Friday, April 1, 2011

Vishukani, a festival of Kerala

Vishu is believed as the new year of the Malayalees of Kerala india but then the year changes only in the mid August on the first day of the Chingam Masaam of the Malayalam Calender.

Vishu is celebrated all over Kerala on the first of the Medam masam of the Malayalam Calender but this year 2011, the vishu will be celebrated on the 2nd of the Medam masam as the Surya Sankarama occurs only on the 2nd of Medam ie the 15 th of April, 2011.

The highlight of the Vshu festival is Kani Kaanal in the early morning and Vishu Kaineetam and Sadya as usual with all the Kerala festivals and functions.

Vishu Kani - The Vishu day celebrations start of with Vishukani. The eldest female member of the family arranges Vishukani and gets it ready for the other members of the house, in the previous night itself. The first auspicious things that people seeon the day is the Kani arranged and decorated and this has to take place inth Brahma muhurtham mostly around 5 am.
The eldest of the household gets up and lights the lamps and gets the Kani ready for the family.
In the morning one by one all the members of the family are woken up and brought to the place where the Kani is kept with their eyes closed. They are made to sit in front of the Kani on a mat and then asked to open their eyes and look at the wonderful spread in front of them. This is known as Kani kanal in Malayalam.

Vishukani arrangement consists of rice, kasavu mundu (traditional dress / Veshti of Kerala), gold and silver coins, mirror (usually Aranmula Kannadi or mirror with a tail) even an ordinary mirror will do (for the person to see himself surrounded by all this wealth), cucumber, mango, jackfruit, coconut, banana and Kanikonna (yellow flower known as Indian Laburnum). This Vishukani is arranged in an ‘uruli,’ which is a traditional vessel of Kerala. The Uruli is placed in front of an idol of Lord Krishna alongwith the traditional Kerala lamps lit near it.

Vishu Kaineetam - The eldest male member of the family gives Kaineetam to all the members. Vishu Kaineetam is usually given as a coin with Betel leabes and Arecanut and the member gets the blessings from the eldest of the family. But nowadays Vishkaineetam has changed enough to ask for and get other gifts also.

Vishu Sadya is usually served in the afternoon, the typical Kerala Sadya with rice, sambar, rasam / morucurry, Aviyal, Poriyal, pickles, chips, bananas, kichadi / Pachadi, olan, Kalan and many more with sweet and delicious payasams and pradhamans

List of items needed for arranging Vishukani
Ashtamangalyam refers to eight auspicious things which are a must for Vishu.
Other than the ashta mangalyam set which is available in the Kairali shops all over, you have to collect all the below mentioned items too.
1. A large vessel called Uruli made of panchaloham meaning the five metals / normal / brass Uruli / clean steel plate can also be used.
2.Tamboolam - Betel leaves
3. Akshatam – a mixture of rice and turmeric
4. Dharu cheppu – Kumukumam in a small container
5. Grantham – Book usually Bhagavad Gita
6. Darpanam – Mirror usually Aranmula kannadi
7. Ambaram – Cloth – A nice clean traditional Kerala mundu (Kodi mundu) where Kodi means new
8. Kramugam: Betel nut
This collection of Ashtamangalyam is a common item in the arrangement of Vishukani in various parts of Kerala.

The most important item which is needed for the Vishukani is Kanikonna, the golden yellow colour flowers found throughout Kerala which blooms only during the Vishu season.
You can miss some other items while arranging vishu kani but not the Kanikonna. It is a must for all people.

Fruits and Vegetables
A set of Mangoes raw / ripe but should be taken with its small branches and leaves
Two or more Coconuts with its branch (Thenga Kula)
At least two Cashew nuts along with small branches and leaves
Small jackfruit (idichakka) or can be the whole chakka fruit / Jackfruit
Golden colored Kerala cucumber (Kani Vellari / Malabar Vellari)
a bunch of Bananas
And other fresh vegetables

Gold and Silver Coins, nowadays notes are also kept
Nirapara (Para is a measuring vessel which gets filled with paddy / un-husked rice)
Kindi (A traditional vessel with a tail used to keep water)

Those people who do not have an uruli, can use any clean tray. Since Uruli can be used for cooking purposes also you can get one from Kerala and keep it at home. I have also got one. Even smaller ones are available for decorative purposes.

How to arrange the Vishukani?
All the auspicious items mentioned above are arranged in front of an idol of Lord Krishna. The items are either placed in an uruli or sliver plate. Items that don’t fit into the tray or uruli are placed nearby.Banana leaves can also be used to arrange all these items if your uruli can take everything. Traditional Kerala lamp called as Nila Vilakku is lit.
The arrangement differs from region to region in Kerala, in some places the traditional Kerala mundu is folded in to the shape of a fan and is inserted in to the Kindi. Sometimes the Aranmula Kannadi / mirror is also inserted inside the Kindi.

How Vishukani is seen in the morning?
The Vishukani is arranged on the previous night by the eldest female member in the family . After arranging the Kani she sleeps in the same room where the Vishukani ihas been arranged. She wakes up early in the morning and lights the lamp during the Brahma muhurtham that is between 4 am and 6 am. She then covers the eyes of each family member and guides each to the place where kept.
After the Vishukani, the eldest member in the family distributes the Vishu kaineetam – a coin.

For Kerala Recipes Visit My Recipe Collections and particularly for Sadya recipes .

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