Spring at Savista and the Spring Festival of Holi in Jaipur
The winter just gone by at Savista was what we might call a ‘normal’ one, i.e. temperatures were as expected. Throughout the season our gardens remained green and lush, and the fields around us a verdant green-yellow with wheat, mustard and garden peas. The days were cool, and the nights cold. The sky at sunset was a palette of shades of blue and pink. And the nights gave us a virtual planetarium of stars and planets on crystal-clear display. Our 85 odd resident varieties of birds were up and about but relatively quiet, going to bed early and waking up – and waking us up – late, except for the insomniac nightjars that, true to form, kept erupting into sqawks of alarm possibly caused by bird-nightmares.
Our spring dawned as expected. As it unfolded, we witnessed the daylight hours stretching by just a few extra minutes everyday. The birds which did not seem to be able to find their voices until almost 7 in the wintry mornings began to call as early as 6 (and as we move into the summer they will be up by 4!). They also appeared much more active and their numbers increased. The winter crop of garden peas, and most of the mustard crop had been harvested around the beginning of this season. But there continues to be plenty of food for the birds as the rich green of the young wheat crop turns to the dull gold of mature wheat ready for the harvest. With long daylight hours available for courtship, the mating season has begun in earnest. We have also been witnessing the first “Fall” of the new year, with some of our local trees – Neem, Gulmohur, Lesva, Kesariya-shyam, Palash, Silk-cotton – carpeting the ground with their aging leaves. New green leaves are ready to sprout. The air is suffused with an inexplicably pleasant and heady perfume – a bouquet combining the scent of various blooming flowers, wood-smoke, leaf sap, fresh grass and, who knows what else that nature secretly produces to delight us?
As spring advances into summer – for two days last week it looked at though this had happened all too quickly, but mercifully the spring cool returned – the earth will start to be dominated by shades of brown, and even the well-watered Savista lawns will turn a pale green under the relentless summer sun. But the flowering shrubs, trees and birds will compensate for everything else. The flowering shrubs – notably jasmine – will drench the night air with their exquisite perfume, making the night come alive with mystery and longing. In the early mornings, the sweet smelling parijat flowers will join the jasmine in bringing joy to humans, birds and butterflies, alike. Wearing their new coat of green and blooming with brilliant and fragrant flowers the trees will attract and sustain Savista’s birds. And the birds will sing their hearts out. Together they will keep us humans happy. In fellowship with them all, even summer in this semi-arid region will seem worth experiencing!
Not that we are in a hurry for that yet. We are still enjoying our memories of playing with Holi colours earlier this month. Holi is a collective celebration by an agrarian society of the successful harvesting of the winter crop, the growing warmth and lengthening rays of the sun following the cold season, the bursting into bloom of flowers, the beginning of the mating season for birds, and last but not least, the surge of love, romance and longing in the human heart symbolized by the eternal love of Radha for Krishna. Love was the theme everywhere this March – in the colours on people’s faces, in the dancing at the temples of Vrindavan where Radha and Krishna’s love for each other is most exhuberantly celebrated, in the Sufi poetry being sung everywhere exhorting people to rise above petty preoccupations and engage with each other and with the world in a spirit of universal love…Ultimately, that is the message of spring.
Perhaps it is in keeping with our sad world that this is the shortest season in northern India….