Thursday, April 13, 2006

Happy Vishu !! Celebrating New Year the " Mallu Way "

Here it comes... The Mallu New Year. The Vishu festival falls on the first day of Medam (April-May), the astronomical New Year day.

It is a belief that the fortunes of the coming year depend on the first object they see on the Vishu day. So the important ceremony connected with Vishu is the Kani Kanal, which literary means the first sight. This kani includes cadjan leaf book, gold ornaments, fresh and white cloth, a measure of rice or paddy, bell metal mirror, flowers of the Konna tree (Cussia fistula), halved jack fruits, halved coconuts, yellow cucumber, and two standing oil lamps emitting sparkling light.

An indispensable item connected with Vishu is the Vishu Kaineettam, which means the gift of money to the children and to the poor people by the elder members of the family. I am the youngest in my family and hence I stand to gain a lot from this activity heheheheheh !!!

I remember grand Vishu celebrations every year till my grand mother was around. She passed away early 1987 & somehow vishu was never the same. Not just that my parents too had moved over to Mumbai and out here we outgrew the novelty I suppose. Neverthless my parents made sure that we did celebrate Vishu the traditional way. I guess this was one of the many things that my parents gave me and my siblings, keeping us in touch somewhat with my native culture.

Vishu traditionally has been a great family event. Now even though me and my siblings are scattered all over the world, each one of us by nature and homing spirits zero down our thoughts to our piece of heaven on mother earth. Our FLAT in Mumbai, where we have celebrated and enjoyed most of our youth.

Tonight as the D day dawns, we 4 of us undoubtedly are seeing and feeling the presence of each one of us, with our parents celebrating this festival in the true kerala tradition.

As I share the memories on this blog my thoughts revert back to my parents who for the first time in 40 years are going to celebrate the festival all alone. With each one of us busy with our professional life, unfortunately this is one celebration that my parents will have to endure alone. Neverthless I am sure our mind and soul are going to be with them each passing moment of this special day.

The Vishu breakfast is a special event with traditional keralite food being served. Its usually "Puttu (a rice powder and grated coconut, steamed and cooked together) Kadala curry (a special curry made from Black Channa), banana's and ishtu (Potato Stew made with coconut milk)".

After completing the morning rituals, it is time for the family to get ready for the grand meal called " Sadya ". The biggest and most prominent place in the house is selected to lay the meal which is traditionally served in a row on a mat laid on the floor.

In Kerala, this meal is served during all festivals with at least seven different vegetables and condiments, three "payasams" (kheer-type sweet broths which are made up of jaggery, milk+semia, jackfruit, dal, pasta et al), several courses of rice, in a strict order of dal-sambar-buttermilk-rasam (did I get that wrong?)... and Payasams in between.

Usually, at Mallu weddings down south, expert waiters serve the food as it is laid down - you will feel as if you are experiencing a moving assembly line. It is quite an experience - don't miss the chance if you ever get one.

In kerala though the grand sadya (feast) is usually prepared by women of the house and the whole family sits together at lunch to relish it. Dishes are usually prepared from jackfruits, mangoes, pumpkins, and gourds besides other vegetables and fruits, which are in plenty at that time of the season. People also wear kodi vastram (new clothes) on this day. Patassu (fire crackers) are burst in the midst of dancing and merry to mark the day.

All in all its a day to celebrate, make merry and enjoy the tasty food made by my mother. Her culinary skills are top notch and it would undoubtedly but the world's best chef's to shame.

To put it short its one of those special days where we all would be in attendance, sit around and enjoy the 24 hrs that constitutes this festival. As another day dawns, post festival its the usual need for survival mess for all of us.

We welcome the new year and embark on our journey of life contended that we have god's grace and the best wishes of our parents to see each one of us through the travails of another loooooong year .....


At Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at 6:22:00 PM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very prosperous Vishu! :=)


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