Vishu is an important festival in Kerala and it marks the beginning of the New Year. Vishu falls on the on the first day of the Medam month of the Malayalam calendar. Vishu is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Vishua' which means equal parts because only on this day, both the day and night are of equal duration. Vishu is the harvest festival welcoming the spring season.
Vishu Traditions & Custom
The most important and interesting custom followed on vishu is the Vishukani or Kani Kanal which means ‘the first sight’. It is a common belief among the people that good things seen in the morning of new year will bring good luck in the forthcoming year and fortunes for the upcoming year depend on the first thing seen in the morning of the vishu. Vishukani consists of many auspicious things to be seen first in the morning of vishu. Lady of the house arranges all these items in the puja room the night before vishu. Raw rice, lemon, yellow cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, Metal mirror or Val-kannadi, yellow flowers, holy text and gold coins are carefully arranged on a special bowl called urli which is made from panchaloham - an alloy of five metals representing earth, water, fire, air and the celestial space. Akshatam made by mixing equal amount of husked and un-husked rice and turmeric is also placed in the uruli. Two standing oil lamps are also placed before the deity. A metal bell lamp called nilavilakku is placed next to the vessel. Master of the house is the first one to look at the vishu kani followed by other members. Vishukkani is also arranged in temples like Guruvayoor, Sabarimala and Kulathupuzha.
Another tradition followed on this day is the Vishu Kaineetam which implies gifting of money to the children and junior members of the family. After vishukani the eldest member of the family gives money to the younger members and it is believed to bring prosperity to the children and this gesture is believed to stay for the rest of the year.
How is Vishu Celebrated in Kerala?
After observing the customs fire crackers are burst on this day. Grand feast is served on this day which is prepared using jack fruit, mangoes and other vegetables. Special feast prepared during Vishu is called sadya . Kanji which is prepared with rice, coconut milk and spices and Thoran are the two traditional dishes prepared during the event. Vishu is also incomplete without the two traditional dishes Veppampoorasam, which is a bitter preparation of neem and Mampazhapachadi or raw mango soup. People wear new clothes on this day and visit family and friends.