Vishu Festival and its significance

It is important to note that vishu is considered as the astrological New Year festival of Kerala state. This is celebrated during the month of April. In general we can say that it is observed during first day of medam( which is the Malayalam month). It usually falls on April 14th. 

The traditional people of Kerala practice a lot of colorful rituals and customs on Vishu. Most of these traditions are based on a belief that Vishu must be celebrated well as the good things of the first day of the New Year will continue for the rest of the year too. 

Most important ritual of the day is called 'Kani Kanal', the literal translation of this is 'first sight'. In Kani Kanal there is a prescribed list of items, which a person must see first thing on a Vishu morning to bring good luck.  It is interesting to note that the arrangements for vishukkani will be completed in the previous night & this consists of a nilavilakku(which is a lighted traditional lamp), an idol of lord Krishna, & some other items like arecanut(adakka) , betel leaves(vettila), raw rice(unakkalari), kanikonna( konna flowers), cucumber(vellari), vaal kannadi, coins & holy text which are kept in a uruli(shallow circular vessel with an open mouth). Uruli is most commonly seen in all houses of kerala. Remember that these arrangements are made in the puja room of the house. 

Vishukkani is prepared in such a way so as to bring prosperity to the house in the New Year. This is mostly celebrated by the Hindus. Another fact to remember is that on the vishu day it is important to wake up at dawn & with the eyes closed you must go to the puja room for observing vishukkani. Remember that by seeing vishukkani you are able to see the first sight of the New Year.Vishu Kani is later distributed amongst the poor and needy people. Reason behind this ritual is the strong belief of the people that the fortune of the rest of the year depends on the first object they see on the Vishu day. 

There is also a tradition to give small amounts of cash to children of the family. This tradition is called Vishu Kaineetam. People believe that this custom will ensure prosperity for their children in future.

A group of young men and women dress up as 'chozhi' , wearing a skirt of dried banana leaves and masks on their faces and go from house to house in the village dancing and collecting small amounts of money. On Vishu, these entertainers get good rewards for their performances. The money is spent on the Vishuwela (the New Year Fair). 

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