Vishu- Celebrating the beginning of the Malayalam New Year

Significance

Vishu is a Hindu festival celebrated in Kerala which falls in the second week of April. According to the Hindu calendar, it is the New Year Day. Vishu is celebrated on the first day of the Malayalam month of ‘Medam’. Vishu in other words is the Malayalam New Year and thus celebrated by all Malayalees irrespective of religion or cast. This festival is celebrated in all other parts of India as well, to mark the beginning of the new year of the Hindu calendar, but is known with a different name in different states. For Example, in Mangalore and Udupi districts of Karnataka it is known as Bishu, in Tamil Nadu it is called Puthandu, in Andhra Pradesh it is called Ugadhi, in Punjab it is called Baisakhi, in Bengal it is called Poila Baisakh, in Maharashtra it is called Gudi Padwa and in Assam Bihu and so on.

Belief

It is believed that on the Vishu day, Lord Krishna had killed Narakasura. It is also believed that the Demon Ravana never allowed Surya Deva (Sun King) to rise straight from the East. But after Ravana’s death, it was on the Vishu day that the Sun rose directly from the east. And hence Keralites celebrate Vishu to commemorate the return of the Sun.

Rituals

Vishu Kani

Vishukkani– This festival is marked with a ritual called Vishukkani. In Malayalam, Kani means “that which is seen first”. So Vishukkani means “that which is seen first on Vishu”. It is a ritual arrangement, consisting of offerings to the divine for prosperity and success. The Puja room will have an arrangement of offerings such as rice, coconut, areca nut, cucumber, fresh lemon, betel leaves, jackfruit, holy texts, clothes, metal mirror, flowers (especially a yellow flower named Konna), money etc. Additionally, a lamp is also lit. This arrangement is done the previous night in the Puja room. The tradition is that, on Vishu day one has to wake up at dawn and go to the Puja room with eyes closed, so that Vishukkani is the first thing you see on the auspicious day of Vishu. Hence Vishukkani is done with a lot of care and effort the previous day to make it a positive sight.

Vishu Sadya– Sadya (meal) is a major part of any celebration in Kerala. Vishu is considered a day of feasting and a lot of delicious items are prepared as a part of Vishu Sadya. It is specially kept in mind that meal has a mixture of all flavors. Items like Vishu Katta (rice cake made with salt and coconut milk), Vishu Kanji (rice preparation made from rice, coconut milk and a condiments spices), Thoran, Veppampoorasam (a bitter item made from Neem), Mampazhapachadi (a sour Mango soup), Pickle, Rassam and variety of Sweets and Payasams are an integral part of the Vishu Sadya.

Vishu Sadya

Vishu is celebrated with huge pomp and joy in Kerala. Families also pay a visit to the temples on this day. The elders usually give money to the younger members of the family and food is also served to the poor. People wear new clothes on this day; and women decorate themselves in their gold ornaments. The children burst crackers in celebration of this auspicious day.