The festival of Vishu marks the first day of Medam which is the ninth month of the solar calendar, which is followed by Malayali Hindus or Kerala Hindus or Tuluvas in the Indian state of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Mahé district of Union Territory of Pondicherry, neighbouring areas of Tamil Nadu and their diaspora communities. This calendar is followed in Kerala and Vishu marks the spring season or marks the beginning of spring and celebrates a plentiful harvest.
While it is referred to as Vishu only in Kerala, the same feeling is shared in various festivals over India- such as Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Bihu in Assam and Baisakhi in Punjab. Vishu Kani or the Malayalam New Year celebrates the vernal spring, when day and night are roughly equal in length.
This year, the festival of Vishu will be celebrated on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
Vishu is considered to consider the day when Krishna killed the demon Narakasuraand is celebrated in Kerala from the reign of Sthanu Ravi since 844 AD. So, Krishna idols are kept in the Vishu Kani. Hindus regard Vishnu as the God of Time and so on this festival, Vishnu and his incarnation Krishna are worshipped.
The most important event of this day is the sighting of the Vishukkani during sunrise, which is supposed to bring luck throughout the year. In Malayalam, the word ‘kani’ means ‘that which is seen first’, therefore, ‘Vishukkani’ means ‘that which is seen first on Vishu.’
It is supposed the first thing that children see on the day should symbolise wealth. For this, the Vishukkani is arranged and children are blindfolded and brought to the altar to see the decorations and start the new year on a hopeful note.
The Vishukkani is prepared by Malayali women and includes items like rice, lemon, golden cucumber, jackfruit, kanmash kajal, betel leaves, golden yellow Konna flowers, an oil lamp, mirror, coins and currency notes and an image of Vishnu, the Hindu god. This is the hopeful sight, which family members open their eyes to first thing in the morning.
The Vishu festival is celebrated during the early hours of the morning in temples such as the Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple or the Kulathupuzha Sree BaalaShastha Temple. At this time, family and friends prepare various types of foods as part of the day’s celebrations.
They wake up early and watch the laburnum tree while making offerings including silver items, rice and money. Children are also an essential part of the celebrations and wear new clothes and cracked firecrackers.
Vishu is a day of feasting and the food includes sweet, salty, sour and bitter items. Food items include Veppampoorasam, which is a bitter preparation of Mampazhapachadi (a sour mango soup) and neem. Sadya is a feast that includes conventional vegetarian dishes and is normally served on a banana leaf.
The strong faith among people that if they see something hopeful on this day then their entire year shall be better. Conventionally, the eldest member of the family lights up the lamps and calls each member, blindfolds them and takes them to the Vishu Kani.
Kolams (drawings made using rice and flour) are also made in front of houses and on porches to mark the season. People meet and greet each other, wear new clothes, burst firecrackers as well and enjoy a conventional meal.