Vishu Festival of Kerala,
When nostalgia of a bygone era takes the front-seat.
Vishu is of tilling as Onam of harvest.
When the “konna” blooms and smell of ripe mangoes fill the air, people of Kerala all around the world sense that Vishu is around the corner. The state of Kerala has two main cultural festivals to its credit, Onam and Vishu. As agriculture was the mainstay of entire Kerala, both these festivals are related to agriculture, Vishu was the starting of the process with fresh tilling Onam was of harvest. Only on Vishu in Kerala, day and night share equal duration. (Exactly 12 hours each, derived from Sanskrit word “Vishua” equal part).
There are evidences to prove that the celebration of Vishu was observed centuries back. One of the strange mythology regarding Vishu is that a demon king by name Ravana who ruled Lanka (the present Sri Lanka) was a terror incarnate to the entire universe and even “Sun-god” (Sun is worshiped as a god and it is attributed a human-shape and features in the old Hindu mythologies) was afraid to rise straight above the head for fear of the brutal king Ravana.
It was on a Vishu day Sri Ram killed Ravana and the sun-god got the courage to rise straight on the earth. Thereafter as a mark of respect to Sri Ram! Sun-god has made it a ritual to appear perpendicular to the world on Vishu, and that is the plain reason why the sun comes straight on this day, thereby dividing day and night in to two equal halves!
Gems in the
For Kerala it is spring and there are flowers all around. The blooming “konna” (Cassia fistula) tree with its golden flowers marks the onset of a great day. The konna with its profuse inflorescence stand apart among a sea of green forests. There is one bird by name “Vishu-pakshi” meaning bird of Vishu which arrives and cries loud (as if it is reminding rural folks about the arrival of Vishu, the author could not collect the scientific name of this bird and why it cries during the season)
Cherished cash gift.
Medam 1 (A month as per the Malayalam calendar which is celebrated as Vishu) marked the beginning of the financial year when kings ruled this part of the land. On Vishu senior members of the family give fresh coins to younger ones as a mark of love and affection. Little children wait for this day as they get money from all senior members. Children mostly boys use this pocket money to by fire-crackers for that day as Vishu is also a day to burst crackers, for girls this money is to buy their make up materials like hair-pins, bangles, new hair-ribbon etc. This money is spent as per the fancy of the children and seniors have no say in it.
A sight for the whole year.
The most important ceremony of this day is the “kany kanal”. In the morning the housewife sets a well polished brass plate filled with all sorts of fruits like mangoes, banana, guava, cucumber, apple, coconut, along with paddy etc around a lit “nilavilakku” (a lamp which on cotton wick dipped in vegetable oil which is considered very auspicious), in the back-ground there will be an idol or a picture of god Sri Krishna. It is supposed that on that day after waking up the first sight one should see should be this “Vishu kani” (the seeing of this decorated collection).
Devour the sight.
It is presumed that the first sight one see on Vishu day will have its impact for the whole year that follows! To let the children see this ‘Kani” (“ka” pronounced as in “cut” and “ni” as in “Pony”) elder ones especially mother blind fold their eyes and lead them before the lamp, makes them to stand with folded hands and then only to open eyes! All sorts of fresh fruits and Sri Krishna clad in yellow clothes with his favorite flute close to his lips and decorated with all flowers mother could collect, presents a sight before the child which may last till the next Vishu! There is no god as glamorous as
Now that those children have become parents, making their children perform the same rituals with a touch of nostalgia and a flood of memories. They queue up before the cracker stall, they may be thinking of their childhood days when they ran to the stall with the money they got as “cash-gift” to buy crackers!
Building walls, as the Germans did it then!
The Vishu-bird still heralds the arrival of a good day, sitting in the dreary “sit-out” of the flat, one’s memory flies back to his native village (with paddy fields and tall-standing coconut trees) where he as a small boy roamed free along with play-mates, in a world that had no fences or walls! Feeling sad about the children, who are denied of those pleasures of the past? Agriculture once the mainstay has become a thing of the past! People live as birds packed in a nest, and big wall arose between houses and hearts. Children reduced to pawns in the games elders play and with no time to play!
Wishing all a happy Vishu.