Kerala celebrates spring festival Vishu

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Happy Vishu! | Photo: Mathrubhumi/KK Santhosh

Thiruvananthapuram: Vishu, the joyous spring festival of Keralites, is celebrated with fervour and enthusiasm on April 15, Saturday. Vishu, which marks the beginning of a new agricultural cycle and is associated with noble values like togetherness, caring for one another, and respect for farming, is celebrated with traditional rituals, feasts, new clothes, and the bursting of firecrackers. It is a public holiday for the state.

On Vishu day, many Keralites wake up at dawn and eagerly take darshan at the 'Vishu Kani', which is a collection of auspicious items such as flowers, fruits, vegetables, rice among other items. Hindu families also install a small statue of Lord Krishna, along with a Nilavilaku, a traditional lamp as the day is associated with the mythological legends of Lord Krishna killing the demons Ravana and Narakasura.

Children, with their eyes covered by hands, are led by elders towards the Vishu Kani, and their eyes are opened when they reach it to have a darshan.

Historically, Vishu or Vasantha Vishuvam has been associated with the celebration of the spring equinox. However, due to the precession of equinoxes, the actual spring equinox now occurs 24 days before the day of Vishu. Nevertheless, Keralites continue to celebrate the Vishu festival on April 14 or 15, following their age-old customs and traditions.

Vishu and Onam are two significant festivals in the Malayalam Kollam Era (Kollavarsham) calendar. Vishu is celebrated on the first day of Medam month of Malayalam calendar, while Onam is celebrated on the star Thiruvonam in the month of Chingam. The first day of Chingam is observed as the Kerala New Year, replacing Vishu, which was considered the beginning of the year until 825 AD.

The establishment of the "Kollam Era" is attributed to the Venad kingdom in 825 CE at Kollam town, though the exact events leading to its foundation are still a matter of scholarly debate. Historians believe it commemorated the liberation of Venad from the Pandya rule and the foundation of Kollam harbour city, marking the beginning of Chera influence. The Kollam Era is believed to have been adopted at the end of a three-year-long great convention in Kollam, attended by scholars from the west and east, who adopted the Thamizh Kanakku (Calendar).

Despite the adoption of the Kollam Era, Vishu continues to be celebrated as the traditional Malayali New Year, especially in the erstwhile Malabar and South Canara regions, due to its astronomical significance. Medam, being the first among the 12 rashis (zodiac signs) corresponding to the 12 months of a solar year, holds special significance in the Vishu festival.

Another traditional practice on Vishu day is Vishu Kaineettam, where elders give money, known as "Kaineettam," to children and others as a gesture of blessings and good wishes. Vishu Sadhya, a sumptuous lunch with traditional Kerala dishes, is also an essential part of the celebration, bringing families and communities together to savour the festive flavours.

Special pujas take place on Vishu day in many temples, including the famous Guruvayur and Sabarimala temples, where devotees seek blessings for a prosperous year ahead. Vishu is also a time for reflection and renewal, as it marks the beginning of a new year, and many people assess their lives and make resolutions for self-improvement.

Vishu is not just a festival of rituals and traditions, but also a celebration of values and culture that are deeply rooted in the hearts of the people of Kerala. It is a time when communities come together, families bond, and prayers are offered for abundance in harvest and prosperity in the coming year. With its rich customs and significance, Vishu holds a special place in the hearts of Keralites and is cherished as a time of joy, blessings, and new beginnings.

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