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What is the Significance of Vishu, a Kerala festival

Updated on April 14, 2015

Vishu 2015 - on April 15

Vishukkani | Source
Vishukkani | Source

Vishu, a 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". 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 like Bihu in Assam, Baisakhi in Punjab, Puthendu in Tamil Nadu, and Vishua Sankranti in Orissa, with their unique customs and rituals.

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, according to Malayalam calendar, this year Vishu is celebrated on 15th April in 2015. 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. It is a symbol of good luck, hope and prosperity.

konnapoo | Source

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 holi books) etc. set in a large uruli, a circular vessel (made of panchaloham - five metals), with the image of Lord Krishna, 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.


Vishu kani

What is Vishukkaineetam?

After Vishukkani, every one takes bath and come in their new clothes to collect the Vishukkaineetam (distribution of wealth, usually coins) from the elders of the house, to wish them prosperity. These days some people give vishukkaineetam as 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 gives vishukkaineetam to the servants and other workers who work for them, wishing them prosperity.

In 2015, the date of Vishu is April 15

People exchange vishu greetings, and the children enjoy bursting crackers to celebrate the occasion. 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.

Another significance is on this auspicious Vishu day, 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.


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    • lex123 profile image

      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.