Kochi: No matter which mechanized world we are born into, in the depths of our hearts, let there be the radiance of the hamlet, its scent, maternal affection and a handful of konna flowers. Thus sang our great bard, Vyloppili.
The sun completes one full revolution of 360 degrees and on Vishu, which generally falls on April 14, it starts its new transit which is, going by the Gregorian calendar, the New Year. And like in several parts of the country where the festival goes under different names like Ugadi, Gudi Padwa or Bihu, it’s the start of a New Year.
But around 1,088 years ago, history has it that astrologers who gathered at Kollam decided to redo the calendar, believed to be part of Onam celebrations. Initially, it was the month of Kanni, or Virgo, which was the start of the new year though that was soon advanced to Chingam, or Leo, the month of Onam.
But astrologers and experts still feel that Vishu is the dawn of a new year. According to leading astrologer Mohan K. Vedakumar of Ottappalam, scientifically, the new year should start with Vishu. “That is when the sun after completing its full transit of 360 degrees enters the Meda raasi (Aries) which is also the first Zodiac sign in Indian astrology. \
Even the word Vishu has a significance as in Sanskrit it means equal or equinos which also means that the tilt of the Earth’s axis is not away from the sun and that is also the time when the day and the night are equal in duration. There is another time when this phenomenon occurs. It’s during the month of Thulam (Libra). While we in Kerala have made Chingam the start of the Malayalam calendar, scientifically it should start with Vishu,” he says.
For poet Alamkode Leelakrishnan, Vishu is the start of suryotsavam’ or the festival of the sun. “The belief is that on this day, any object that the sun’s first rays touch, turns to gold. That also explains why the bright yellow or golden flower of konna (cassia fistula) is part of Vishu celebrations.
Everything golden is associated with Vishu festivities which are part of the kani (the first thing one sees early in the morning that day), be it the ripe cucumber, the ripe mango, the ripe jackfruit, the brass lamp with the golden flame, the shining brass mirror, a little of gold in the form of a chain or a ring – yes, everything has a golden hue.
With eyes closed, everyone in the house is brought in front of this Vishu kani arranged the previous night and your eyes open to golden plentitude,” he says. It is literally a cornucopia where fruits, flowers and grain overflow aplenty, a precursor to the coming of prosperity.
It is an agrarian festival, a time to start farming activities. Says Alamkode: “Associated with Vishu is the call vithum kaikottum’ (seed and spade) of the vishupakshi (Indian cuckoo) heralding the start of sowing operations in the fields. Annam’ or rice is dear to us for we even start learning the alphabet etching them on rice. But sadly enough, we rarely hear these bird cries nowadays and our farmlands have given way to concrete monstrosities. Vishu has turned into a commercial festival.
Everything is available in the market, right from the plastic flowers to the Chinese crackers. But like a religious habit, we wake up early to see the kani on Vishu morn, leaving behind a culture and a tradition, and get caught in the morass of commercialization,” he says
Now synthetic Chinese flowers outshine kanikonna
Thiruvananthapuram: After Chinese fire crackers, synthetic kanikonna has flooded Vishu markets in Ernakulam and Malappuram which shows how the Chinese spruce up Malayali festivals. Synthetic bunches of golden yellow kanikonna with green leaves, outshining the original, are being sold at Rs s 60 to Rs 75 a bunch.
Though the Chinese kanikonna is yet to hit the capital city markets, they are selling like hot cakes in Ernakulam and Malappuram. K.Dinesh, a store owner at Edappal said he had apprehensions over the sale of the plastic flowers. But ever since he started displaying them with the yellow flowers hanging upside down in front of his shop, there has been no looking back.
“I was surprised when I ran out of stock this afternoon. I got the imported kanikonna from Chinese shops in Ernakulam market. They were in two varieties – the smaller ones priced at Rs 60 and the bigger bunches at Rs 75”, he said.
A customer who walked in to the store said he was happy to get the artificial ones as they gave value for money compared to the original ones which were priced between ` 40 – `65.“I can easily use the Chinese kanikonna for quite a few years. Moreover, I don’t have to bargain with wayside vendors who sell them at such fancy prices, unheard of in the market for original flowers”, said a customer.