Okay, full disclosure: I have no idea whether my title is inapposite or borderline offensive. If it IS either of those things, I apologize in advance. I was just trying to be cute while exposing my lack of knowledge for a good cause– learning more about Vishu! There is no better way to understand something than to admit my ignorance to all of you. Because if there is one thing I have learned over these past six (!) years at the Mutiny, it is that when I mess something up I will be corrected by commenters and trolls alike, faster than my Dad could say, “Edi, MANDI!” back in the day.
Could I have looked Vishu up instead of harassing all of you? Sure, but how much can one read about the unknown without one’s eyes glazing over? But just to prove I Googled it, here’s the obligatory blockquote from Wiki:
Vishu is a festival celebrated in the state of Kerala in South India. The same day is also celebrated as New year in several other parts of India such as Punjab (Baisakhi), Assam (Bihu), Tulu Nadu region in Karnataka where it is known as Bisu as well as in Tamil Nadu. The festival marks the first day of Malayalam Year and falls in the month of Medam (April – May). Vishu generally falls on April 14 of the Gregorian calendar…”Vishu” in Sanskrit means “equal”…
Although Vishu (first of Medam) is the astrological new year day of Kerala, the official Malayalam new year falls on the first month of Chingam (August – September). However, 1st of Chingam has no significance either astrologically or astronomically. Chingam is the harvest season in Kerala and southern parts of coastal Karnataka.
The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani, which literally ” the first to be seen on the Vishu day”. The Vishukkani consist of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles like raw rice, fresh linen, golden cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, the yellow flowers konna (Cassia fistula), and a holy text and coins, in a bell metal vessel called uruli in the puja room of the House. A lighted bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is also placed alongside. This arrangement is completed the previous night. On the day of Vishu, the custom is to wake up at dawn and go to the puja room with the eyes closed so that the Vishukkani is the first sight of the new season.
According to that entry, Vishu is bigger in Northern Kerala. My family is from South-Central. I wonder if that’s part of why I’m so ign’ant about Vishu…or if it’s the whole “Christian” thing. No matter, I’ll happily welcome any excuse to consume more Mampazhapachadi. I looooove eating pachadi, especially if it’s Paavakka-based. With tortilla chips. DON’T JUDGE ME.
So what inspired my whirlwind interest in Vishu? This:
Jinal is a co-founder of Dsplaced, “A collective storytelling experiment” which features many stories with a Desi bend; the three “largest” tags in the site’s cloud are “Bombay”, “New York” and “Mumbai”. She is based in New York. I follow her on Twitter and initially felt bad about not being able to suggest anything in response to her tweet, since I love being Malayalee and sharing all manner of coconut-tinged goodness with the world. But that’s where you come in, dear Mutineers– especially if you’re in NYC. Do you have any suggestions for her (and everyone else who may be wondering about the same thing)?
How do you celebrate Vishu? And if you’d be kind enough to indulge my curiosity, how do you define it or explain it, for those, like me, who’d love to know more? Finally, if you want to leave lyrical comments reminiscing about Vishu or relating childhood memories of it, well, you know I’ll swoon.