For children, the month of April is marked with happy days on the calendar. School summer holidays begin in April. Summer is a season of several fruits like mango and jackfruit maturing in Kerala. And there are religious festivals like Easter, Vishu, Eid, Thrissur Pooram etc. happening in April or May. Vishu is one such special event for every Keralite and Vishu 2021 is and is being celebrated on the 14th of April.
Although part of Hindu New Year, Vishu is considered one of the auspicious festivals in Kerala by everyone. It is the beginning of the Hindu Malayalee’s New Year. Generally, the day is celebrated in the second week of April every year. Much like Onam, Vishu is a day celebrated with fervour in Kerala. A sumptuous meal, new clothes and prayers are parts of the celebrations in the state. Despite the pandemic, Vishu 2021 is celebrated with necessary precautions by Keralites.
There are several mythological tales attached to the festival. One such tale suggests Vishu is the day when Lord Krishna killed Narakasura, a demon. Therefore, Krishna idols are worshipped during the Vishu Kani. It is believed that this festival has been celebrated since the 9th century. Lord Vishnu and his avatar Lord Krishna are the deities worshipped on this day. In Sanskrit, Vishu means equal, which implies the day with the equal number of hours of day and night. Vishu is the harvest festival in Kerala. And it is an important day for those in the agricultural sector.
The most significant part of the Vishu celebration is Vishu Kani meaning viewed first or first thing seen at the dawn. This being the first day of the calendar, the devotees believe, seeing auspicious objects would bring them prosperity throughout the year. Usually, the eldest in the family prepares the Vishu Kani the previous day night in the prayer room. Mostly the goods include coconut, betel leaves, Arecanut, yellow Kani Konna flower, kajal, raw rice, lemon, golden cucumber, jack fruit, a metallic mirror, a holy book, cotton dhoti and coins or currency notes. On Vishu day, the members of the family visit the prayer room with closed eyes for Vishu Kani. The children are led to the spot by the elders.
It is a beautiful tradition practised on Vishu day. The eldest member in the family hands a few coins and fresh flowers to the younger members in the family. The children in the family are excited on this occasion. In some families, they are gifted new clothes as well. The significance behind this practice is really deep and meaningful. Distribution and handing down of wealth and sharing of fresh resources are merged and conveyed. On the other hand, the recipient reverently touches the feet of the giver and seeks the blessings.
Other rituals on the day include visiting temples to worship their deities. Temples also arrange special Vishu Kani for the devotees. Special prayers are conducted on the day. They also find more time to read religious scriptures. Guruvayoor Temple in Thrissur district is popular all over Kerala for the special Vishu rituals conducted therein. Thousands of devotees from all over Kerala and the nearby states visit the Temple on Vishu day. As usual, this year also the tradition was kept up on Vishu 2021.
Much like Onam Sadya, the preparations on Vishu day consists of a vegetarian menu. Unlike Onam Sadya, Vishu Sadya doesn’t have a list of fixed items to be served. Members of the family come together to prepare and enjoy the meal usually at lunch. Being a holiday in Kerala, all the members of the family will be actively involved. Usually, Hindu families celebrate it in the most traditional ways.
The menu usually consists of vegetable dry curries prepared with cabbage, beans, carrot, raw jackfruit, okra and mixed vegetables. Then there is a set of semi gravy curries like ginger curry, bitter melon curry, ash guard curry and sweet mango/pineapple curry. Gravy curries are sambar, dal curry, plantain or yam curry and rasam. Of course, all these are enjoyed with rice. Pappad, buttermilk and pickles add flavour to the meal. When all these items are served on plantain leaves you will find it hard to stop gobbling. The banquet is incomplete without banana chips, small banana, 2-3 types of payasam. Payasam is a traditional Indian sweet item made using milk, grains, lentils and jaggery.
Golden Shower Tree
The season is magnificently marked by the blooming of Kanikonna or Golden shower Tree. Though the tree can be seen in many other states of India when in full bloom in April-May, it has great importance for the Keralites. The golden-yellow flowers suddenly become very valuable and can be seen being sold by the side of roads or at traffic signals. The simple reason for this being, the flowers are an essential part of preparing the Vishu Kani and Vishu Kaineetam. In fact, when these trees are in full bloom it is a glorious sight to admire.
Games and Fireworks
Children engage in several kinds of games. And by night fireworks at households light up the area. Well, times are fast changing. Kids of today are hardly seen playing in the fields. But fireworks continue to be a thrilling event in the evenings. Well, Coronas effect is reflected too. For the film industry, it used to be a wonderful time. Several good movies used to be released on Vishu. Unfortunately, the pandemic has adversely affected even the traditions.
Happy and Safe Vishu 2021 to all
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