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What is the Significance of Vishu, a Kerala festival

Updated on March 19, 2018
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Lakshmi Menon is a published author who writes fiction and non-fiction, as well as health and travel articles.

Vishu 2018 - on April 15

Vishukkani
Vishukkani | Source

Vishu, New Year festival of Malayalees

Vishu is the New Year day celebration of Malayalees. It is celebrated on the first day of Malayalam month Medam, which usually falls on the 14th of April. "Vishu" in Sanskrit means "equal". Sometimes it is also celebrated on 15th April according to the Meda Rashi, the first zodiac sign. This is not only the festival of Malayalees, this New year festival is celebrated in other parts of India also on the same day, but with different names and their unique customs and rituals.

On Vishu Day - New Year on other States of India

Assam - Bihu

Punjab - Baisakhi

Tamil Nadu - Puthandu

Bengal - Poila Baisakh

Orissa - Vishua Sankranthi

When is Vishu celebrated?

Vishu is one of the major festivals of Kerala, especially among the Hindus. Some of the main features of Vishu are Vishukkani, Vishukkaineetam, Vishu pulari etc. When sun crosses the equator it is the the day of Malayalam month Medam which is Astronomical New Year Day for the people of Kerala, which falls in April, mostly on the 14th. However, this year (2018), according to the Malayalam calendar, Vishu is celebrated on 15th April. Keralites celebrate this day as Vishu, which is considered as the new beginning and auspicious day, and celebrate it traditionally with colorful rituals and customs, accompanied by joy and merriment. Though Chingam is the official Malayalam new year (August-September), it has no significance either astrologically or astronomically. Hence Vishu is celebrated as New Year in Kerala. It is a symbol of good luck, hope and prosperity.

Source

Significance of Vishu

  • People exchange Vishu greetings.
  • The children enjoy bursting crackers to celebrate the occasion.
  • The family members see Vishukkani.
  • The family members and the people who assist them will get Vishukkaineettam from the head of the family.
  • With the traditional chandanam, (sandal paste) on the forehead, people go to temples for worship.
  • On Vishu day, famous temples like Guruvayur, Sabarimala, Sri Padmanabha temple etc. are filled with devotees, where special pujas are held for this occasion.
  • Another significance on this auspicious Vishu day, is the day and night will be equal in Kerala. 'Vishuvam' in Samskritam means Equal Night and day.
  • Though Sadhya is a major part of all Kerala festivals, for Vishu it is simple food. These preparations consist of same proportions of sweet, sour, salty and bitter items, like mampazha pachadi, jackfruit erissery, vishu puzukku etc.

What is Vishukkani?

It is believed that at the Vishu pulari, (the dawn of the auspicious day of Vishu,) one should see the Vishukkani, as the first sight of the New Year, to have a prosperous and peaceful year. Vishukkani, also pronounced as Vishu kani, is a collection of several auspicious things such as grains, vegetables,fruits,lamp (Nilavilakku), flowers, coconut, gold, mirror, Ramayanam or Bhagavatgita (Hindu holy books) etc. set in a large uruli, a circular vessel (made of panchaloham - an aggregate of five metals), with the image of Lord Krishna who is considered as God of Time, in the puja room.

The golden color Konnappoo, (Cassia fistula) which usually blossoms during this time only, is the special flower used for this purpose. The main vegetables used for this purpose are golden colored cucumber, tender mangoes, jackfuit, etc. Those who have a valkkannadi, use this mirror and others use the ordinary mirror. The setting of the vishukkani arrangement is done with great care in the previous evening by the lady of the house.

On the day of Vishu pulari, (dawn of Vishu day) it’s a custom to wake up very early and go to the puja room with the eyes closed so that the first thing a person sees is the glorious darshan of God with Vishukkani, reflected on the mirror. This ritual is known as Kanikanal. It is believed that the first thing one sees as Vishukkani on the start of the year fills one's mind with both spiritually and materially.

Vishu kani

What is Vishukkaineetam?

After Vishukkani, every one takes bath and come in their new clothes to collect the Vishukkaineetam which is usually coins as a symbol of distribution of wealth, from the elders of the house, to wish them prosperity. These days some people give vishukkaineetam as currency notes, instead of coins. It is fun to see each other how much each one has got a collection of vishukkaineetam amount. The head of the family also gives vishukkaineetam to the servants and other workers who work for them, wishing them prosperity.

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    • lex123 profile image
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      lex123 2 years ago

      Glad that you found it interesting and you are most welcome to use this article in your social studies class.

    • DWDavisRSL profile image

      DW Davis 2 years ago from Eastern NC

      You have added greatly to my knowledge of Hindu tradition and, with your permission, I may use your article in my social studies class next year. Please let me know if this would be allowable. Thank you.

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