There are four seasons in Auroville:
THE COOL OR WINTER SEASON lasts from the end of the monsoon sometime in Mid December until March when it starts to get hot. At the beginning of this season nights can feel quite chilly and days are clear and sunny. Usually there is little or no rain especially towards the end of this period.
During this time almost anything can be grown, provided the plants are watered. This period is especially good for growing western-type vegetables such as tomatoes and capsicum. Such plants must, however, be planted as soon as possible after the monsoon so they have the maximum time to grow before it gets too hot.
This is the time of year when we are extremely busy and booked up with volunteers.
THE HOT OR SUMMER SEASON lasts from March until the first rains appear, hopefully in June and July.
Temperatures rise gradually throughout this period and water can become scarce as wells dry out and work less efficiently. Everything grows more slowly in such temperatures and some like lettuces stop growing completely. Often, especially in the middle of the day, plants look very limp and withered.
Anything planted to produce during this season has to be very heat tolerant – usually only some of the indigenous vegetables like snake gourd and maize.
Since we work early in the morning when it is cool we can carry on with the garden work in reasonable comfort.
THE EARLY MONSOON or SUMMER RAINS lasts from the first rains which come sometime in June/July to when the monsoon starts in October/November. Generally during this period the rain comes at night in the form of short storms and cloudbursts from the south-west and the days are clear and sunny.
Locally this is the start of the main growing season for Indian vegetables (especially gourds and beans) as well as field crops which includes rice, and various millets such as varaigu and ragi. It can become quite humid although with the rain the temperature also drops.Generally this is a lovely season in which to be in Buddha Garden although the storms and wind can make everything wet for short periods.
THE MONSOON officially starts on October 15th. In a good monsoon there will be around forty days of rain. Average annual rainfall is now around 1,200mm, 65% of which will fall during this two month monsoon period until mid-December. Sometimes, however, the rain is not evenly spread out during that period and can be late starting or come altogether within a week or ten days.
The rain itself can come down very hard and be very destructive. It can smash down plants and cause damage to the lighter buildings. This last year, 2015, we had a heavy monsoon that hadn’t been seen for 100 years. This caused a lot of flooding in Chennai although in Auroville we were all right. Mainly I think because of all the water conservation work and the tree planting that has happened over the years.
One area of raised vegetable beds used to flood so much we now grow guava there as they can tolerate soggy earth as well as drought. This was shown very graphically in the last monsoon when the guavas survived and thrived whereas a jackfruit tree in the same area died because the area flooded.
According to the Tamil calendar there are six seasons, each of which lasts two months as follows:
|Season in Tamil||English Transliteration||English Translation||Season in Sanskrit||Season in English||Tamil Months||Gregorian Months|
|இளவேனில்||ila-venil||Light warmth||Vasanta||Spring||chithirai, vaigāsi||Mid Apr – Mid Jun|
|முதுவேனில்||mutu-venil||Harsh warmth||Grishma||Summer||āni, ādi||Mid Jun – Mid Aug|
|கார்||kaar||Dark clouds, Rain||Varsha||Monsoon||āvani, puratāci||Mid Aug – Mid Oct|
|குளிர்||kulir||Chill / Cold||Sharada||Autumn||aippasi, kārthigai||Mid Oct – Mid Dec|
|முன்பனி||mun-pani||Early mist / dew||Hemanta||Winter||mārkazhi, tai||Mid Dec – Mid Feb|
|பின்பனி||pin-pani||Late mist / dew||Sishira||Prevernal||māsi, panguni||Mid Feb – Mid Apr|
The problem I have with this is that description of ‘light warmth’ and ‘harsh warmth’ doesn’t fit my experience! It generally feels to me like it is the other way around. One explanation I have been given is that these seasons are based on ancient times when the seasons are different from what they are now. My explorations continue…..