Submitted by: BN Kartha
Vishu is one of the two important events in a Hindu household in Kerala, the other being Onam. A few years back Onam has been adopted as a National Festival, celebrated by one and all in Kerala irrespective of caste or status. Now, coming back to Vishu, this literally cannot be termed as a festival, but depicts a day of rituals very religiously followed starting with Kani Kanal.
Kani Kanal means the “first sight” after opening one’s eyes in the morning – for this purpose Kani comprising of cloth, gold, coins, grains and fruits and importantly a special flower called Konnapoo or Konnapoovu (Cassia Fistula) which flowers only during the Vishu days, is artistically arranged in a vessel called Uruli the previous night. A member of the household designated for the purpose, gets up early in the morning and views the Kani after lighting the lamp. Then it is her/his job to lead other members of the family including children keeping their eyes closed to the Kani for them to view. Every one while viewing the Kani prays to make his life in the coming days to be a happy and prosperous one.
The other ritual – the most important and only one looked forward by every child – is the Kai Neetam, a coin given by the elder of the family to all members of the family. The children like this the most and expects a coin from every one older to him. Getting Kaineetam from the elder members is considered to be a good and lucky omen which will lead him to a prosperous future. Then a good sumptuous feast follows and for the children it is time to compare with others who got most as Kaineettam and then may be plan how to utilize the fund thus collected.
This is, therefore, the most simple but very important and impressive ritual followed even now by every household, mostly Hindus, in Kerala and Keralites living outside Kerala.
1. This year Vishu falls on 14th April, 2008, the first day of the Malayalam month Medam.
2. Vishu falls near the same day as Tamil New Year**. Hence, some may wonder if Vishu is the Malayalam New Year. Though Vishu falls on the first month of the Malayalam month Medam (which, this year, is April 14, 2008), and some rituals or observations may be similar between these holidays, Vishu is not the new year. In fact, the first month of the Malayalam calendar doesn’t fall until August-September, or the month of Chingam. It is in this month that the Onam festivities occur, yet this also is not termed as a Malayalam new year.
3. The title "Vishu Ashamsakal" means "Happy Vishu" or "Happy Vishu Wishes". Vishu Ashamsakal is how to say Happy Vishu in Malayalam. Ashamsakal can be added after any holiday as a way to say the same, such as for Onam, it's Onam Ashamsakal. Want to know how to wish you Kerala Friends Vishu Greetings and Wishes in Malayalam? Click here for a Malayalam video lesson!
Read about Tamil New Year - Pirappu - Tamizh New Year’s Day by Padmini Natarajan
**From other sources, it is noted that the Tamil Nadu government has decided that from 2009, Tamil New Year will be observed on the Tamil month Thai, day 1, which falls on January 14 each year coinciding perfectly with Thai Pongal day, both Tamil Nadu specific festivals.
tags: "significance of Vishu", "meaning of vishu", "vishu rituals", "vishu celebrations", "vishu ashamsakal", "vishukani", "kanikkannal", "kani", "uruli", "reasons to celebrate vishu", "kerala vishu", "kerala celebrations"
Related Posts/Sites: Vishu in Rochester, NY - April 14th 2009 | Our Vishu 2008 Photos | Vedic- Western Calendar | Pongal | Vishu on Wikipedia
A Vishu Poem by Cheryl Snell - 2009
Don't miss this article - Vishu- An Expression of Keraleeyatha. It is a long but detailed read on long, lost traditions, rituals and celebrations of Vishu. Also a good place to learn how to set up your own Vishukkani!
Vishu and Tamil New Year usually fall on the same day every year - April 14. To follow this and other Hindu and Interfaith holidays, see and subscribe for free e-mail updates to the India America Interfaith and Social Calendar
Photo of Kani, also known as Vishukani, taken by BN Kartha.
Vishu Kani video by BinduBiju
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Updated April 2011