I have a very good friend who is celebrating Vishu today so I just read up on the different customs and traditions. If you know me, you know how much I like New Years – because it’s a chance to refresh my resolutions and make a fresh start, whether it’s the new year or Ugadi or in this case Vishu.
I loved learning about Vishukanni- the first things one sees after waking in the morning on Vishu. All auspicious, joyful things like flowers, fruits, vegetables, rice, nuts, gold and of course god. The special meal on Vishu called Sadhya, is a mix of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items which is supposed to signify life itself with its bitter sweet moments. Just like the Ugadi that I celebrate as a Kannadiga where we eat neem leaves(bitter) with jaggery (sweet). How beautiful and meaningful are our traditions right?
I’m a big believer of morning routines and I urge you to start one of your own if you don’t already have one – waking early is most important in order to have that time for yourself. I highly recommend starting the day on the right note by doing things that bring you joy and help you regain a sense of control over what might be an unpredictable day – whether it’s meditation, exercise, making my bed, praying, reading the newspaper, watering my garden, taking my dogs for a walk, making a morning cup of tea – these are the things I love doing and make me happy and things I have control over.
Some very interesting trivia about Vishu :
Vishu (from Sanskrit-Malayalam Vishuva) literally means equal, and in the festival context it connotes the completion of spring equinox. The festival is notable for its solemnity and the general lack of pomp. The festival is marked by family time, preparing colorful auspicious items and viewing these as the first thing on the Vishu day( Vishukkani). In particular, Malayaees seek to view the golden blossoms of the Indian laburnum (Kani Konna), money or silver items , cloth(pattu),mirror, rice and other harvest products . The day also attracts firework play by children, wearing new clothes (Puthukodi) and the eating a special meal called Sadhya, which is a mix of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items.
The Malayalam word “kani” literally means “that which is seen first”, so “Vishukkani” means “that which is seen first on Vishu”. The traditional belief is that one’s future is a function of what one experiences, that the new year will be better if one views auspicious joyful things as the first thing on Vishu. Therefore, Malayali’s spend the day before preparing a setting, usually a tray, of auspicious items. This setting is the first thing they see when they wake up on the Vishu day.
The Vishukkani setting consists of items such as rice, golden lemon, golden cucumber, coconut cut open, jack fruit, kanmashi Kajal, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror (Vaalkannadi), golden yellow Konna flowers (Cassia fistula) which bloom in the season of Vishu, holy Hindu texts, coins or currency notes, oil lamp (nilavilakku), and an image of the Hindu god Vishnu. Mirror in Vishukani is a symbol of seeing yourself as a part of abundance you see in the form of Kani.
The tradition has been that one of the members of the house, typically the mom or elderly person lights up the lamps at dawn, then goes to each member of her family one by one, blindfolds and wakes each one up, walks them to the front of the setting. She then releases the blindfold so one can see the setting, and then greets the Vishu day.
So, here’s wishing you a very happy Vishu – as the lockdown continues, here’s hoping that we see and experience joyful things now and all year through. Please take care and stay safe.