is a festival celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala. Vishu generally falls on April 14 of the Gregorian calendar. This
occasion signifies the Sun's transit to the zodiac - Mesha Raasi (first zodiac sign) as per Indian astrological calculations
and astronomically represents the vernal equinox. "Vishu" in Sanskrit means "equal". Therefore Vishu is
more probably denoting one of the equinox days. The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani, which literally "
the first thing to be seen on the Vishu day post waking up". The Vishukkani consist of a ritual arrangement of auspicious
articles like raw rice, fresh lemon, golden cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, the yellow flowers konna (Cassia
fistula), and a holy text and coins, 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 arrangement is completed the previous night. On the day of Vishu, the
custom is to wake up at dawn and go to the puja room with the eyes closed so that the Vishukkani is the first sight of the
new season. Reading verses from Hindu Holy book Ramayanam after seeing the "Vishukkani" is considered auspicious.
It is also believed that the page
of the Ramayanam to which you open up will have a bearing on your life in the coming year. Devotees also throng the well-known
temples like Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple, Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple to have a "Vishukkani Kazhcha" on the early
hours of "Vishu" day. "Vishu" is celebrated with much fanfare and vigour in all parts of Kerala. Bursting
crackers is part and parcel of the celebration especially for children. Elders gift firecrackers to children and every child
vie with each other to make a world of their own. People wear new clothes (Puthukodi) for the occasion and elders of the family
distribute tokens of money, called Vishukkaineetam, to children, servants and tenants. Vishu is also a day of feasting, wherein
the edibles consist of roughly equal proportions of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items. Feast items includeVeppampoorasam
(a bitter preparation of neem) and Mampazhapachadi (a sour mango soup).
Malayalam word kani literally means "that which is seen first," so "Vishukkani" means "that which
is seen first on Vishu." Arranged in the family puja room the night before by the mother in the family, the Vishukkani
is a panorama of auspicious items, including flowers, fruits and vegetables, clothes and gold coins. In Indian astrology,
Vishnu is seen as the head of Kaala Purusha, the God of Time. As Vishu marks the first day of the Zodiac New Year, it is an
appropriate time to offer oblations to Hindu Gods.
Solar New Year
Although Vishu is not traditionally celebrated
as a New Year festival as per the Malayalam Calender, the day is often considered as the first day of Zodiac Calendar.
Calendar and Vishu
As per Malayalam Calendar, Malayalam new year starts on the first month of Chingam
(which comes in August/September). However people of Malabar area considers Vishu as astrological new year] and Vishu Kani
will bring luck and prosperity for full year starting from Vishu Day Medam 1st. The Vishukkani, also called Kanikanal, is
inseparable from Vishu. According to the age-old belief of Malayalees, an auspicious kani (first sight) at the crack of dawn
on the Vishu day would prove lucky for the entire year. As a result, the Vishukkani is prepared with a lot of care to make
it the most positive sight so as to bring alive a wonderful, propitious and year ahead!Normally, the responsibility to put
the Kani in order falls on the experienced shoulders of the eldest lady of the house. A traditional Kani is prepared as described
below. There could be minor deviations from place to place.
A reasonably sized Uruli is used to arrange the Kani. An "Uruli"
is an open-mouthed shallow circular vessel made of bell metal. It is available in all sizes from a diameter of a few inches
to even 10–12 feet! Of course, the bigger ones are called charakku, odu etc. The uruli traditionally is made of panchaloham,
an aggregate of five metals. Panchaloham being symbolic of the universe, which comprises the five great elements—earth,
water, fire, air and space.
and around Kollam, Akshatam, a mixture of rice and turmeric, which is divided into halves of husked and un-husked rice, is
placed in uruli. While in other parts of Kerala, Unakkalari (raw rice) is the first ingredient that goes into the Kani Uruli
to act as a support base for the other items to be placed. Placed over that is a freshly laundered white kasavu pudava (a
typical Kerala style Sarang with golden border), followed by a carefully selected Kanivellari (golden coloured, shapely cucumber),
Vettila (betel leaves), Pazhukkapakku (reddish yellow coloured ripe areca nut), golden coloured mango fruit, ripe yellow jack
fruit(halved) and a shining brass valkannadi (hand mirror). A nice, well-starched cloth is then pleated fan-like and inserted
into a highly polished brass kindi (a spouted puja vessel used for pouring sacred water). The val-kannadi, a special type
of mirror with an extremely long and thin handle, often decorated with gold, is also inserted into the kindi. The kindi is
then placed in the uruli on top of the rice. In many places, Ramayanam or any of the scriptures written on Palm leaves (also
called as Thaaliyola) is also added to the auspicious constituents of the Kani arranged in this Uruli. Similarly, Ashtamangalyam
may also be is kept in the Kani Uruli. After this, a gold coin or gold ornament is placed on the top. A pair of halved coconuts
upright, filled with oil with cotton wicks is also placed.In a small flat-bottomed vessel is kept a little rice, a silver
coin and some flowers. After the Kanikanal, wishing for something, one takes the coin and checks whether it is placed head
or tail. Depending on this he/she may know if his/her wish would be realized or not. The Kani Uruli is then kept in front
of the statuette or picture of Sree Krishna Bhagavan (in Northern Kerala, the valkannadi signifies or is the embodiment of
Sree Bhagavathi, the Jaganmata Jagadeeswari). Then decorate the Kani Uruli, Picture and the surroundings with Konnappoovu
(Indian Laburnum. See Box). Place a lit Nilavilakku (bronze oil lamp) nearby in such a way as it imparts a golden yellow hue
to the Kani-ambience. Two deepams, which are fashioned from the two halves of a split coconut, are also kept in the uruli.
