Vishu is a Hindu festival which is celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala, Tulu speaking people of Karnataka. In Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu, people celebrate the Tamil New year on this same day.
In Kerala, this spring celebration is only second to Onam in terms of popularity. It occurs on the first day of the Malayalam month Madham (mid-April), which coincides with the traditional Spring Equinox, when the length of day and night are equal. “Vishu” literally means "equal" in Sanskrit. On March 20th or 21st, the astronomical Spring Equinox occurs. This date fluctuates over the ages due to the earth's wobble, demonstrating the festival's long history. Vishu denotes the sun's transit through Aries, or the Mesha Rashi, and is the day when farmers begin ploughing land and other agricultural chores.
HOW VISHU IS CELEBRATED?
Flowers, vegetables, fruits, a traditional lamp, metal mirrors, cash, rice, sacred text, and other items are arranged inside a metal vessel called uruli to create a Vishukanni display for Vishu. Alongside it is an illuminated bell metal lamp known as nilavilakku. The Vishukanni is put in front of Hindu deities' idols, notably Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna, in homes and temples. After a ritual bath, the mother or the eldest member of the family rises early on Vishu day to light the lamp. She then wakes up each member of the family one by one, covers their eyes with her hands, and leads them to the Vishukanni to seek Lord Krishna's blessings.
HISTORY BEYOND VISHU:
Vishu is the subject of several legends. According to one legend, Vishu is the day when Lord Krishna defeated the monster Narakasura. Vishu is also celebrated as the return of Surya Dev, the sun deity, in another variation. Ravana, according to legend, was trying to prevent Surya Dev from emerging in the east. The sun began to rise from the east on the day of Vishu, following Ravana's death (spoiler alert: he was killed by Rama during the Dussehra festival).
WHAT IS SPECIAL ON VISHU:
- A special feast called 'sadya' is prepared keeping in mind all flavours that should be equally present in the meal. A meal usually consists of rice, sambar, chips, pickle, aviyal, rasam and different varieties of sweets and payasams.
- A special type of rice is prepared for this occasion. This is called Kanji and is prepared with high quality rice, coconut milk and condiment spices.
HOW THE DAY OF VISHU WOULD BE LIKE?
- The mother of the family arranges Vishukkani which consists of cucumber, rice, areca nuts, betel leaves, gold ornaments, new clothes, a holy granth, coins in a silver cup, mangoes, jackfruit, metal mirror, fresh lemon long with a lit metal lamp alongside.
- Children light firecrackers, and elders of the family offer new clothes and money as gifts to friends and relatives as blessings. On this day, people also go to temples to pray and distribute coins to the impoverished. During Vishu people normally dress up in their nicest attire, and women prefer to adorn themselves with gold jewellery.The traditional mundu' is worn by men with khadi shirts.
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