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A Hindu Festival in Kerala

Vishu is one of the most important festivals among the Hindus in Kerala. Vishu is celebrated on the first day of Medam every year. Though the Malayalam New Year officially starts with the month of Chingam (August - September), the day on which Vishu falls is the astronomical New Year day. The Malayalis believe that the forthcoming year's fortune depends upon the nature of the object one sees first on the morning of Vishu Day. The practice of preparing the 'Kani' (a collection of things which are considered auspicious) is followed. In a circular bell-metal vessel known as 'Uruli' some raw rice is put and over it a folded newly washed cloth is spread. A golden colored cucumber, betel leaves, betel nuts, a split coconut, mangoes, small jackfruit, metal mirror, beautiful yellow flowers of the Konna tree (cassia fistula), a Grandha (book of palm leaves) and a few gold coins or a gold ornament are then placed over the cloth in the vessel. On either side of the vessel are placed two burning lamps.

Early in the morning of Vishu, at about 5 O'clock, one of the members of the house, usually the eldest female member, gets up, lights the lamp and looks at the 'Kani'. She wakes up other members, blindfolds them and leads them to the room where the 'kani' is placed. One after another, the Kani is shown to everyone, ensuring that every family member has a good look at the 'Kani'. The Kani is even taken to the cattle-shed and placed before the household cattle, for them also to have a look.

For children especially, the most exciting part of Vishu is the giving of 'Kaineetom,' a small amount of money in the form of coins, to the family members. It is the eldest member of the family who gives the 'kaineetom' to every one, with a bit of raw rice and Konna flowers. The servants and other dependants of the family are also given gifts and money. The children fire crackers and indulge in fun and festivities.

Updated on 7th June, 2005

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