Vishu, celebrated in Kerala and by Keralites across India and abroad to mark the start of the Malayalam new year, is a festival of new beginnings and hopes. The word “Vishu” in Sanskrit means “equal” and hence it celebrates the spring equinox, when day and night are nearly equal.
An important part of the festival is the Vishu Kani setting. Seeing the Vishu Kani, an assortment of auspicious items, first thing in the morning is believed to bring prosperity and herald a good year. It is arranged using cucumber, coconut, rice, areca nuts, betel leaves, gold ornaments, coins, fruits, along with a lit metal lamp at the centre. The setting is then placed before an image of Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna.
A special yellow flower named Konna is integral to the Vishukkani. People also recite the Ramayana near the sacred Vishu Kani.Another important feature of the festival is the ‘sadya’ feast including banana chips, curries, rice dishes, pickles and other items served on a banana leaf.
There are several stories associated with the celebration of Vishu based on Hindu scriptures and folklore. One says Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura on Vishu. According to another, the Sun started to rise from the east on this day after the death of demon king Ravana, who had until then prevented sunrise from east.
People usually visit temples and their relatives on this day. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration is likely to be muted for the second consecutive year. People may opt for online platforms to wish their loved ones on the occasion.
On the lines of Vishu, people across India celebrate and welcome the new year based on their beliefs and regional traditions and culture – like Baishakhi is celebrated in Punjab, GudiPadwa in Maharashtra, Poila Baisakh in Bengal and Bohag Bihu in Assam.Vishu this year falls on April 14.