Shishir Rutucharya (शिशिर ऋतुचर्या)

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The diet and lifestyle guidelines given by Ayurveda which should be followed to preserve and promote health in Shishira rtu are discussed under Shishira rtucharya. These are the guidelines given by Ayurveda acharyas to help one to prevent illnesses occurring due to the cold and dryness of shishira rtu. When this regimen is followed appropriately it helps one to maintain the balance of body energies called as doshas which ultimately help to maintain health and wellness in this season.

What is Shishira rtu? How is it characterized?

Shishira rtu is the coldest season of the year. It comes after Hemant rtu and before Vasanta rtu. It is characterized by cold climatic conditions. During this time some regions even witness snowfalls with temperatures falling to below zero degrees centigrade. Cold winds, dryness, occasional clouds and rainfall are some of the features that describe Shishir Rtu. This season is associated with dryness and dehydration. The cold air leads to increase in kapha as well as vata dosha levels. However the accompanying dryness in the weather leads to accumulation of Kapha Dosha and aggravation of Vata Dosha.

Months of shishira rtu as per calendar

Magha and Phalguna are the 2 months in the lunar calendar which fall under Shishira rtu. While, as per Gregorian calendar Shishira is grossly a a period from Mid-January to mid-March.

  1. Magha OR Tapa- Mid-January to Mid-February
  2. Phalguna OR Tapasya-Mid-February to Mid-March

Shishira- The start of Uttarayana (Northern solstice)

Shishir Ritu starts with the solstice, called Uttarayana in Vedic astrology. In the northern hemisphere, which includes India, the solstice signals the beginning of winter. In the southern hemisphere, it is the start of summer. Thus in Bharata, Shishira marks the beginning of Uttarayana or Adana kala. Adana kala is that kala in which the outside environment is such ta tit absorbs moisture and fluid from body leading to dehydration and reduction in energy levels. Shishira which marks the beginning of adana kala is characterized by climate having cold winds and dryness. Such environment leads to loss of moisture and increase in dryness of body. Acharya Charaka has described thee changes in environment and body as below,

तत्र रविर्भाभिराददानो जगतः स्नेहं वायवस्तीव्ररूक्षाश्चोपशोषयन्तः शिशिरवसन्तग्रीष्मेषु यथाक्रमं रौक्ष्यमुत्पादयन्तो रूक्षान् रसांस्तिक्तकषायकटुकांश्चाभिवर्धयन्तो नृणां दौर्बल्यमावहन्ति||६||

Meaning: In adana kala the Sun with its hot rays absorbs moisture from the environment. The excessively dry wind by virtue of its absorbing quality further causes dryness in shishira, vasanta, and grishma seasons progressively, leading to the predominance of tikta, kashaya, and katu rasa respectively and gradual increase of weakness in human beings during these three seasons.

Therefore, Ayurveda believes that Shishira rtu which comes at the beginning of adana kala and end of visarga kala is one of the seasons that have maximum physical strength that one can have throughout the year. Shishira is the ideal period to build strength, stamina and immunity in our bodies.

Shishira specific Diet and lifestyle regimen

Ayurveda believes that Katu, Tikta and kashaya rasa increase in the outer environment in Shishira Rtu. Increase in these rasas, cold wind and dryness in outer environment lead to aggravation of vata dosha. Aggravated Vata dosha might cause health related issues and thus it is important to know what food and lifestyle elements can help one balance naturally aggravated vata dosha and keep all the other body energies in balance in the season of cold and dry winters.

Diet regimen

In Shishira rtu, agni (the digestive fire) is strong and it can smoothly digest even the foods that are otherwise heavy on digestion. The key mantra is to eat food and drinks that are predominantly Amla (sour) as the predominant rasa (taste) are preferred. While those having pungent, bitter and astringent in taste, cold, dry in nature or inherently light to digest are best to be avoided.

  • Cereals and pulses, wheat/gram flour products, new rice, corn, and others, are advised. Ginger, garlic, Haritaki (fruits of Terminalia chebula), Pippali (fruits of Piper longum), sugarcane products, and milk and milk products are to be included in the diet.
  • Consumption of non-vegetarian food specially the sea food, meat in this season doesnt cause harm instead it helps enhance the energy since it is well digested and also contain more percentage of fats which are recommended in this season. After consumption of such food drinking of madira and sidhu type of wines and honey is advised. These are inherently sour in rasa and hot in veeryam. Thus, the combination of food and drink results in proper digestion and metabolism of such food to fulfill the requirements in this season. Overall it helps to keep check on aggravation of vata and increases strength of the body.
  • Use of warm water for drinking is recommended.
  • Foods having Amla (sour) as the predominant taste are preferred. Also Madhura (sweet) and lavana (salty) rasa dominant food helps to keep check of aggravated vata. However there should be a balance while making food choices and overindulgence in specific foods again and again may cause lead to health concerns in future.
  • Cereals and pulses, wheat/gram flour products, new rice, corn, and others, are advised. Ginger, garlic, Haritaki (fruits of Terminalia chebula) with Pippali (fruits of Piper longum), sugarcane products, and milk and milk products are to be included in the diet.
  • Food and drinks that cause vata vitiation and inherently light to digest in property, inadequate quantities of food, and intake of diluted gruel are contraindicated. Foods having Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter), Kashaya (astringent) predominant Rasa are to be avoided. Laghu (light) and Shita (cold) foods are advised to be prohibited.


