A great activity to engage in while visiting the state of Kerala during South India tours is attending Vishu. This festival, celebrated during the second week of April, signifies the starting of the New Year as per the local calendar. Its celebrations are governed by the entering of the Sun in the Aries constellation. This day falls on the equinox, the day when the hours of light and darkness are the same, hence the name vishu, which in Malayali means equal. It also has a strong significance for farmers, as on this day, they start preparing their fields to sow the summer crops.
Vishukanni is the most important ritual performed as part of the celebrations of the Malayali New Year. The local word kani means seen first and therefore vishukanni comes out to mean seen first on Vishu. On the night before the celebrations, women of the family keep a collection of items in their personal temples. These items include uncooked rice, cucumber, fresh lemons, betel leaves, a reflecting piece of metal, betel nuts, flowers of the shower tree, religious texts, currency notes and coins. All these things signify prosperity, the thing everyone wishes for when a new year starts. They are kept in a large flat-bottomed metal cooking pot called urili and a ceremonial lamp, known as Nilavilakku is lit. At the crack of dawn, people go into their temples with their eyes closed and the pot with the auspicious things is the first thing that they have to see.
Chanting couplets from the Ramayana after opening the eyes is considered good and this one ritual is supposed to bring wealth. Later, these items are distributed among the poor in a hope that there coming generations too may prosper. Feasting plays an important part in Vishu festivities and dishes, specific to the event are prepared in every house. On this day, people also buy new clothes and the elders distribute money to the children. There may be cheap holiday packages available for Kerala on the internet or with travel agencies so coming here may not cost too much. This way, tourists will be able to enjoy the celebrations to the fullest without worrying about the expenses.
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