Vishu

Vishu is considered as the beginning of the New Year by the Keralites. Vishu is a Malayalum festival held in Kerala (and adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu) on the first day in the Malayalum month of Medam (April-May). Vishu falls on the 14th April as per the Gregorian calendar.

Vishu is uniquely different from other festivals. Almost all festivals and rites are directly or indirectly related to religion. But Vishu is the only festival that is not linked with any religion but is celebrated with great religious solemness. Keralites commonly believe that the fortunes of the forthcoming year depend on the object first seen by them in the morning of Vishu day. Thus the most significant rite related to Vishu is the Kani Kanal, literary meaning ‘the first sight’. On the previous night of the Vishu, a Kani (an omen) is prepared with all the materials that are considered auspicious. They look at these special items on the Vishu morning immediately after they wake up from their sleep. This kani consists of a round shaped metal bell-vessel known as 'Urule' filled with raw rice and a folded new piece of cloth is spread over the vessel. It is then adorned with the auspicious items such as a cucumber, betel leaves and nuts, a metallic mirror, beautiful yellow blossoms of Konna tree (cassia fistula), a book of palm leaves known as Grandha and some gold coins. These articles are illuminated by placing two coconut halves containing oil and lighted wicks. A metal bell lamp called nilavilakku is placed next to the vessel.

Early in the morning of the awaited Vishu day, the eldest female member wakes up and lights the lamp and looks at the' Kani' She then wakens the other members of the family and shows the Kani to everybody, very carefully ensuring that other things are not seen by them by any chance. Thus the first and the foremost thing they see in the Vishu morning is the Kani. Even the cattle are not deprived of this special sight as the Kani is carried to the cattle-shed and the animals also look at this auspicious element. After completing their bath the people of Kerala apply a paste of sandal and ashes on their foreheads and then go to the temples for worship.

Another significant event of this Vishu is the Vishu Kaineettam, which implies gifting of money to the children and junior members of the family. This is considered as a symbol of prosperity. The eldest member of the family distributes some silver coins along with raw rice to the junior members, the poor people and the servants.

To celebrate the auspicious festival of Pooram Vishu people of Kerala wear kodi vastram (new clothes). People sing, dance and make merry. Patassu (firecrackers) are also burst to mark the New Year day. Another attractive feature of the festival is the grand sadya (feast) prepared by the ladies of the house. Special dishes are prepared using jackfruits, mangoes, pumpkins and gourd besides other seasonal vegetables and fruits.



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