Among the various Hindu festivals in Kerala,
Vishu occupies a unique position in more than one respect.This day
is celebrated in almost all places in India by the Hindus albeit
by different names. In Bihar this day is called Bihu, in Punjab
Baisakhi and in Tamil Nadu Puthandu.
Though this is not the New Year's Day in
the Malayalam Calendar, people of Kerala consider Vishu the beginning
of a new year. This occasion signifies the Sun's transit to the
zodiac Mesha Mesha Raasi as per Indian astrological calculations.
The Malayalis believe that the fortunes
for the year depend upon the nature of the object one sees first
in the morning of Vishu Day. In order to fulfil the desire to look
at the auspicious articles, they prepare a 'Kani' (anomen) on the
previous day for seeing in the next morning. In circular bell-metal
vessel known as 'Urule' some raw rice is put and over it a folded
newly washed cloth is spread.
In it a cucumber, betel leaves and nuts,
metal mirror, yellow flowers of Konna tree (cassia fistula), a Grandha
(book of palm leaves) and a few gold coins are then placed in a
decorative fashion. Two coconut halves containing oil and lighted
wicks are also placed in the vessel which illuminate the articles
inside it. A bell-metal lamp filled with coconut oil is kept burning
by the side of the vessel.
Early morning the eldest female member gets
up and lights the lamp and looks at' Kani' . She wakes up the other
members, and the Kani is shown to everyone of them, taking particular
care not to allow anyone to look at other things even by chance.
The vessel is taken to the bedside to the
members or if it is too big to be carried, it is placed at one spot
and the members are led there blind-folded. Even the cattle are
not deprived of this privilege, as the Kani is taken to the cattle-shed
and placed before them to have a look.
The families then celebrate the day with
joyous abandon by bursting fire crackers after the vishukani. While
the men and the children engage in bursting crackers, the women
start cooking a variety of delicacies for the day's lunch. The feast
or the 'sadya' is prepared by the women of the household and the
whole family sits down to enjoy the vishu lunch together.
Vishu is also a day of feasting, wherein
the edibles consist of roughly equal proportions of salty, sweet,
sour and bitter items. Feast items include 'Veppampoorasam' (a bitter
preparation of neem) and 'Mampazhapachadi' (a sour mango soup).The
dishes prepared from the vegetables and fruits that are abundant
in the season like jackfruits, mangoes, pumpkins, a variety of gourds,
The famous temples like Guruvayur, Sabarimala
and Padmanaba Kshetram are filled with devotees. Special pujas are
held in these temples where the people go to worship and pray for
a prosperous New Year. They also view the Vishukanis that are prepared
in each of these temples.