Vishu (Malayalam)is a new year festival celebrated in the state of Kerala, India. It is similar to the New Year festivals observed elsewhere in India like Baisakhi (Punjab), Bihu (Assam), Naba Barsha (Bengal), Bisu Parba (Tulu Nadu region in Karnataka), (Vishuva Sankranti) in Orissa Puthandu (Tamil Nadu) and Ugadi in(Andhra Pradesh) . Vishu generally falls on April 14 of the Gregorian calendar. This occasion signifies the Sun's transit to the zodiac - Mesha Raasi (first zodiac sign) as per Indian astrological calculations and astronomically represents the vernal equinox. "Vishu" in Sanskrit means "equal". Therefore Vishu is more probably denoting one of the equinox days. Although Vishu (first of Medam) is the astrological new year day of Kerala, the official Malayalam new year falls on the first month of Chingam (August - September). However, 1st of Chingam has no significance either astrologically or astronomically. Chingam is the harvest season in Kerala and southern parts of coastal Karnataka.
The most important event in Vishu is the Vishukkani, which literally " the first thing to be seen on the Vishu day post waking up". The Vishukkani consist of a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles like raw rice, fresh lemon, golden cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, the yellow flowers konna (Cassia fistula), and a holy text and coins, in a bell metal vessel called uruli in the puja room of the House. A lighted bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is also placed alongside. This arrangement is completed the previous night. On the day of Vishu, the custom is to wake up at dawn and go to the puja room with the eyes closed so that the Vishukkani is the first sight of the new season. Since the occasion marks the beginning of Malayalam New Year], it is also considered auspicious to read verses from Hindu Holy book Ramayanam after seeing the "Vishukkani". It is also believed that the page of the Ramayanam to which you open up will have a bearing on your life in the coming year. Devotees also throng the well-known temples like Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple, Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple to have a "Vishukkani Kazhcha" on the early hours of "Vishu" day.
"Vishu" is celebrated with much fanfare and vigour in all parts of Kerala. Bursting crackers is part and parcel of the celebration especially for children. Elders gift firecrackers to children and every child vie with each other to make a world of their own. People wear new clothes (Puthukodi) for the occasion and elders of the family distribute tokens of money, called Vishukkaineetam, to children, servants and tenants.
Vishu is also a day of feasting, wherein the edibles consist of roughly equal proportions of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items. Feast items include Veppampoorasam (a bitter preparation of neem) and Mampazhapachadi (a sour mango soup).