Vishu is the New Year of Malayalis – it is the astronomical or zodiac New Year in Kerala and is observed on the first day of the Malayalam month of ‘medam.’ In 2014, the date of Vishu is April 15. Usually, Vishu falls on the first day of Medam month but this year due to Surya Sankramana taking place late (after sunrise) on April 14 the day has been shifted to April 15. Historically the festival is closely associated with the agrarian economy of Kerala – a state is the southern part of
. The highlight of the festival is Vishukani, Vishukaineetam and Vishubhalam. India
The Vishu day celebrations begin with the ‘Vishukani.’ ‘Vishu Kani’ is the first auspicious thing that people see on the day and this takes place during the Brahma Muhurta or ideally between 0400 hrs and 0600 hrs.
The ‘Vishukani’ is usually prepared on the night before the Vishu day. Immediately on awakening from sleep, people close their eyes and proceed towards the place where Vishukani is placed. This is known as Kani Kanal – kani means ‘that which is seen first.’
Vishukani consists of rice, kasavu mundu (traditional cloth of Kerala), gold, silver, coins, mirror (usually Aranmula Kannadi or mirror with a tail), cucumber, mango, jackfruit, coconut, banana, and Kanikonna (yellow flower known as Indian Laburnum). The Vishukani is exhibited in an ‘urali’ – a traditional vessel of Kerala. It is placed in front of an idol or portrait of Lord Krishna. Traditional Kerala lamp is lit near it.
Then, the eldest member in the family gives ‘Vishukaineetam’ to the family members. The Vishukaineetam is usually coins but nowadays people also prefer other expensive gifts. Hindus then worship at nearby Sri Krishna temples.
Vegetarian food, consisting of traditional Kerala fare, is prepared on the day and includes the mouthwatering ‘payasam.’
From an astrological point of view, Vishu is of immense significance. The day and night are of equal duration on the Vishu day (12 hours). ‘Vishubhalam’ or the predictions for the next year is read on the day.
The preparation for next agricultural season begins on the Vishu day. Earlier, farmers used to plough the land on this day and it was referred as ‘Vishupootu.’
It must be noted that Vishu is not the first day in the regional solar calendar followed in Kerala. The Malayalam Calendar begins in Chingam (August).
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