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Festival of Vishu
April 14, 2020
Festival of Vishu
Vishu is an Indian festival celebrated mainly in Kerala and in coastal Kanyakumari nearby regions and their diaspora communities. The festival follows the solar cycle of the lunisolar as the first day of the month called Medam. It therefore always falls in the middle of April in the Gregorian calendar on or about 14 April every year.
In Kerala, the start of the Zodiac New Year*—when the sun enters into Sidereal Aries, Ashwini nakshatra—is celebrated as Vishu. It is said that what one sees when one first opens one’s eyes on Vishu morning is an indication of what one can expect in the year to come.
Thus on Vishu, effort is made to assure one opens one’s eyes before an auspicious image—the Vishukkani.
While the festival is called “Vishu” only in Kerala, across India festivals sharing the same spirit—such as Ugadhi in Andhra Pradesh and in Karnataka, Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Bihu in Assam and Baisakhi in Punjab—are celebrated around the same time of year.
The Malayalam word kani literally means “that which is seen first”, so “Vishukkani” means “that which is seen first on Vishu”.
Arranged in the family puja room the night before by the mother in the family, the Vishukkani is a panorama of auspicious items, including images of Lord Vishnu, flowers, fruits and vegetables, clothes and gold coins.
Lord Vishnu, the preserver of creation, is the aspect of the Paramatman that is focused upon during Vishu. In jyotish, Indian astrology, Vishnu is seen as the head of Kaala Purusha, the God of Time. As Vishu marks the first day of the Zodiac New Year, it is an appropriate time to make offerings to Lord Vishnu.
Akshatam, a mixture of rice and turmeric, which is divided into halves of husked and un-husked rice, is placed in a special bowl called an uruli. The uruli traditionally is made of panchaloham, an aggregate of five metals. Panchaloham being symbolic of the universe, which is comprised of the five great elements—earth, water, fire, air and space.