Vishu is one of the most important and unique Malayalam Hindu Festival celebrated in Kerala, . Vishu Festival is celebrated as the astronomical or Zodiac New Year by Malayalis (Malayalam speaking people) all over the world. The festival of Vishu is observed on the first day of the Malayalam month of Medam (April - May) and is also regarded as the harvest festival of Kerala. The major attractions of Vishu festival is the Vishukani, Vishukaineetam and Vishubhalam. This year, Vishu falls on 14th April 2009.
Observing Vishu Rituals
The arrangement for Vishu starts by preparing Vishukkani the previous night before Vishu. On the Vishu day, the custom is to wake up early before sunrise in the morning and proceed towards the puja room with closed eyes and the see the Vishukani or Vishu Kani first. This ritual is called the Kani Kanal or Kanikanal. It is believed that the fortune of the New Year depends on the first thing one sees on the Vishu day. So people prepare the Vishukani for Kani Kanal with much importance so as to bring in another year of prosperity.
How to prepare Vishu Kani
Vishu Kani is usually prepared by the eldest female member of the family. The Vishukani is exhibited in a circular bell-metal vessel known as ‘Urali’ or 'Urule'. Raw rice is put in it and over it a beautifully folded Kasavu Mundu (traditional Kerala cloth) will be placed. The Urali will then be decorated with a golden coloured cucumber, one coconut broken in to 2 equal pieces, some gold coins, mango, banana, jackfruit, and the beautiful Kani Konna or Kanikonna (cassia fistula) flower which blossoms especially for Vishu. Behind the Urali vessel a mirror and the garlanded idol of Lord Krishna will be kept. The traditional Kerala lamp will be placed near the Sree Krishna idol.
Vishnukani & Vishukaineetam
On the Vishu day, the eldest female member of family wakes up and lights the lamp and watches Vishukani first. Then she wakes up the other members one by one and tells not to open the eyes and takes them to the puja room and shows them the auspicious Vishukani.
After all the members have completed Kani Kanal, it is time for Vishukaineetam or Vishu Kaineetam. The eldest member of the family starts giving Vishukaineetam to every younger family member. Vishukaineetam is the ritual of given silver coins (in olden days) or money to other members of the family and wishing them that the coming years will be blessed with prosperity and success. In some places, especially in the northern parts of Kerala, children begin to fire crackers on Vishu.
Almost all the temples in Kerala also prepare Vishu Kani in the temples. Devotees also visit the nearby temples to have this "Vishukani Kazhcha". Thousands of devotees throng to famous temples like Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple and Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple for the auspicious Vishu Kani Kazhcha on Vishu.
As Vishu is considered as the astronomical New Year by Kerala, Vishubhalam or Vishu Bhalam is of great importance. Vishu Bhalam literally means predictions for the next one year. In olden days, a regional astrologer visits the illams (traditional Kerala homes) and used to tell the Vishubhalam or forecast of each family members. Nowadays Vishubhalam is published in popular Jyothisham magazines.
Vishupootu refers to preparing the agricultural land for the next agricultural season.