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Vishu

Vishu is a grand festival celebrated in the state of Kerala and also in the Mangalore and Udupi districts of Karnataka. This occasion indicates the sun’s transit into the Mesha Raasi which is the first zodiac sign according to Indian astrological calculations, and represents the vernal equinox. "Vishu" in Sanskrit means "equal". This festival is celebrated in the month of April. It is also known as the New Year Day of Kerala. Vishu is traditionally celebrated as a New Year in the Malayalam Calendar, the day is often considered as the first day of the Zodiac Calendar. They ask Vishu Kani to bring luck and prosperity for the year starting from Vishu Day Medam. But towards the end of last century, due to the importance of Onam which comes in August or September, the corresponding month Chingam is considered as first month of the Malayalam Calendar.

The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani, which literally means "the first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up. The Vishukkani consists of a ceremonial procedure of auspicious objects like raw rice, fresh lemon, golden cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, 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 is arranged the night before Vishu. On Vishu, the custom is to wake up at dawn and go to the puja room with eyes closed so that the Vishukkani is the first sight in the new time of year.

It is also a ritual to make Saddhya is a major part of all Kerala festivals. However, Vishu Kanji and Thoran are more important during Vishu. The Kanji is made of rice, coconut milk and spices. For Thoran, the side dish, there are also compulsory ingredients.

Local people read verses from the Hindu Holy book Ramayanam after seeing the "Vishukkani" is considered auspicious. It is also believed that the page of the Ramayanam which is opened up will have a bearing on one’s life in the coming year. Devotees visit temples like Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple or Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple to have a "Vishukkani Kazhcha" in the early hours of "Vishu" day.

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