Barsa (June to August) Rainy Season
In Bangladesh, which has both the world’s largest delta system and the greatest flow of river water to the sea, water rules the earth, and so the most important season of all is barsa, a time of lashing rains and tearing winds. In this season, 70 percent of the land is under water – water from rivers, the sea, rain, tidal waves, floods and the melting snows of the Himalayas. The rains are at first a welcome relief from the baking, dusty hot season. But as the rains continue, the land turns into a brown and watery mass, ever-changing in shape and texture. Fields and homes are flooded; people and animals have to move to higher ground. Food is reduced to pre-cooked rice, dal and jackfruit that ripen at this time. During the rains, most villages are isolated, accessible only by boat. The people become self-sufficient and depend on each other rather than the outside world. The rain has turned stagnant water fresh again. Children leap naked into ponds. Women swim in sarees. Men dive in wearing sarongs. It is during the rainy season that Bangladesh’s main crop, jute, begins to ripen and is harvested. Farmers dive down to the roots to cut them. The stalks are placed on high ground to dry. Aside from the practical problems, the rains and water also inspire the poetry, art and songs of the people.
Sarat (September to October) Autumn
As September begins, the skies are blue and a cool wind blows. The land turns into a carpet of bright green rice shoots while the smell of drying jute invades the air. Flowers bloom, the rice ripens and the harvest begins. Blue, gold and green are the colours of sarat – blue sky, golden sun and green vegetation from emerald to jade, pea to lime, shamrock to sea-green. In the green fields, white Siberian cranes, egrets and ducks hunt for food. Although the air is humid, there is a slight chill late at night.
Hemanto (October to November) Late autumn
Once the land has emerged from its watery grave, it is time to replant in new, fertile soil that is rich in nutrients. During this season, the land is at its luscious best. Festivals flourish to hail the harvest, the end of the floods, the coming of the new soil and the wonder of the rivers. The country’s troubadours are everywhere, dressed in bright clothes and singing for money. The land and its people come to life during hemanto, when the flowers bloom – jasmine, water lily, rose, magnolia, hibiscus and bougainvillea. By the season’s end, the air is no longer humid. Fresh scents replace the dry jute smell. Hemanto marks the start of the wedding season where receptions are held under red, blue, green or white tents.
Seet (November to December) Winter
From mid-November to early January, the weather becomes more arid and less humid. The earth dries and dust forms. Warm clothes are pulled out. Young people play tennis, football, cricket and golf. Seet is also the season when people return to their ancestral villages, where they can experience once again the essence of Bangladesh – the harmony of man, beast, land, water and air.
Basanto (December to February) Spring
The coolest days are from mid-December to February when the days are golden with light, the flowers are blooming and the nights and early mornings are chilly. Night guards wrap themselves up in shawls and blankets with scarves and hats pulled down over their ears. During basanto, the countryside hums with fairs, parades and commemorations. Arts festivals celebrate painting and handicrafts, poetry, music and drama. In Dhaka, basanto heralds the beginning of the social season with a frantic whirl of invitations to weddings, parties and dinners. Along with the cool weather comes the nation’s silly season – politics. To a Bangladeshi, politics is what alcohol or sport is to other nations. Everyone gets involved.
Grisma (March to May) Summer
Throughout basanto, the weather warms up a bit each day until March 1, when the heat starts intensifying more rapidly. The soil turns a dusty khaki and then almost white. There are lightening and thunder storms and sometimes, icy lumps of hail crash down. The rivers dry out and are difficult to navigate. Grisma is also the peak time for the brick industry. Bricks are used for building and are a substitute for stone and gravel in Bangladesh. In the cities, the humid air is laden with dust, brick grit and auto fumes. The sun is a round red globe, beating down relentlessly. Everyone waits for the rains and the beginning of another cycle of seasons.