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Vishu: Welcoming Prosperity

Vishu, Festivals in Kerala

Though essentially a Hindu festival, Vishu occupies a unique position in more than one respect. It has none of the pomp and show that most other Hindu religious festivals have. In addition, Vishu has nothing to do with religion although its observance is as solemn as any religious occasion.

Vishu is celebrated on the astronomical New Year's Day and Malayalis believe that the fortunes for the year depend on the kind of the object one sees first in the morning of Vishu Day. The previous day goes in preparing the auspicious articles for the next morning. Some raw rice is put in a circular metal vessel and a new washed piece of cloth is folded over the rice. A gold-coloured cucumber, betel leaves, betel nuts, a metal mirror, yellow flowers of the Konna tree, a book of palm leaves and a few gold coins are then placed over the cloth in the vessel. Two coconut halves containing oil with lighted wicks are placed in the vessel. A metal lamp with coconut oil is kept burning by the side of the big vessel. Early in the morning on Vishu day, one of the elderly female members of the house, wakes up and takes a look at the auspicious objects. She then wakes up the other members of the house to take a look. Special care is taken to see that they do not look at anything else. After everyone has had a look, the vessel is even taken to the cattle for them to have a look too.

After the rituals are completed, the family members have a bath and take a trip to temples to offer prayers. Once the worship is complete, everyone sits down for a feast, which is not as lavish as the one for Onam but nevertheless elegant.