The wicks are made from pieces of starched cloth that are folded into bulbs at the base. These bulbs are placed into the coconut
oil that fills the deepams, anchoring the wicks in place. The starch helps the rest of the wick to extend straight upwards
so that they will properly burn. The lighting of the deepam welcomes God into our lives and is also symbolic of spiritual
knowledge—the remover of the darkness of ignorance.
Now the subdued yellow splendour of Nilavilakku and its brilliant reflections on the bronze Uruli, golden
coloured kanivellari, gold ornaments and bronze mirror boost the overwhelmingly yellow abundance of the Kanikonna flower clusters
and in turn augment the beauty of the yellow clad divinity that is Lord Sree Krishna Paramatma. When one opens the eyes for
the first time in the Brahma Muhurtha, to look at Bhagavan’s this glorious image, where is the chance that any thing
can go wrong in the new year, why the whole life? Gold—both in colour and in coin—is central to the Vishukkani.
Kanikkonna, a golden-yellow flower is used liberally throughout the puja room. This flower only blooms when the sun is in
its most exalted position astrologically—the month surrounding Vishu. In the puja room, the flower verily represents
the sun itself, the eyes of Lord Vishnu. Gold coins are symbols of monetary affluence, as well as cultural and spiritual wealth,
which the elders of the family must share freely with the younger generation. Vishukkaineettam, the distribution of wealth,
is another aspect of the festival. It should be given freely and accepted with reverence. On Vishu, the highly affluent families
will not only give money to their children but also their neighbours, perhaps the entire village. The grandmother or mother
who arranges the Vishukkani will sleep in the puja room after she is finished and then, waking during the auspicious hour
of the Brahma muhurata (4:00 to 6:00 a.m.), she will light the oil-lamp wicks and take in the auspicious sight. She will then
walk to the rooms where the rest of the family is sleeping and wake them. Covering their eyes, she will then lead them to
the puja room, where she will allow them to take in the auspicious sight. Upon opening one's eyes, one is overwhelmed with
the glorious darshan of the Lord. The mirror—which is symbolic of Bhagavati (Devi), not only increases the lustre of
the Vishukkani via the reflection it offers, but also shows our own face. One may also be reminded at this time, that Bhagavan
SriKrishna is the supreme lord of all that be, and our eternal duty(Sanatana Dharma) as eternal spirit souls (jivatma) is
to render devotional service unto the Him, utilizing all these material requirements provided by Him for our well-being in
the coming year also. The mirror also points to the importance of making our mind pure enough to render devotional service
(Nava vidha bhakti) with true and unadulterated love to SriKrishna. The Vishukkani is not reserved only for those who come
to the puja room, but is taken around—for the viewing of the elderly and sick who are perhaps too frail to come to the
shrine. It is also brought outside and shown to the family cows. As it is brought to the cowshed, it in fact is on display
for the birds, the trees, for all of nature to see. Vishukkani points to a year of abundance—both spiritually and materially.
Food, light, money, knowledge—all should fill our life. Taking in the Vishukkani we should pray that the vision remains
with us throughout the year. It is not enough that the joy we take from viewing the Vishukkani comes only to our eyes. It
must reflect in our thoughts and in our actions. The auspicious start of the year—which has come to us due to the grace
of beginning it with a divine vision—is not for us alone. It is up to us to spread this love, happiness and hope to
the rest of society.
preparing the Kani on the night of the Vishu eve, the eldest lady of the house (grand mother, mother or the eldest sister)
would sleep near to the Kani, keeping the match box close at hand. She gets up much before the Lord of the Day rises above
the eastern horizon. Keeping the eyes closed, she lights up the lamps and with prayers on lips, she opens her eyes to behold
the golden scene that spreads in front and the image of the ever smiling face of Balagopala. After her Kanikanal, she wakes
up other family members one by one and guides them to see the Kani in the Pooja Room. The children are brought keeping their
eyes covered by her loving hand or a cloth to prevent them from opening the eyes and see the mundane before seeing the divine.After
the human beings, it is the turn of the plants, animals and all things movable and immovable. The Kani Uruli is then taken
outside to show them. It is also taken to the cattle shed, bank of the ponds etc. and finally around the house three times.In
some places, children and youth prepare the Kani and take it around the neighbourhood chanting Keerthanams accompanied with
musical instruments. They get Kaineetam from all the houses they visit.Vishukani is important in many famous temples such
as Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple, Guruvayur Temple and Sabarimala.
Children wait eagerly
for this ritual. The elders of the family starting with the grand father or father give away Kaineetam to the younger ones.
The Kaineetam consists of coins (now mostly notes) with Konna flowers, rice and the gold from the Uruli. The gold and the
rice are returned to the Uruli and touch the eyes with flower. Earlier days, it was a custom to give Kaineetam to all the
people associated with the house such as servants, field workers and land-tenants. The principle is the symbolic sharing of
the prosperity and wishing happiness for all.
Saddhya is a major part of all Kerala festivals. But for Vishu, Vishu Kanji and Thoran are more
important. The Kanji is made of rice, coconut milk and spices. For the side dish, that is Thoran also there are mandatory
Fireworks is an
important part of Vishu celebration in many parts of North Kerala. In the morning and the previous evening, children enjoy