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Vishu 2021: Significance of Vishu festival and how it is celebrated in Kerala?
While it is referred to as Vishu only in Kerala, the same spirit is shared in various festivals over India
Observed 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, the festival of Vishu marks the first day of Medam which is the ninth month of the solar calendar. This calendar is followed in Kerala and Vishu marks the spring equinox or marks beginning of spring and celebrates an abundant harvest.
While it is referred to as Vishu only in Kerala, the same spirit is shared in various festivals over India- such as Ugadhi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Bihu in Assam and Baisakhi in Punjab. Vishu Kani or the Malayalam New Year celebrates the vernal equinox, when day and night are roughly equal length.
This year, the festival of Vishu will be celebrated on Wednesday April 14, 2021.
Celebrated in Kerala from the reign of Sthanu Ravi since 844 AD, Vishu is believed to mark the day when Krishna killed the demon Narakasura. Hence, Krishna idols are kept in the Vishu kani. Hindus consider Vishnu as the God of Time and so on this festival, Vishnu and his incarnation Krishna are worshipped.
On this day, the most significant event is the sighting of the Vishukkani during dawn, which is believed to bring luck throughout the year. In Malayalam, the word ‘kani’ means ‘that which is seen first’, hence, ‘Vishukkani’ means ‘that which is seen first on Vishu.’
It is believed the first thing that children see on the day should represent abundance. For this, the Vishukkan is prepared and children are blindfolded and brought to the altar to see the decorations and start the new year on an auspicious note.
The Vishukkani is prepared by Malayali women and comprises of items like rice, lemon, golden cucumber, jackfruit, kanmash kajal, betel leaves, golden yellow Konna flowers, an oil lamp, mirror, coins and currency notes and image of Vishnu, the Hindu god. This is the auspicious sight which family members open their eyes to first thing in the morning.
The Vishu festival is observed during the early hours of the morning in temples such as the Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple or the Kulathupuzha Sree BaalaShastha Temple. On this occasion, family and friends prepare different types of delicacies as part of the day’s celebrations.
They wake up early and watch the laburnum tree while making offerings comprising silver items, rice and money. Children are also an integral part of the celebrations and wear new clothes and burst firecrackers.
Vishu is a day of feasting and the food comprises 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 which comprises traditional vegetarian dishes. Normally it is served on a banana leaf.
There is a strong belief among people that if they see something auspicious on this day then their entire year shall be better. Traditionally, the eldest member of the family lights up the lamps and gathers each member, blindfolds them and takes them to the vishukanna.
Kolams (drawings made using rice and flour) are also made in front of houses and on porches to mark the occasion. People meet and greet each other, wear new clothes, burst firecrackers as well and enjoy a traditional feast.