Kerala celebrates the Malayalam New Year grandly as does the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu. Vishu falls on the first day in the Malayalam month of Medam, when the sun enters into Ashwini nakshatra. Vishu heralds the beginning of agricultural activities and the very traditional malayalees celebrate it with a lot of cheer.
Everyone tries to awaken towards an auspicious Vishukkani, a sight which is seen first on Vishu. This also known as Kani Kanal is a very interesting custom that good things seen on the New Year day brings good luck for the entire year.
The lady of the house arranges the Vishukkani on the eve in the family pooja room that will display images of Lord Vishnu, flowers, fruits and vegetables, clothes and gold coins. Akshatam, a mixture of rice and turmeric, is divided into halves of husked and un-husked rice, and placed in a special bowl called an uruli that is made of panchaloham, an aggregate of five metals symbolic of the five elements earth, water, fire, air and space. A well-starched pleated cloth is inserted into a highly polished brass kindi (a spouted puja vessel used for pouring sacred water). The golden val-kannadi, a special type of mirror with an extremely long handle is inserted into the kindi. The kindi is then placed on top of the Akshatam in the uruli. Two deepams, made from the two halves of a split coconut filled with oil, are kept in the uruli. Gold color is significant to the Vishukkani and so gold-coloured fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, jackfruit, betel leaves, arecanuts and golden cucumber. Kanikkonna, a golden-yellow flower associated with Sri Krishna is also used. This flower only blooms when the sun is in its most exalted position in the month when Vishu falls. The Bhagavad-Gita is also placed. The lady of the house who arranged the Vishukkani sleeps in the puja room after she is finished and wakes during the auspicious hour of the Brahma muhurata (4:00 to 6:00 a.m.), she lights the oil-lamp wicks and takes in the auspicious sight. She then wakes the rest of the family and covering their eyes, she leads them to the puja room, where they take in the divine vision. Children get overwhelmed with the glorious sight. The mirror symbolic to the goddess increases the lustre of the Vishukkani through the reflection and shows our own face, reminding us that God is in ourselves.
Vishu kaineettam, the distribution of wealth, is another eagerly awaited aspect of the festival. Gold coins are shared freely with children by family elders and accepted with reverence. On Vishu, highly affluent families give money to their neighbours or perhaps the entire village as well.
People enjoy Vishu thoroughly. Firecrackers known as Vishupadakkam are burst to announce the new beginning and the People of Kerala wear kodi vastram or Puthukodi which means new clothes. Special dishes are prepared using jackfruits, mangoes, pumpkins and gourd. A Vishu meal consist of equal proportions of salty, sweet, sour and bitter special dishes are prepared using jackfruits, mangoes, pumpkins and gourd besides other seasonal vegetables and fruits. Vishu Kanji, Thoran and Vishu katta are important during Vishu. The Kanji is made of rice, coconut milk and spices. Vishu katta is a delicacy prepared from freshly harvested rice powder and coconut milk served with jiggery. The Feast also include Veppampoorasa, a bitter neem preparation and Mampazhappulissery,a sour mango soup
On Vishu, temples like Guruvayur or Sabarimala temple have a ‘Vishukkani Kazhcha’ (viewing) in the early hours of the day.