Regardless of where we come from, every single one of us do celebrate a traditional holiday. The essence of these holidays are similar because it always includes good food, happy vibes and blessings from the elders. In that sense, Vishu Ashamsakal is no different than the rest of the world. Vishu is celebrated as the New Year primarily by people in Kerala. It is the first day of the month Medam in the Malayalam calendar and also marks the spring equinox. This day is celebrated with much ceremonial splendor among all family members, relatives and friends and is marked by feasting and burning of fire crackers. The whole family gather together to enjoy this and hence making the bonding stronger. According to the elderly, Vishu is all about thanking God and seeking His blessings.
What is Vishu?
The word “Vishu” was derrived from a Sanskrit word “Vishuvam”, which means equal day and night. Vishu signifies the Sun’s movement into Mesha Rashi(Aries), where it represents one of days where the night is as long as the day. Vishu is all about new beginnings which makes it so auspicious for everyone celebrating it. Other states also celebrate their regional New Year around the same time like Vaishaki in Punjab, Bihu in Assam and Poila Boishakh in Bengal.
Vishukkani or the Vishu Sight
The name Vishukkani comes from the Malayalam word “Kani” which literally means “that which is seen first”. The tradition of Vishukkani, a prescribed list of items is collected and people see it the first thing on a Vishu morning. There is a strong belief that practising this tradition acts as a lucky charm and brings good luck for the entire year. On the day of Vishu, it’s a custom to wake up very early and go to the puja room with the eyes closed. This is so that the first thing a person sees is the glorious view of God with Vishukkani, reflected on the mirror. This ritual is known as Kanikanal.
After performing Vishukkani, all of the family members takes bath and wear new clothes to collect Vishukkaineetam. This ritual involves distributing money in form of coins. The elders of the family give away coins or notes to the younger ones.People carry out this custom in this belief that this way their children would be blessed with prosperity in the future. This practise is almost similar to our Malaysian holidays, where we receive ang pau from the elders.
It’s also the Sadhya or the large vegetarian feast laid out on a banana leaf. The dishes are full of flavours and would suit anyone with any palette.. Special dishes are prepared using jackfruits, mangoes, pumpkins and other seasonal vegetables. The food items consist of roughly equal proportions of sweet, salty, sour and bitter items.
The sequence of service is usually left to right of your leaf. You start your meal with a traditional raw mango pickle together with ‘Inji Puli’, a spicy and sweet ginger chutney. The Kerala banana chips are a very integral part of the meal and a Thoran, where a vegetable (usually cabbage or beans) is stir fried with generous quantities of coconut. No Vishu Sadya is ever complete without an Avial. The Avial consists of vegetables in curd and coconut seasoned with curry leaves and coconut oil.
Rice is a traditional staple for Indians across the country. In Kerala, rice is the only staple and is served first with a dal and ghee, followed by Sambar, Rasam and thick buttermilk towards the end of the meal.
The Sadhya finishes with one or two types of payasam ( type of pudding) . The first type is the Paal Ada Pradhaman. It is cooked in large quantities over wood-fired ovens which give a pink tone to the payasam. The other Payasam is usually a brown colour one and could be a Parippu (lentil-based) Payasam or the Goduma (wheat) Payasam.
In the Spirit of This Glorious Festival of Vishu, we hope for those of you who celebrate this felicitous holiday to see a beautiful Vishukani. Let your heart and soul invite the positive energy for a year full of excitement and cheerfulness. Happy Vishu to all of you! Have a fantastic Vishu Ashamsakal!