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Mourning for some, celebration for others

Vishu, the Malayalam New Year's Day, and Good Friday on the same day - a coincidence that marks a clash of emotions.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 19:50 IST

Vishu, the Malayalam New Year's Day, and Good Friday on the same day - a coincidence that marked a clash of emotions in Kerala with the day signifying all-round happiness for Hindus but mourning for Christians who recall Christ's crucifixion.

So, while the Hindus who constitute 52 percent of Kerala's 32 million population celebrate and feast, many of the 23 percent Christians spend most of the day in the church.

Old timers can't recall the last time the two auspicious days fell on the same day.

"It is really unfortunate that the two days have clashed. My friend invited me for a sumptuous Vishu lunch, but my parents said I have to be in church attending mass as today is Good Friday," said 12-year-old George Thomas.

Both the communities observe the day in diametrically opposite ways.

In Hindu households, popular belief holds that the first thing people see on Vishu determines prosperity in the year ahead. So, all members traditionally see the Vishukani, which is made up of raw rice, fresh linen, betel leaves, a metal mirror, konnappoo (the yellow laburnum flowers), a holy text and coins in the traditional bell metal vessel urali that is placed near Lord Krishna's deity.

"Yes, I saw the Vishukani and also got a lot of money from elders in my family. But I am disappointed that my Christian friends will not be able to join me for the Vishu lunch," said 14-year-old E. Swaroop.

In contrast, this is one day that most Christians make it a point to attend church. The day begins on a solemn note on an empty stomach for a mass that begins at 8 a.m. and goes well beyond noon and sometimes even up to 3 p.m.

While Hindus feast on a 24-course lunch, Christians attending the Good Friday mass are given a concoction of bitter gourd leaves that symbolises what Jesus was given to drink before he died on the cross.

After the mass, churches serve traditional rice porridge to all the devotees.

Then, Hindus generally party with families taking in a movie, while children in most devout Christian homes are barred from seeing television through the day.

It's just for a day of course. Easter Sunday is coming up and festivities can begin in real earnest for Thomas and all his young friends.

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