Happy Vishu! Puthandu nalvazhthukkal!!
Hope this year gets you started on a great note and continues the same way all year-long!
The Tamil New Year generally falls on April 14, marking the first day of the traditional Tamil calendar. People greet each other on this day by saying “Iniya Tamizh Puthaandu Nalvazhthukkal”. The festive occasion is in keeping with the Hindu Solar calendar. The Tamil calendar begins on the same date observed by most traditional calendars in India as in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Manipur, Orissa, Punjab, Tripura etc. This year, Puttandu (Tamizh New Year) fell on the 14th and Vishu is today, on the 15th.
With our family hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, we celebrate Vishu and the day begins with seeing the Vishu-kani, which is a must-see first thing on a Vishu morning, which is believed to bring good luck the whole year through. The Vishu-kani includes gold and silver ornaments and coins, navadanyam, a tray of vegetables (usually consisting of drumsticks, raw banana, potatoes, beans, pandal avarekai – a flat bean rich in iron, pumpkin, yam etc.), and a tray of various fruits. All these things are kept in front of a mirror and a garlanded deity of Lord Krishna, the mirror also being garlanded by a jasmine flower string. Two standing oil lamps (usually Kuthi-vilakkus) are also placed on the sides of the Vishu-kani. The significance of the mirror is that you’re not only seeing good/auspicious things for real, but you’re also seeing the same good things in the reflection of the mirror, and hence, hoping that life through the next one year also has the same to offer…good things in life, both in reality and illusion!
Preparations of the Kani are done a night before by the lady of the house. Master of the house is the first person to see the Kani and then the other family members follow. Children are brought blind-folded from their rooms for the Kani nottam, the first thing in the morning. The reason behind the Vishu-kani ritual is the strong belief that the fortune of the rest of the year depends on the first objects seen on the Vishu day. After kani nottam, comes the cermonial ‘yennai-shastram‘ (where castor oil is rubbed on the hair and a little is also smeared on the forehead, thereafter, kunkum is applied, and we are handed our new clothes, which we proudly don after bath). On this day, there is also a tradition to give small amounts of cash to children and younger members of the family. This tradition is called Vishu-Kaineetam. It is believed that this custom will ensure prosperity for the children in the year to come. A grand feast is also prepared (as in the case with all Indian festivals), the menu usually consisting of Avial, Erussery/Koottu/Rasam/Sambhar, Maangai pachadi/Puzhi-inji, Pappadam, Pal payasam/Pradaman (with ada/godhi/chakke i.e. jackfruit), which is payasam prepared in Kerala .
The pics of the Kolam and Vishu-kani are from Amma’s place, with all due credit to Amma!
More than anything else, Vishu-kaineetam is what is most looked forward to (who wouldn’t?)!! When we were little, my brother and me would take bath early, don our new clothes, have breakfast, and take-off for visits to all the Uncles and Aunts houses, to ensure we got our share of the kaineetam! We would plan whom to visit and when. And if someone acted frugal with the kianeetam (Im talking of the people who gave Rs 2 in place of a tenner or a fifty/hundred rupee note), we conveniently skipped them cos we knew we wouldn’t be missing much anyway!! (Yeah we were mean!). And by bedtime, we would sit down to count how much loot we had managed to collect. At the end of it all, kid bro still got more cos I was older than him and had to part with some of my kaineetam to him…hahaha! Boy, it was fun! Now that I’m getting older, my share of giving is more than my share of receiving!! Nonetheless, Uncles and Aunties, here I come…keep my kaineetam ready 😉
It is believed that ‘Vishu‘ means ‘equal’ and it is also believed that on the day of Vishu every year, the hourly durations of day and night are equal. Astounding isn’t it? The rich culture we have, and how so many beliefs have made it the way it is. I really love to learn all about our traditions and culture and never miss a chance to do so!
I prepared some Godhi Pradaman today to herald the new year. After so much on the tradition and customs of Vishu, let’s move on to the recipe, which is pretty short a read in comparison to what you’ve read so far!
- Broken wheat/Daliya – 1 cup (I used a 1/2 paav measure for both, broken wheat and jaggery)
- Jaggery – 1 cup
- Coconut Milk – 1 packet of 200 ml ( I used a store-bought one – ‘Dabur Hommade ‘)
- Water – 2 cups (to cook the daliya) + 1.5 cups (to dissolve the jaggery)
- Dry copra – 1/4 cup (finely chopped)
- Ghee – 2 tbsps
- Elaichi powder – 1/4 tsp
- Wash the daliya, add 2 cups of water and pressure cook till softly done (2 whistles should do) and set aside.
- In the meanwhile, pound the jaggery to small chunks and boil with 1.5 cups water in a thick-bottomed wok/pan till the jaggery is fully melted.
- Strain the jaggery syrup to remove dust/sand particles and return to wok/pan.
- Now, add the cooked daliya to the jaggery syrup and let it absorb the sweetness. Allow to boil on a low/medium flame for about 10 minutes.
- Add the elaichi powder, stir well and continue to let it boil.
- Once they daliya is well incorporated in the jaggery syrup, simmer the flame and add the coconut milk. Let it continue to cook on a low flame for just 2-3 minutes. Remove from flame.
- Now, fry the chopped copra pieces in the ghee till then turn reddish-brown, and add to the wok (The authentic Iyer version doesn’t call for any dry-fruits and hence I didn’t use any). Absolutely delectable Godhi Pradaman is all ready to be devoured!!
Phew! This post took me quite a long time to put together and I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Have a great year ahead everyone! I’m off to feast on (yet another) bowl-full of Pradaman! 😉