Vishu is the Hindu New Year celebrated in Kerala, India. In Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as Tamil Puthandu or Tamil New Year. It signifies the sun’s transition to the Meda Rasi. Along with South India, this day is celebrated as New Year in many states of India like Assam, West Bengal, North East states like Manipur and Tripura, Bihar, Odisha, Punjab, UP, UK, Himachal, Haryana, Rajasthan Also Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Sri Lanka celebrate New Year on the same day.
My husband belongs to Nagarkoil (fathers side) and his mother belongs to Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu) so my MIL celebrated both Vishu and Tamil Puthandu, along with other festivals that belonged to both states. Thanks to her, I get to celebrate Golu every year with great pomp and so much enthusiasm. The Golu Decoration has won prizes for 2 consecutive years in Golu Competition on a Community Facebook Group. Festivals and its positives are numerous, brings people together, sharing of meals and in general just enjoying ourselves admist good company.
Usually the New year falls in mid April and most certainly the date is 14th April every year, barring few years when it may fall on 15th April. After we got married, I started celebrating Onam too here as I am a Palakkad Iyer and my roots belong in Kerala. While I love the OnaSadya, I am very nostalgic about the festival of Vishu. It is something you remember since the time you were a kid and carry on the tradition even after you marry. While all festivals are incomplete without the Sadya or the lavish spread on the banana leaf, Vishu has certain other rituals that follow.
Vishu involves cooking with certain specific vegetables, One of the prime one is the Jackfruit or Chakkai / Chakka as its called in Tamil. I absolutely adore Jackfruit, who doesn’t? and since its available only for 3 months in a year like Mangoes, I make the most of it.
A setting of various items needs to be done the previous night by the Chief Member of the house mainly Moms in most households, while the others will only be able to see the decoration and placement of items the next morning. The essential items on display should be rice along with some pulses or dals, Golden Cucumber, Coconut broken into two, Jackfruit, Mangoes (both raw and ripe), a Dozen or half of ripe bananas, Konna Poo or Cassia Fistula flowers that are yellow in colour. A plate of coins, currency notes, gold and silver jewellery / coins that are usually not used and kept separately to be placed as part of the Vishu setting every year. A picture of Lord Vishnu, A mirror, some vermillion or Kumkum, Betel leaf and supari, Lemons, Karela or Bitter Gourd, Cucumbers, Raw Bananas, Padval or Snake Gourd, Yellow Pumpkin, Ash Gourd etc. Everything is a mix of sweet, salty, sour and bitter and the prime colours are yellow and green.
(Above are the pics of the Vishu Kani set up of Last year at my home. The right side has the Panchangam or the Calender that marks the New year, a ritual that MIL followed)
The next day, the lantern or diya is lit in the morning, and the members are invited to see the kani and apply the vermillion on their forehead by looking in the mirror placed. After seeking the Lord’s blessings and receiving Vishu Kani or the money received by elders, members await the lavish spread that is being cooked by the ladies in the kitchen. Men help by scraping the coconut for the gravies and thorans or by chopping the veggies. My father, who was a great cook himself, helped my mother by cutting the Jackruit which is the most trickiest and messiest one of all the veggies and fruits. Application of coconut oil ensures there is no stickiness / gum left on your hand. It is such a laborious task to cut open a jackfruit. On Vishu, I buy a half Whole Jackfruit that I later cut very well (tips from Dad) and enjoy, remembering him.
(Above are the pics of the last years Sadya Menu served on the banana leaf – Pardon the poor quality pics, wasn’t a blogger then)
As kids and even till today, I am excited about this festival, plan the purchase of veggies and banana leaf to setting up the Kani is done with great zeal. The only difference being, earlier my Ma used to wake us up, blindfold us or rather cover our eyes with her hands and escort us to the Kani setting in the pooja area and then open our eyes to reveal the decoration. Now, I follow this with my husband and he being elder to me, rewards me with Vishu Kani, the cash envelope that I wait for every year to buy items related to the kitchen and this year, my blog!
Even if it is just the two of us home, I leave no stone unturned to prepare a full fledged meal. After all, occasions demand such food. Also, the food is a mix of both cuisine, Palakkad + Thanjavur specials so I will keep a Parappu Usili along with a Thoran, a Kootu along with Avial and so on. The dessert is the quintessential Pal Payasam, a cup or tumbler of which fastens the process of sleep / nap after a great meal.
Here are the list of items, that you may like to prepare for the upcoming Vishu Festival, recipes of which are available on the blog.
- Avial or Aviyal
- Chembu Roast
- Koorkai Mezhkuparati
- Cabbage Paruppu usili
- Beetroot thoran
- Figs Thokku
- Manga Kari or Mango Pickle
- Amla Pachadi
- Tomato Pachadi
- Thayir Sadam
- Carrot Salad
- Coconut Thogayal
- Pal Payasam
Along with some of the traditional recipes that belong to a bunch of talented blogger friends of mine. Thanking everyone for their valuable contributions. Means a lot guys!
- Mor Kozhumbu by Radha Natarajan
- Tomato Rasam by Radha Natarajan
- Mambazha Puliserry by Priya Suresh
- Olan by Sharmila K
- Banana Flower Thoran or Vazha Poo Thoran by Seema D Sriram
- Kothavarakai Paruppu Usili or Cluster Beans Lentil Crumble by Amrita Iyer
- Madhura Curry by Lathiya S
- Pineapple Pachadi by Aruna P
- Semiya Payasam by Aruna P
- Ada Pradaman by Sharmila K
- Chakka Pradaman or Jackfruit Payasam by Shobha K
- Banana Chips by Seema D Sriram
We serve 3 course of rice on a Banana Leaf beginning with either Sambar or Mambazhapullisery or Mor Kozhumbu which is followed by Rasam and then Thayir Sadam or Curd Rice along with unlimited servings of papadam or poppadums. There are 3 varieties of chips too – Jackfruit chips, banana chips – sweet and salted.
Happy Vishu to all my readers and friends that I have made via this blog! May you and your family be blessed in abundance.