Vishu 2020: Importance and significance of the festival
In Kerala, the beginning of the Zodiac New Year is celebrated as the festival of Vishu. While it is referred to as Vishu only in Kerala, the same spirit is shared in various festivals over India- such as Ugadhi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Bihu in Assam and Baisakhi in Punjab.
On this day, the most significant event is the sighting of the Vishukkani during dawn, which is believed to bring luck throughout the year. In Malayalam, the word ‘kani’ means ‘that which is seen first’, hence, ‘Vishukkani’ means ‘that which is seen first on Vishu.’
The Vishukkani is prepared by Malayali women, comprising items like rice, lemon, golden cucumber, jackfruit, kanmash kajal, betel leaves, golden yellow Konna flowers, an oil lamp, coins and currency notes and image of Vishnu, the Hindu god. This is the auspicious sight which family members open their eyes to first thing in the morning.
The Vishu festival is observed during the early hours of the morning in temples such as the Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple or the Kulathupuzha Sree BaalaShastha Temple. On this occasion, family and friends prepare different types of delicacies as part of the day’s celebrations. They wake up early and watch the laburnum tree while making offerings comprising silver items, rice and money. Children are also an integral part of the celebrations and wear new clothes and burst firecrackers.
Vishu is a day of feasting and the food comprises sweet, salty, sour and bitter items. Food items include Veppampoorasam, which is a bitter preparation of Mampazhapachadi (a sour mango soup) and neem. Sadya is a feast which comprises traditional vegetarian dishes. Normally it is served on a banana leaf. There is a strong belief among people that if they see something auspicious on this day then their entire year shall be better.