Vishu is the astronomical or zodiac New Year in Kerala and is observed on the first day of the Malayalam month of ‘Medam.’ From an astrological point of view, Vishu is of immense significance. The day and night are of equal duration on the Vishu day (12 hours).
Usually Vishu is held on April 14, but this year (2015) it is shifted to April 15th. This is because Vishu is decided based on the transition of the sun from Meena Rashi to Mesha Rashi (Meda Rasi). Vishu with Vishukkani is observed after the Sun enters Mesha Rashi. This means the transition should take place before sunrise on April 14 to observe it on the day. If the transition is after sunrise on April 14 then Vishu is observed on April 15.Kani konnapoo- image courtesy: Wikimedia.org
What are the highlights of Vishu?
Vishukkani, Vishukaineetam and Vishubhalam are the highlights of Vishu.
Vishu starts with Vishukkani, the first auspicious thing people see on the day. It is during the Brahma Muhurtha or ideally between 0400 hrs and 0600 hrs. Vishukkani is prepared on the previous night, before going to sleep, arranged in an uruli (a traditional brass vessel). Items like rice, kasavu mundu (traditional cloth of Kerala), gold, silver, coins, mirror (usually Aranmula Kannadi or mirror with a tail), cucumber, mango, jackfruit, coconut, banana, and decked with Kanikonna (yellow flower known as Indian Laburnum) are included in the kani. The uruli with these items are placed before the idol of God, usually Lord Krishna, with a vilakku (a traditional Kerala brass lamp) lit beside it. The family members must see these auspicious scene as the first sight of the day. Special Vishukkani poojas will be held at main Krishna temples, and many people go to the temples to be a part of it.
The eldest member of the family gives Vishu kaineetam, a coin, to the members one by one and takes they in turn takes his blessings for a happy and prosperous year. (These days the coin is replaced with a big note in many families).
Vishubhalam, the prediction of the coming year, is read by an astrologer on this day.
After that, a delicious vegetarian lunch with mouthwatering payasam (a sweet dish) is served.