The lifestyle in shishira should be such that it will help to maintain the body temperature to the optimum level. Activities that increase warmth and protect from cold are encouraged.

  • In order to protect one's body from cold and dryness of winters it is necessary to avoid (getting exposed to) strong cold winds. In case it is not possible, on should at least use clothing that can protect one from cold and dry winds. one should specially stay in less windy and warm shelters (homes).
  • Also, excessive walking, sleep at late night are to be avoided which causes vata aggravation (Thakkar J, Chaudhari S, Sarkar PK. Ritucharya: Answer to the lifestyle disorders. Ayu. 2011;32(4):466-471. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.96117)
  • Abhyangam: Although a part of dinacharya or daily routine, abhyangam is must in Shishira rtu. Massage with luke warm oils help to keep check on vata dosha in body, reduce skin dryness by locking the moisture.
  • Udwartanam: Helpful for maintaining the good skin health and strength.
  • Snanam: Bathing with luke warm water after abhyanga and udwartanam. Sun bath in region where the view of sun is obstructed for long time due to snowfall, cloudy atmosphere etc.
  • Vyayama: Best season for doing exercise to build strength.
  • Other: Physical activities that need strength and give pleasure are best suited for this season since in this season such activities do not lead to energy loss.
  • Avoid: Diwaswapa (day time sleeping)

Festivals celebrated in Bharata to encourage people to adopt shishira rutucharya

Lohri, Pongal, Makar Sankranti, and the Hindu festival of Shivratri, Magh bihu

Shat-tila ekadashi

Amla ekadashi

(Festivals of hemanta:

Deepawali- sweets, snacks- तस्मात्तुषारसमये स्निग्धाम्ललवणान् रसान्| औदकानूपमांसानां मेद्यानामुपयोजयेत्||११||

बिलेशयानां मांसानि प्रसहानां भृतानि च| भक्षयेन्मदिरां शीधुं मधु चानुपिबेन्नरः||१२||

In the period of snowfall, unctuous, sour and salty food items should be consumed predominantly. Meat of fatty, aquatic and marshy animals should be taken. Meat of burrowing animals and roasted meat of animals that eat by snatching the prey should be consumed and after that drinking of madira and sidhu type of wines and honey is advised. [11-12]


गोरसानिक्षुविकृतीर्वसां तैलं नवौदनम्| हेमन्तेऽभ्यस्यतस्तोयमुष्णं चायुर्न हीयते||१३||

A person who is habituated to consuming milk products, cane sugar products, fats and oils, new rice and warm water during hemanta ritu, never sees his lifespan decrease ( i.e. these help in prevention from early aging and diseases). [13]

तस्माद्धैमन्तिकः सर्वः शिशिरे विधिरिष्यते| निवातमुष्णं त्वधिकं शिशिरे गृहमाश्रयेत्||२०||

Therefore, the whole regimen advised for hemanta should also be followed in shishira ritu. In addition to that, one should specially stay in less windy and warm shelters (homes).

Seasonal produce in Shishira: Fruits and vegetables and how they are helpful

Fruit Benefits Vegetables Benefits
Amla Amla dominant all 5 tastes and rejuvenating, adaptogenic, antioxidant effects Green garlic
Orange Madhura and Amla rasa dominant, hot in veeryam, Vata pacifying [1] Kand (Purple yam)
Sweet lime Madhura and Amla rasa dominant Surati papadi
Guava Madhura and Amla rasa dominant, pulpy fruit Beans various types
Fig Madhura and Amla rasa dominant Chawli
Pinapple Madhura and Amla rasa dominant Carrots
Strawberries Madhura and Amla rasa dominant Radish
Dates koshthavatahara Cauliflower
Chiku Cabbage
Indian jujube (Ber) Madhura and Amla rasa dominant Fenugreek

Traditional Indian recipes done in Shishira and how they help

The eating practices in much of India come from the principles of Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, the human body is a constitution of bioenergy or life forces. These are known as the doshas vata, pitta, and kapha. “The agni is stronger during winter, which increases pitta in the body. This is the time for foods with sweet, sour, and salty taste as they are considered warm; hence wheat, whole grains, dairy, and fatty food is recommended,” she says. However, the diet may vary from region to region since winter in southern India is not as harsh as in the north. (available from )

Recipes from Maharashtra and Gujarat

  1. Oondhiyu - Winter veggies, heavy, green garlic, beans
  2. Carrot halwa - carrots, sweet, unctuous
  3. Popati - simila rto oondhiyu
  4. Deep fried foods- especially sweets
  5. Sarson ka saag -
  6. Besan laddoo
  7. Gond laddoo
  8. bajra roti/ khichari
  9. baingan bharta
  10. Golpapdi
  11. Adadhiya pak
  12. Til-gur roti/chikki/ rewadi/ gujiya


  1. Bhavaprakasha Samhita (Purvakhanada Mishra prakaranam Amradiphalavargam 54)