Saturday, April 28, 2012


Vishukkani at home in Pune.
‘Vishu’ is the new Year of Malayalees (Keralites) – Palakkad Iyers too celebrate this day as New Year – this usually falls on 14 April, at times on 15th – one day after Tamil New Year day. It is the 1st day of the the month of 'medam' in the Malayalam calendar. 
The previous day is a whirlwind rush - making rounds of Kerala stores (for those settled outside Kerala) and vegetable / fruit vendors procuring all the desired stuff. At night, a good hour or more is spent in keeping the ‘vishukkani’. The favorite God(s) (usually Krishna) presides on a table close to the bedroom. A bunch of golden yellow ‘kanikonna poo’ (flowers) is a must – these days they are sold in the ‘Kerala Stores’ along with all the other Vishu-stuff (such as pappadam, variety of chips, 'paalada', banana leaves, jack fruit etc.); a few shopkeepers are generous enough to offer a bunch of the golden flowers free to their customers. Otherwise people still pluck bunches from the blooming trees lining some roads and share with needy lookers-on!

Golden yellow 'konna' poo in full bloom
A tray of raw rice, freshly broken coconut halves filled with pulses, topped with a gold sovereign, a cup with coins and currency notes, and a mirror are a must! A pretty ‘vellarikka’ is adorned with a gold necklace and occupies pride of place. Other requisites are the lamp, agarbatti, match box, kumkum, 'vibhuti' (sacred ash) etc.

Traditionally a spread of whole vegetables and fruits (usually yellow and green in color) are arranged – green bananas, green mangoes, drumsticks, snake gourd, lime, and ripe mangoes, grapes, yellow bananas, and a whole jack fruit! These days - those of us who live outside Kerala - substitute the whole jack fruit with a small raw jack fruit or a piece of the big ripe fruit! We have started keeping whatever fruits are available in our place – watermelon, oranges, apples …. and also adding color by lining up the vegetables we normally use – tomatoes, brinjals, carrots etc. In fact, the first time my mother saw my ‘vishukkani’, she was aghast and said, “We don’t keep carrots and tomatoes!” I tried to convince her by saying, “We use them in plenty throughout the year, don’t we? So I include them too. Is there any law against it?” It took her a couple of years to accept it! On similar lines, the 'vishukkani' my daughter-in-law had arranged in the US was based on the availability and use of the vegetables and fruits there.
'Vishukkani' in the US ....
The ‘vishukkani’ is the first thing the members of the household see the moment they wake up on the new year morning – the lady of the house wakes up first, lights the auspicious lamp, prays to the Almighty and looks at every item of the ‘kani’ symbolizing plenty and prosperity throughout the year. She puts on kumkum, looks at herself in the mirror and does ‘namaskaram’. Then she wakes up each member of the family one after the other, closing their eyes with her hand till they are in front of the ‘kani’. Each one repeats the ritual. The elders give ‘vishukkai nettam’ to the rest of the family. I remember as kids, we used to get one rupee (50 years ago!). My sons used to be given Rs.11. Now the corresponding amount has increased to anything between Rs.101 and 501!
The other highlight of the day is the grand ‘sadhya’ (feast) – complete with vada, paayasam (chakka pradhaman / 'ada pradhaman' / 'paalada pradhaman' /  'paal payasam'), a couple of side-dishes including a 'thoran', koottu, avial, 'kaalan', 'olan', 'pachadi', 'kichadi' and of course sambar, rasam, pappadam, pickle and curd. Last year I had prepared all items of 'sadhya' (see photo above) for just the two of us at home - in order to present my blog post. Otherwise it is a mini feast with 4-5 dishes and chips varieties, pappadam and of course vada and payasam.

The whole family sits on the floor and enjoys the feast served on banana leaves.The banana leaf should have the narrow end to the left hand side of the eater.
'Vishu' sadhya at home ....
The items should be served in a particular sequence. Also each dish has an allotted spot on the banana leaf! Here's the complete feast served in the right sequence (as in the above photo).

First paal paayasam is served on the near right end.
Next, the dishes are served in order from the far right end of the eater -

Near-end beginning from left end -
pappadam, pazham, chakka pazham (optional), sharkaravaratty, varathuppery, chakka uppery, paruppu vada, rice, ghee, sambar and paruppu.

The steel cups from left to right at the far end contain- paayasam, rasam and curd.


Feast items beginning from left outer circle -
kichadi (white), pachadi (golden brown), thoran, urulakizhangu roast, koottu, olan, avial, kaalan, puli inji, maangaakary, vadai, sharkaravarati, chips, curd, paal paayasam.
Inner circle - beginning from left from near end - ghee, paruppu, rice, pappadam, sambar, rasam.

View of the same items from the other end! 

A grander feast will have an extra sweet ('uppittu' /‘boli’ / laddoo ) and an extra paayasam ('ada pradhaman'). Any one of the special rice varieties – lemon rice, coconut rice or tamarind rice – can be included – if desired.
Happy Vishu! Have a great year ahead! And enjoy the 'sadhya'!

                  © Copyright 2011. Brinda Balasubramonian.

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