A new year day celebration, Vishu is one of the important festivals of Kerala. The festival is celebrated in the Malyalee month of Medam i.e April or May of the Gregorian Calendar and marks the beginning of a harvest year. Vishu also indicates moving of the sun to Aries zodiac sign and the day from which the farmers begin ploughing their land. The festival is also observed in other parts of the country by different names like Bisu in Kasargod district of Kerala, Mangalore and Udupi district of Karnataka and as Bihu in Assam.Vishu is considered the festival of light and the people of Kerala celebrate it by bursting crackers, lighting up diyas at their houses and preparing a special feast or Sadya and performing pooja (prayers and rituals). There is also a custom of giving money called Vishukkaineetam.
History of the Festival
According to a legend, the demon king Ravana never allowed Surya deva or the Sun God to rise from the East direction, so after the death of Ravana on a Vishu day, that Sun God started to rise from the East. Therefore, Hindus of Kerala commemorate the return of Sun God.
Duration of the Festival
Highlights/ Important Rituals of the Festival
- The day begins with the Vishukanni or the Vishu Sight, for which arrangements of special articles like raw rice, fresh lemon, golden cucumber, coconut, jackfruit, kanmashi kajal, betel and other items that signify prosperity are made in a bell metal vessel called uruli.
- A lighted bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is also placed alongside a day previous to Vishu.
- The tradition is to wake up early in the morning and go to the prayer room of the house, with eyes closed so that the Vishukkani is the first sight.
- Scripture reading from the Hindu Holy book Ramayana is done after seeing the Vishukkani.
- The two important dishes prepared are Vishu Kanji and Vishu katta. Where Vishu Kanji is made of rice, coconut milk and spices, Vishu katta is prepared from freshly harvested rice powder and coconut milk served with jaggery.
- There are a few side dishes that are also prepared which are known as Thoran.
- Other important Vishu delicacies include Veppampoorasam (a bitter preparation from neem leaves) and Mampazhappulissery (a sour mango soup).
- There is a tradition of buying of new clothes and it is known as Puthukodi or Vishukodi.
- Fireworks are important part of the festival, children during the evening are seen bursting the crackers.