Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vishukkani - a sign for the times ahead

A festive day is celebrated with all its pomp and splendor, but as the time moves forward, the significance of the customs and traditions or the practices turn out to be just a ritual. Is Vishu just remembered for the kaineettam and kani. What is the significance of these practices. The question should linger in our minds, so that we can tell the posterity, the vision our forefathers had for our lives, year after year. If you look at the south Asian calenders, it is a very special day.

  • Rongali Bihu the Assamese New Year
  • Bwisagu the Bodo New Year in Assam
  • Thingyan  the Burmese New Year 
  • Tuluva New Year, Bisu , Edmyaar 1 or Bisu Changrandi the Kodava New Year in Karnataka
  • Chol Chnam Thmey  the Khmer New Year in Cambodia
  • Songkan / Pi Mai Lao  the Lao New Year
  • Maha Vishuva Sankranti the Oriya New Year in Odisha
  • Bikram Samwat / Vaishak Ek the Nepali New Year
  • Baisakhi the Punjabi New Year in India and the punjab province in Pakistan
  • Aluth Avurudda  the Sinhalese New Year in Sri Lanka
  • Tamizh Puthandu the Tamil New Year in Tamil Nadu
  • Songkran the Thai New Year
  • Maithili New Year, or Jude Shital (Mithila)
  • West Bengal New Year called Pohela Boishakh
So what is so special about this day. 

Astronomical and Astrological significance

It is the day following the transit of Sun into Aries (Mesha Sankramana) in the zodiac. Stars
are divided into many regions of different sizes, each called a constellation, Aries being one of them. Connecting all bright stars in a constellation with lines, different images in the shape of animals and objects are formed. People named each constellation according to its shape. The International Astronomical Union divided the sky into 88 constellations with precise boundaries, making every star belonging to a particular constellation.

Seen from Earth, the sun moves slowly in the Celestial Sphere and passes through constellations, forming a large circle for a year. This circle is called Ecliptic. The Ecliptic is divided into twelve equal portions (each equivalent to 30 degrees); each portion was named after the closest constellation. All these twelve portions were called Ecliptic Constellations, according to which western horoscope theories developed.

The astrologists divide a year is into 12 periods, during each period the sun being in a constellation area. So everyone has a corresponding zodiacal sign according to the period his / her birthday lies in. The 12 signs are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. People believe that different signs of the zodiac present different characteristics and talents. So Aries being the first has a significance and though the western thought of having a new year in January was only for convenience but in reality March April remains the time when the new year is born. Hence Aries is the first Zodiac sign and the entry of sun into that constellation has its significance of the birth of a new cycle in zodiac.

The Vishukkani

The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani, which literally means "the first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up". The Vishukkani consists of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles intended to signify prosperity, including rice, fruits and vegetables, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, yellow flowers called konna (Cassia fistula), holy texts and coins, usually in the prayer room of the house. This is arranged the night before Vishu and is the first sight seen on Vishu. The old tradition specifies the items as follows

  • Ari or nellu (Rice) - wishing the person who sees it to have a year filled with ample food for survival
  • kay - raw fruits - alerting the person about the untoward incidents and to be aware of them and knowing that when it is handled properly with happiness, it will not be unbearable
  • kani - ripe fruits - the pleasures of life, that's what the fruits signify
  • Pazhaya panam - old coins and medallions remind us of the past and our culture
  • puthu panam - new coins and currencies signify the earnings for the year
  • dhanyam - pulses signify the richness in out lives
  • ratnam - the precious stones signify the special moments or achievements to be attained in the coming year
  • aranmula kannadi - the special mirror signifies reflection of well being and prosperity
  • grantham - holy texts signify divine grace throughout the year
  • vishu kodi - or the new dress signifies the luxuries in life
  • varikka chakka (Jackfruit) - symbolizes the life as such. Hard and thorny exterior with lots of fibre inside but when you reach the ripe fruit it is very tasty. Hence it signifies the life and times ahead.
The Vishukaineettam
The coin or money given as a gift for Vishu has two meanings. One is the year long prosperity and it also reminds us who the head of the family is and the age old tradition of giving the workers new dress and grains for them to have a great year ahead.

There is a lot more to say about Vishu and other celebrations. But keeping it short I wish you a great year ahead. Happy Vishu ... 

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