The first day of Medam, Malayalam month or the period between April and May as per the Gregorian calendar, is celebrated as Vishu inKerala. This Hindu festival considered as the advent of the astrological Malayali New Year and the harvest festival, symbolizes the movement of the sun to the MeshaRashi (Aries) and marks the beginning of the spring season. It is the time from which the farmers begin the ploughing of land and other agricultural activities.Significance of Vishu:
Vishu in Kerala: isthe day of MeshaSankranti or MeshaSankramam. It is a family fest and a period when Lord Vishnu is worshipped. VishuKani, VishuKaineettam and Vishubhalam are the most significant aspects of Vishu celebrationsinKerala.
Vishu Kani: VishuKani means the first thing that one sees on waking up on the day of Vishu. It is a ritual in which the prayer room is set alight with traditional bell shaped metal oil lamps called nilavilakku or tookkuvilakku and the house is decorated with auspicious articles by the women of the house on the previous night of Vishu.All the auspicious objects that are considered a sign of prosperity are collected in a bell shaped metal urn called “Uruli’ and are placed in the pray room of the house, before Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna.
These objects including the holy book of the Hindus, a new cloth or dhoti,Kona flowers yellow in colour, betel leaves, betel nut, fruits, raw rice, fresh lemon, cucumber, vegetables, coconut, kajal, a metal mirror and currency notes or coins, are to be first seen.The devotees believe that VishuKani brings luck and prosperity throughout the year therefore they wake up early in the morning and with closed eyes proceed to the prayer room to get the first sight of the auspicious objects.
As a common belief the devotees also visit the SabarimalaAyyappan temple or GuruvayurSree Krishna temple early in the morning for 'VishuKaniKazhcha' or seeing the VishuKani and getting VishuKaineettam or coins of prosperity.
Vishu Sadhya and Vishu Padakkam: The Vishu celebrations are incomplete without VishuSadhya and VishuPadakkam.The grand feast or VishuSadhya marks its significant style with traditional cuisines including Vishu Kanji, a porridge made of rice, coconut milk, and spices; VishuKatta, served with jiggery it is made of rice powder, salt and coconut milk; Veppampoorasam, a bitter dish made of neem; Mampazhappulissery a sour soup made with mangos and Thoran, a side dish.
Each cuisine has its distinctive taste and is savoured with great joy by the people during the Vishu celebrations. VishuPadakkam or crackers and lights are an important part of the Vishu celebrations inKerala and add to the glamour and mood of the festivities. The children burst crackers from the morning after seeing the VishuKani and this continues throughout the day.
The joy of the festivities can be clearly seen acrossKerala.People dressed in new clothes called Puthukodi and jewelry visit temples and elders gift VishuKaineettam or the coin of prosperity which is believed to be the blessing of Prakruti, Shakti, and Lakshmi, to the younger generations including women, children, servants and tenants and bless them for a prosperous year ahead. Young men and women wearing dried banana leaves and masks and disguised as “chozhi” entertain the people by their performances and collect rewards from every house and then enjoy at the New Year fair called the Vishuwela.