So Dad has finalized the menu for tomorrow and Mom is ready to set-up the ‘Vishukani’ which Dad & I will see the first thing in the morning tomorrow. It’s Vishu time already!
If you have a Mallu friend, you’d know about the Mallu New Year – Onam and you would have definitely indulged in an Onasadhya atleast once. But did you know we Malayalee’s have few but many other festivals, including ‘Vishu’, the Hindu New Year festival celebrated in Kerala and nearby region of Coastal Karnataka. The festival always falls in the middle of April, on or about 14 April every year. The same day, many Indian’s celebrate their New Year, including Sikh’s who celebrate Baisakhi. Ugadhi in Andhra Pradesh and in Karnataka, Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Bihu in Assam, Poila Boishak in Bengal and Navroze by Parsis’ are celebrated around the same time of year. Vishu literally means equal, and like every other New Year festival I mentioned earlier, connotes the completion of spring equinox.
World over an emphasis is put on beginnings. Indian culture, perhaps more than any other, stresses the importance of beginning things properly. Unlike other Mallu festivals, this day usually lacks all the pomp and is all about buying new clothes, spending quality time with family, good food and ‘Vishukaineetam’. In short all things nice, at the start of the year. Vishu might mean a lot different to a lot of people, but for me it’s all about these things – Vishukkani, Vishukaineetam and Vishu Sadhya 🙂
The Malayalam word “kani” literally means “that which is seen first”, so “Vishukkani” means “that which is seen first on Vishu”. As a symbol of prosperity, rice, fruits, vegetables, betel leaves, metal mirror, kanikkonna flowers (Cassia fistula), arecanut, holy texts, coins, lighted brass lamps and a decorated statue/ portrait of Lord Krishna is arranged by the elder ladies (Mom or Grandmom) to be a welcoming sight on New Year morning.
The tradition has been that one of the members of the house, typically the mom or elderly person lights up the lamps at dawn, then goes to each member of her family one by one, blindfolds and wakes each one up, walks them to the front of the setting. She then releases the blindfold so one can see the setting, and then greets the Vishu day.
P.S. – Parsi friends, this is very similar to your Navroze set-up
This is my most favorite part of the day. According to the tradition, elders also give Vishukaineetam (giving money) to younger ones in the family as a symbolic representation of wealth and sharing. The belief surrounding the Vishukaineetam is that if you share wealth with people you love, it will grow in abundance. But this year, I’ve suddenly realized that I’m no longer the youngest in the family and a lot of money will have to be given out too :p
Can any Malayalee feast be complete without a Sadhya? Another highlight of the day is the traditional Sadhya or sumptuous lunch, which is very similar to the Onam Sadhya (Onasadhya) with more than 25 dishes served in a banana leaf.
If you feel like indulging in a Sadhya, check – https://storysoviets.com/2016/09/12/woah-its-onam-time-already-what-is-onam-what-it-means-to-me-and-5-restaurants-in-mumbai-you-must-visit-this-wednesday-for-onam-sadya/
For my family this is one day that every member of the family compulsorily meets at one common venue, spends quality time and enjoys the Vishu sadhya.
Here’s wishing all my readers a very happy Vishu, Baisakhi and Poila Boishakh!
The song, “Kanikaanum neram kamalanethrante”, sung by KS Chithra is the most popular song in Malayalam as a prayer to Lord Krishna.
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