VISHU FESTIVAL – The Harvest Festival of Kerala
The first day of Malayalam month is celebrated as Vishu Festival in Kerala and is the call of a New Year in Kerala and the adjoining areas of Southern India.
This day is celebrated with much ceremonial splendor among all family members, relatives, and friends and is marked by feasting and burning of firecrackers. It is equivalent to Punjab's Baisakhi (or Vaisakhi) or Assam's Bihu and Bengal's Pohela Boishakh.
Malayalis welcome the astrological new year with the Vishu festival. Vishu is named after Lord Vishnu, and he is said to be the god of time and also considered as the god of prosperity and happiness.
Significance of Vishu Festival
The festival of Vishu is also related to harvest and farms. Hence it is the festival of farmers, where they start ploughing the land on this day, and so Vishu is said to be the festival of harvests.
History and Mythology behind Vishu
It is an ancient festival that is celebrating from around 844 AD when the Kerala region was under the rule of Sthanu Ravi.
Hindus celebrate Vishu because of their religious beliefs. In the south, Lord Vishnu is most prevalent in the trinity of gods.
Vishu is named after Lord Vishnu; he is said to be the god of time and also considered as the god of prosperity and happiness. Hence on this day, Lord Vishnu is worshipped.
Another story is related to Lord Krishna, who is the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is said that on the day of Vishu, Shri Krishna had killed Narakasura. Hence Lord Krishna is also worshipped on this day.
The celebration of Vishu Festival starts with early morning prayers at dawn on this auspicious day.
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.
Family members are supposed to view these things first when they get up from sleep. A unique yellow flower named Konna is a must in the Kani. The holy text of Ramayan is recited during the puja, and the common belief among Malayalees is that the recital would have its sacred effects on all family members.
A special feast called 'Sadya' is prepared to keep in mind all flavors 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 particular type of rice is prepared for this occasion and is called Kanji and is prepared with high-quality rice, coconut milk, and condiment spices. Later, children burst firecrackers, and new clothes and money are given as gifts to friends and relatives as blessings by elders of the family.
People also visit temples offering prayers on this day. People distribute coins among the poor on this day. People usually wear their best clothes on this day, and women love to adorn themselves with gold ornaments. Men wear the traditional 'mundu' along with khadi shirts.