A traditional Vishu kani setting
|Also called||Malayalam: വിഷു|
|Observed by||Keralites & Tuluvas|
|Observances||Vishu Kani,Vishukkaineetam,Vishukkanji, Vishuppakshi, Kanikkonna, Vishupadakkam (crackers).|
|Date||First day of Tulu&Malayalam Calendar|
|2013 date||April 14|
|2014 date||April 15|
|Related to||Bihu, Baisakhi, Pohela Boishakh, Tamil Puthandu, Vishuva Sankranti|
Vishu (Malayalam: വിഷു) is a Hindu festival celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala and in the Tulunadu region(Mangalore & Udupi districts), usually in the second week of April in the Gregorian calendar.
Vishu is celebrated with much fanfare and vigour in all parts of Kerala. It is considered a festival of light and fireworks, and decorating lights and bursting of firecrackers (Vishupadakkam) is part of the celebration. Other elements of Vishu include buying of new clothes (Puthukodi) for the occasion, the tradition of giving money called Vishukkaineetam , and the Vishu feast or Sadya, which consist of equal proportions of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items. Feast items include Veppampoorasam, Mampazhappulissery, Vishu kanji and Vishu katta .
The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani, which literally means "the first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up". The Vishukkani consists of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles intended to signify prosperity, including rice, fruits and vegetables, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, yellow flowers called konna (Cassia fistula), holy texts and coins, usually in the prayer room of the house. This is arranged the night before Vishu and is the first sight seen on Vishu. On Vishu, devotees often visit temples like Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple or Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple to have a 'Vishukkani Kazhcha' (viewing) in the early hours of the day.
Vishu is traditionally celebrated as a New Year in the Malayalam Calendar, and the day was often considered as the first day of the Zodiac Calendar. The Vishu Kani was meant to bring luck and prosperity for the year starting from Vishu Day Medam 1st. But towards the end of last century AD, due to the importance of Onam which comes in August or September, the corresponding month Chingam is considered as first month of the Malayalam Calendar. As Vishu marked the first day of the Malayalam Zodiac previously, it is considered an appropriate time to offer oblations to Hindu gods.
Vishu signifies the sun's transit into the Meda Raasi (first zodiac sign) according to Indian astrological calculations, and falls on the spring equinox. During the equinox, a day has equal number of hours of daylight and darkness, which describes the origin of the word "Vishu" which in Sanskrit means "equal". Vishu is also considered a harvest festival, coinciding with several other harvest festivals in India such as Pongal and Vaisakhi.
Rituals and Customs
Vishukkani (the Vishu sight)
The Malayalam word kani literally means "that which is seen first", so "Vishukkani" means "that which is seen first on Vishu". The Vishukkani consists of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles intended to signify prosperity, such as
- Raw rice
- Fresh lemon
- Golden cucumber
- Betel leaves
- Metal mirror
- Konna flowers (Cassia fistula) - these are yellow flowers which usually bloom around the same time as Vishu
- Holy texts
- Coins and currency notes
These are arranged in a bell metal vessel called uruli in the puja room of the house. A lighted bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is also placed alongside. This is arranged the night before Vishu. On Vishu, the custom is to wake up at dawn and go to the prayer room of the house, with eyes closed so that the Vishukkani is the first sight in the new season. According to the age-old belief of Malayalees, an auspicious kani at dawn on the Vishu day is lucky for the entire year. As a result, the Vishukkani is prepared with a lot of care to make it a positive sight and bring a wonderful, prosperous year ahead. Reading verses from the Hindu Holy book Ramayanam after seeing the Vishukkani is considered auspicious. It is also believed that the page of the Ramayanam which is opened up will have a bearing on one's life in the coming year.
The Sadhya (feast) is a major part of all Kerala festivals. However, Vishu Kanji, Thoran and Vishu katta are more important during Vishu. The Kanji is made of rice, coconut milk and spices. Vishu katta is a delicacy prepared from freshly harvested rice powder and coconut milk served with jaggery. For Thoran, the side dish, there are also mandatory ingredients. Other important Vishu delicacies include Veppampoorasam (a bitter preparation of neem) and Mampazhappulissery (a sour mango soup)
Vishu Padakkam (crackers)
Crackers and lights are an important part of Vishu celebration in all of Kerala. In the morning and on the eve, children enjoy setting off firecrackers.
The tradition of buying of new clothes for the occasion of Vishu is called Puthukodi or Vishukodi. There is also a popular tradition of elders giving money to younger ones in the family, or of hosts giving money to tenants or servants. This is called Vishukkaineetam .
Other Indian celebrations
Similar festivals are celebrated in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, India, In Assam, this day is called Bihu, in Punjab Baisakhi (originally Vaishakhi), in West Bengal Pohela Boishakh, in Tamil Nadu Tamil Puthandu(Tamil new year) or Vishu punyakalam. Tuluvas in the Tulu Nadu region in South-West Karnataka and North-West Kerala celebrate this as Bisu and in Odisha this season is celebrated as Vishuva Sankranti.
- Media related to Vishu at Wikimedia Commons
- Vishuva Sankranti
- Pohela Boishakh
- Tamil Puthandu
- "Major festivals - Vishu". Official Website of Government of Kerala. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
- Kumar Suresh Singh (2002). People of India, Volume 27, Part 1. Anthropological Survey of India. p. 479. ISBN 978-81-85938-99-8.
- "When the Laburnum blooms". The Hindu. 2011-04-14. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "City celebrates Vishu". The Hindu. 2010-04-16. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Vishu was once New Year". The Deccan Chronicle. 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
- "Vishu delicacies". The Hindu. 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2013-09-27.