Vishu is a Malayalum festival held in the state of Kerala (and adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu) in Indian on the first day in the Malayalum month of Medam (April-May). Festival of Vishu is also known as the Malayalum New Year day and thus it becomes all the more important for the Malayalees regardless of their religion. In Kerala, every community, every religion has something to celebrate about all through out the year. Similarly this festival is celebrated in almost all the places in India by the Hindus but by the different names. In Assam this day is called Bihu, in Punjab Baisakhi and in Tamil Nadu Puthandu.

Vishu is uniquely different from other festivals. Almost all festivals and rites are directly or indirectly related to religion. But Vishu is the only festival that is not linked with any religion but is celebrated with great religious solemness. It doesn’t exhibit the customary pomp and splendor like other celebrations.

On this day, it is believed that the first thing one sees in the morning will decide the kind of year ahead.The festival is marked with offerings to the divine called Vishukanni.This is the main belief behind preparing "Vishukani". The offerings consists of a ritual arrangement in the puja room of auspicious articles like rice,linen, cucumber, betel leaves, matal mirror, holy text and coins in a bell metal vessel called uruli. A lighted bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is also placed alongside. This arrangement is completed by the women of the house during the previous night. On the day of Vishu, it’s a custom to wake up at dawn and go to the puja room with the eyes closed so that the first thing a person sees is the Vushukanni.Usually the youngest member of a family is ushered with his/her eyes closed to room where all this is arranged in front of images of Gods. He/she is then asked to look at these items. This is done early in the morning, usually at the crack of dawn. The elders of the family prepare this tray. The Vishukanni is later distributed among the poor.People wear new clothes for the occasion and the elders in the family distribute tokens of money to the children, servants and tenants. These tokens are called Vishukkaineetam and are usually in the form of coins. People carry out this custom believing that in this way, their children would be blessed with prosperity in the future.

It is said that seeing goods like the ones above will assure prosperity in the coming year. Everyone wears new clothes on this day and visits temples to thank Lord for the year that went by and look forward to another great year. All houses are decked up with flower garlands and lamps are lit to bring in good luck and positive energy. The kids are given small amounts of money to make sure that they prosper ahead in life. The most awaited part is the feast that is prepared in each household. All traditional food items are prepared and the delicacies are absolutely lip-smacking. In case you visit Kerala during this time, make sure you visit temples to see spectacular decorations.

Vishu is considered to be a day of feasting, wherein the edibles consist of roughly equal proportions of salt, sweet, sour and bitter items.Feast items include Veppampoorasam (a bitter preparation of neem) and Mampazhapachadi (a sour mango soup).The custom of preparing the kani has been followed for generations. The women take a large dish made of bell-metal (uruli), arrange in it a grantha (palm-leaf manuscript), a gold ornament, a new cloth, some flowers from the Konna Tree (Cassia fistula), some coins in a silver cup, a split coconut, a cucumber, some mangoes and a jack-fruit. On either side of the dish are placed two burning lamps with a chair facing it.

A large number of people prefer to see Vishu Kani in temples. A huge rush of devotees can be seen in the temples of Guruvayur, Ambalapuzha and Sabarimala where special prayers are organised to mark the day. People stay overnight in the courtyards of these temples a night before Vishu so that they see Kani, first thing on Vishu in the temple. Devotees close their eyes and set their eyes on Kani and deity so that when the doors to the deity opens at 2:30 am, the first thing they see is Kani.

A group of young men and women dress up as 'chozhi' , wearing a skirt of dried banana leaves and masks on their faces and go from house to house in the village dancing and collecting small amounts of money. On Vishu, these entertainers get good rewards for their performances. The money is spent on the Vishuwela (the New Year Fair).


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