Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Vishu - Malayalam New Year 2016

Malayalis are one of the most influential casts of South India and hence they have a great impact in defining the cultural behavior of the southern part of the country. Malayalis are very religious people and very close to their tradition and hence, all their functions are marked with true Malayali flavors.

Vishu is the name of the New Year celebration in Kerala. It coincides with the New Year celebration of the others regions of India and observed during mid April as per the Gregorian calendar. According to the lunar calendar of Hindu astrology the Malayalam New Year falls on the vernal equinox when the Sun enters the Mesha Rashi. The word Vishu in Sanskrit means ‘equal’.

Traditions of Malayalam New Year
The most important ritual followed in Vishu is the Vishukkani, which means “the first thing seen on the day of the New Year after waking up in the morning”. In order to perform the ritual, the Malayalis therefore carefully arrange auspicious items like- raw rice, fresh lemon, golden cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, and yellow flowers konna in the puja room of the house. The holy text and coins are arranged in bell metal vessel called uruli and also kept in the puja room.

 The traditional lighted bell metal lamp is also placed alongside the other items to complete the arrangement. The tradition is to wake up in the dawn to go to the puja ghar with eyes closed so that Vishukkani remains the first thing that you see on that day. It is believed to bring good luck for the New Year. After Vishukkani, verses from the Hindu Holy text ‘Ramayana’ are read. As the practice, the page of Ramayana is opened at random and the page you open on that day is said to have bearings on your life for the rest of the year. Offering puja at temples like- the Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple, or Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple is a common practice. Hence, devotees gather at the temples at the early hours of Vishu to worship and offer oblation to Gods.

The Malayalam New Year is celebrated with much fun and fervor in all parts of Kerala. This is the day for the Malayalis to eat lavish meals, don on new clothes, decorate the houses and burst firecrackers. As the tradition on that day the young of the family ask for blessings from the elders of the house and in return the elders give away gifts of money to young, servants and tenants of the house. This custom is known as Vishukkaineetam.

Kanikanal or Vishukkani
The ritual of Vishukkani is the single most important custom of the Malayalam New Year. According to the belief the first sight on that auspicious day will affect your entire year. Hence, utmost care is exercised in arranging the Vishukkani. The responsibility of decorating the Vishukkani normally falls on the oldest lady of the house.

On the day of Vishu special meals will be made which include- Veppampoorasam, a bitter preparation with neem; and Mampazhapachadi, a preparation of raw mango and is a sour dish. The meal will have equal proportion of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items. The special dish of Kanji is also prepared with rice, coconut milk and spices as a tradition.

Bursting of firecrackers is a must in celebrating Vishu. Especially in North Kerala children set off firecrackers on the day of Vishu as well as on the previous evening.

For Malayalis, Vishu is the day to welcome a new beginning and hence it is also the day to forget all past grievances and meet and wish people a very happy and prosperous New Year.

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