that unlike him the Cloud and his beloved lightning should not be separated.

Here in this part of Northeast US, the Indian mind really misses this romance and magic of Monsoons. The weather pattern is an important variable of daily lives unlike in India. In India, we had anticipation of three months of magic starting in June. And no wonder thousand years ago someone was inspired by it to write so romantic and scientific epic.

This Monsoon romance had an added twist for the students in India. It also coincided with the start of the new calendar year. I am sure most of us remember the smell of those new books, uniforms, and various resolutions to study regularly during the next year. Reunion of friends after the summer break was also a good thing to look forward to.

Our festivals and traditions also revolve around the Monsoons.  Wari starts immediately after the sowing of seeds in the farms after tilling of the soil. There is nothing to do but wait during those months for crops to grow. So to avoid people wasting money on vices etc. the whole energy is channelized into devotion.

The month of Shravan and fortnight of Bhadrapad is filled with festivals going close to Nature like Nagpanchami, Rakhi, Janmashthami and Ganapati. Once all the farm work is done, the same peasant used to go out on wars after Dussehra.  Finally, Diwali celebrates the bounty of the harvest. In Northern India Rabbi Crop bounty was celebrated during Baisakhi.

Last year has been bad for the economy thanks to the Virus originated from Wuhan. This year we have a good monsoon predicted. This is a relief amidst the havoc the pandemic has caused. How important the monsoon is for the Indian economy is a well-proven fact. India is primarily an agrarian economy— agriculture contributes 15% of India’s gross domestic product. Past data has indicated a positive correlation between actual rainfall and the growth rate of agriculture GDP. Normal rains will help the economy. It will not only boost agricultural production but increase consumer demand, which will help keep inflation in check.

India depends on Monsoon to replenish the water supply for domestic and irrigation purposes. One bad season adds to misery for the urban and rural populations for drinking water and sanitization purposes.

We have seen the rise of the tanker mafia which rules the outskirts of our cities, towns and the villages.

Climate change has made monsoons stronger and chaotic. Researchers say that there is strong evidence that every degree Celsius of warming would likely increase monsoon rainfall by about five percent. This raises the possibility that key crops — including rice — could be swamped during crucial growing stages. It will flood the roads and train tracks which will impact economic productivity. It’s imperative for the global community to agree to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference target of 1.5 degree Celsius and control the emission accordingly. Otherwise we the Indians will suffer most thanks to our reliance on Monsoon.

Summertime in the US means more outdoors and coming close to nature: Mountains and Beaches. The sheer transformation of Sahyadris in India into heaven with the advent of Monsoon simultaneously is what a Punekar in me misses out on the most like that Yaksha.



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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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