A traditional Vishu kani setting
|Also called||Malayalam: വിഷു|
|Observed by||Malayali and Tuluva Hindus|
|Observances||Vishu Kani,Vishukkaineetam,Vishukkanji, Vishuppakshi, Kanikkonna, Vishupadakkam (crackers).|
|Date||First day of harvest year of Malayalam and Tulu Calendars.|
|Related to||Bihu, Bwisagu, Baisakhi, Pohela Boishakh, Tamil Puthandu, Vishuva Sankranti|
Vishu (Malayalam: വിഷു) is a Hindu festival celebrated in Kerala, India. It is also celebrated as Bisu in Mangalore and Udupi districts of Karnataka, India. Vishu signifies the Hindu New Year and falls on the month of Madam in the Malayalam calendar, usually in the second week of April in the Gregorian calendar. The official date is set by the Indian National Calendar.
Vishu is celebrated with much fanfare and vigour in all parts of Kerala, especially by Hindus. It is considered a festival of light and fireworks, and decorating lights and bursting of firecrackers (Vishupadakkam) is part of the celebration. Other elements of Vishu include buying of new clothes (Puthukodi) for the occasion, the tradition of giving money called Vishukkaineetam , and the Vishu feast or Sadya, which consist of equal proportions of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items. Feast items include Veppampoorasam, Mampazhappulissery, Vishu kanji and Vishu katta .
The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani, which literally means "the first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up". The Vishukkani consists of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles intended to signify prosperity, including rice, fruits and vegetables, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, yellow flowers called konna (Cassia fistula), holy texts and coins, all arranged around lord Krishna in an ambience lit by nilavilakku or tookkuvilakku (traditional oil lamps) usually in the prayer room of the house. This is arranged the night before Vishu and is the first sight seen on Vishu. On Vishu, devotees often visit temples like Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple or Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple to have a 'Vishukkani Kazhcha' (viewing) in the early hours of the day.
It is said that Lord Sri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura on the Vishu day. Another interesting belief is related to the demon king Ravana. Ravana had never allowed Surya deva (Sun God) to rise straight from the East and after Ravana’s death it was on a Vishu day, that Surya deva started to rise from the East. Hindus of Kerala and nearby places celebrate Vishu to commemorate the return of Surya deva.
The day of Vishu is often considered as the first day of the Zodiac Calendar. However, if the transit of Sun into Aries (Mesha Sankramana) occurs after dawn on the first day of the zodiac calendar, then the Vishu celebrations will be on the next day, i.e. the second day of the calendar. In 2014, first day of the calendar was on 14 April but the transit of Sun into Aries (Mesha Sankramana) occurred after 7 am. Therefore, Vishu was celebrated on 15 April 2014. The Vishu Kani is meant to bring luck and prosperity for the year starting from Vishu Day Medam 1st. As Vishu marked the first day of the Malayalam Zodiac, it is considered an appropriate time to offer oblations to Hindu gods.
Vishu signifies the sun's transit into the Meda Raasi (first zodiac sign) according to Indian astrological calculations, and falls on the spring equinox. During the equinox, a day has equal number of hours of daylight and darkness, which describes the origin of the word "Vishu" which in Sanskrit means "equal". Vishu is a festival, on which farmers in kerala begins their agriculture activities..
Rituals and Customs
Vishukkani (the Vishu sight)
The Malayalam word kani literally means "that which is seen first", so "Vishukkani" means "that which is seen first on Vishu". The Vishukkani consists of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles intended to signify prosperity, such as
- Raw rice
- Fresh lemon
- Golden cucumber
- Coconut Coconut
- Jack Fruit
- Kanmashi Kajal
- Betel leaves
- Metal mirror
- Konna flowers (Cassia fistula) - these are yellow flowers which usually bloom around the same time as Vishu
- Holy texts
- Coins and currency notes
These are arranged in a bell metal vessel called uruli in the puja room of the house. A lighted bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is also placed alongside. This is arranged the night before Vishu. On Vishu, the custom is to wake up at dawn and go to the prayer room of the house, with eyes closed so that the Vishukkani is the first sight in the new season. According to the age-old belief of Malayalees, an auspicious kani at dawn on the Vishu day is lucky for the entire year. As a result, the Vishukkani is prepared with a lot of care to make it a positive sight and bring a wonderful, prosperous year ahead. Reading verses from the Hindu Holy book Ramayanam after seeing the Vishukkani is considered auspicious. It is also believed that the page of the Ramayanam which is opened up will have a bearing on one's life in the coming year.
The Sadhya (feast) is a major part of all Kerala festivals. However, Vishu Kanji, Thoran and Vishu katta are more important during Vishu. The Kanji is made of rice, coconut milk and spices. Vishu katta is a delicacy prepared from freshly harvested rice powder and coconut milk served with jaggery. For Thoran, the side dish, there are also mandatory ingredients. Other important Vishu delicacies include Veppampoorasam (a bitter preparation of neem) and Mampazhappulissery (a sour mango soup)
Vishu Padakkam (crackers)
Crackers and lights are an important part of Vishu celebration in all of Kerala. In the morning and on the eve, children enjoy setting off firecrackers.
The tradition of buying of new clothes for the occasion of Vishu is called Puthukodi or Vishukodi. There is also a popular tradition of elders giving money to younger ones in the family, or of hosts giving money to tenants or servants. This is called Vishukkaineetam .
Related holidays in other cultures
It coincides with the New Years in many other Southern Asian calendars, including:
- Assamese New Year, or Rongali Bihu (Northeast India)
- Bodo New Year, or Bwisagu (Northeast India)
- Burmese New Year, or Thingyan (Burma)
- Kodava New Year, called Edmyaar 1 or Bisu Changrandi, (in India's Karnataka state)
- Khmer New Year, or Chol Chnam Thmey (Cambodia)
- Lao New Year, or Songkan / Pi Mai Lao (Laos)
- Odia New Year, or Maha Vishuva Sankranti (India's Odisha state)
- Nepali New Year, or Bikram Samwat / Vaishak Ek (Nepal)
- Punjabi New Year, or Vaisakhi (India/Pakistan)
- Sinhalese New Year, or Aluth Avurudda (Sri Lanka)
- Tamil New Year, or Puthandu (India's Tamil Nadu state and Sri Lanka)
- Thai New Year, or Songkran (Thailand)
- Tuluva New Year, or Bisu (India's Karnataka state)
- Maithili New Year, or Jude Shital (Mithila)
- West Bengal New Year called Pohela Boishakh
- Media related to Vishu at Wikimedia Commons
- Vishuva Sankranti
- Pohela Boishakh
- Tamil Puthandu
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