Vishu | Happy New Year
Vishu ashamsakal| Happy Vishu
Vishu is a Hindu festival celebrated by Malayalees across the world and is the first day of the astronomical calendar.
Kerala follows along with the 'English' calendar, a solar calendar that marks births, deaths, festivals, events and auspicious hours. This calendar has 12 months - however, the New Year falls on a different month from the widely used Gregorian calendar.
People in the Malabar and South Canara areas celebrate Vishu in the month of Medham [falls around April], which is astronomically significant and is the first month among the twelve Rashis or months of a year. Vaisakhi/Baisakhi for the Hindus and Sikhs in North and Central India, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, many communities across India celebrate this day as their traditional New year. Many Buddhist communities in parts of Southeast Asia also celebrate this day as their new year. However, some Hindu communities celebrate their New Year a few weeks earlier, and some even around Diwali.
Lord Vishnu, the God of Time and his incarnation Lord Krishna is worshipped on the day. Vishu, unlike other festivals, gives importance to spending time with
family, giving thanks and preparing for the New Year with specific rituals on the day and is in no way one of splendour. It is a time of reflection and contemplation. We believe that the fortunes of the year ahead depend upon the objects one sees as the first sight on the morning of Vishu. The festival begins with the Vishu Kani, Vishu Kaineetam, new clothes, firecrackers and then sadhya. The task of preparing the first sight or, 'Vishu Kani', falls on the eldest lady of the house. She puts together the offering the previous night and rises before sunrise to light the auspicious lamp. After which, she then wakes the rest of the family. Oh, did I mention we have to keep our eyes closed the entire time and only open them to view the offerings as the 'first sight'.
The items that go into this offering can vary; however, there are some non-negotiables. And they are rice, golden lemon, golden cucumber, coconut, jackfruit, kohl, betel leaves, areca nut, mirror, golden colour Konna (Cassia fistula ) flowers, nilavilakku, an idol of Vishnu or Krishna, money, new white clothes and a mirror, which is a symbol of seeing yourself as a part of abundance you see in the form of the Kani. After which, the younger members of the family received Vishu kaineetam or money as blessings. And since it is a festival, a delicious feast follows!
I grew up in the Middle East, away from extended family, and my Mum would put together the Kani. Now living in Australia away from my parents, this task has fallen on me.
It is tricky to find all the traditional items; however, we make it our own by alternating with available objects and pieces that have meaning and value. Vishu was a little quieter last year. The silver lining, however, was the time spent with the kids. The lockdown gave us an opportunity to deep dive into every single aspect of this festival. These small rituals and festivals, connecting us to the culture and traditions, also bring on nostalgia. Like the time, my parents and I were in Kerala for Vishu, and we celebrated with my cousins and grandparents. I remember my grandfather giving us all kaineetam, the blue Krishna statue, my grandmother's cooking, my Mum and aunts cooking up a storm, the cousins getting together to burst firecrackers and of course the new clothes! Good old memories!
Vishu marks the start of the year, of a new beginning and new hopes. So here's wishing you a phenomenal year of love, happiness and prosperity. May the world find peace and love, it so needs right now!