Vishu is the beginning of Meda Rashi, the first zodiac sign. It signifies the equinox according to the solar calendar and falls in the second week of April according to the English calendar. It marks the beginning of a new year full of hopes and aspirations. People fulfill the rituals to bring prosperity and success in the coming year.
Significance of Vishu Kani:
The day of Vishu is considered as the first day of the Zodiac Calendar. If the transit of Sun into Aries occurs after dawn on the first day of the zodiac calendar, then Vishu celebrations will be on the next day, the second day of the calendar. The Vishu Kani brings luck and prosperity for the year starting from Vishu Day. Vishu marks the first day of the Malayalam Zodiac. Hence, it is an appropriate time to offer oblations to Gods.
Vishu signifies the sun's transit into the Meda Raasi. It falls on the spring equinox during which a day has an equal number of hours of daylight and darkness. In Sanskrit, it means "equal." Farmers in Kerala begins their agriculture activities on this day. Vishu is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is celebrated by worshipping Lord Vishnu. Vishu Kani, Vishu Kaineettam, and Vishubhalam are the most important aspects of the Vishu celebrations.
Several tales are related to the celebration of Vishu. As per one such legend Vishu is the day when Lord Krishna killed demon Narakasur. As per another belief, demon king Ravana never allowed Sun God to rise from the east. It was on the day of Vishu when the Sun started to rise from the east. Since then, Vishu is celebrated with great joy.
On the previous night of the Vishu festival, a Vishu Kani is placed near the idol of Lord Vishnu by the eldest lady of the house. Kani means ‘which is viewed first’ therefore, the term 'Vishu Kani' means the first thing to be seen at dawn. The devotees believe this would bring them prosperity throughout the Year. The Vishu Kani consists of a sacred ceremonial preparation of all auspicious goods which brings good luck and prosperity. These include coconut, betel leaves, Arecanut, yellow Kani Konna flower, Kanmashi kajal, raw rice, lemon, cucumber, jackfruit, mirror, a holy book, cotton dhoti, and coins or currency notes. These articles are put in a bell-shaped vessel made of metal which is called “Uruli.” A traditional bell-shaped metal lamp Nilavilakku is also lighted and placed together with the Vishu Kani. On the day of Vishu, all the family members have to wake up early in the morning. With the closed eyes they go to the worship area and get the first sight of the Vishu Kani. Hence, Vishu Kani is arranged with great care.
After viewing Vishu Khani, people recite verses from Ramayana. It is believed that the first page of the Ramayana which is opened by the devotee has a significant impact on the life in an upcoming year. The children and adults burst crackers or “Vishu Paddakam.” This is followed by a traditional feast known as “Vishu Sadhya”.
People start with early morning prayers at dawn. The eldest member of the family arranges Visukkani. Family members are supposed to view these things first when they get up from sleep. The holy text of Ramayan is recited during the puja. A special feast called 'sadya' is prepared. A meal usually consists of rice, sambar, chips, pickle, aviyal, rasam and different varieties of sweets and payasam. A special type of rice called Kanji is prepared with high-quality rice, coconut milk, and condiment spices. New clothes and money are given as gifts to friends and relatives. People also visit temples offering prayers.