How to have Vishu Sadya like a true Malayali

Representative image: AALA IMAGES/Shutterstock

Vishu, a Hindu festival marking the first day of Medam, or the Malayalam new year, is perhaps one of Kerala's most popular festivals.

Usually falling on the 14th or the 15th of April, on this day, Lord Vishnu and his avatar Krishna are worshipped in temples across southern India to felicitate the forthcoming new beginnings. According to Hindu mythology, Vishu also marks the day Lord Krishna vanquished the demon Narakasura.

One mythological story also regales how Vishu signified the day the Sun rose from the east for the first time after Lord Rama killed Ravana.

This day also denotes the arrival of the spring equinox (the day on which the duration of day and night are equal), which is celebrated throughout the length and breadth of the country as the harvest festival. For example, in Punjab and other north Indian states, this festival is celebrated as Vaishakhi or Baisakhi.

Vishu, as Kerala celebrates it

Like most Hindu festivals, the celebration of Vishu too includes a few practices that bring the family together. The most significant of these practices is the Vishukkani.

Now etymologically speaking, 'Vishu' comes from the Sanskrit term for 'equal', which denotes the day of the equinox. And Kani is Malayalam for ‘what you see first’. Together Vishukkani refers to ‘what you see first on Vishu’.

Seeing the Vishu kani is believed to herald a prosperous year for the beholder.

A shrine with the deity (Lord Vishnu and Krishna) is prepared along with other materials that are considered pure and auspicious like rice, lemon, golden cucumber, jackfruit, kohl, betel leaves, golden yellow Konna flowers, an oil lamp, mirror, coins and money.

It is believed to be lucky to see the Vishukkani shrine first thing in the morning! Therefore, as the house elders prepare the shrine, the young ones are blindfolded from the moment they wake up on Vishu and taken to the shrine to see the Vishukkani.

Most often, people also recite the Ramayana near the Vishukkani!

Apart from the preparation of the Vishukkani, Vishu is also associated with buying new clothes, especially for children. Along with lighting firecrackers and oil lamps too.

Members of some communities decorate their homes and driveways with Kolams (artistic drawings made with rice and flour) to welcome guests during the festivities.

The all-important 'Sadya'

No Indian celebration is complete without an enormous feast for the whole family to enjoy together. This feast during Vishu is called ‘Sadya’.

The Sadya though a lunch, actually begins at breakfast, where Vishu Katta or Vishu Kanji are served as Prasad.

A traditional vegetarian feast, the Sadya is served on a large plantain leaf. The food is served beginning from the bottom left half of the leaf. Often a pinch of salt is also given in the corner of the leaf for those who wish to add it to their dishes.

A small banana and papadam are also placed on the bottom left of the leaf. These are accompanied by jaggery coated banana chips and plain or salted banana chips on the top left of the leaf.

Vishu katta

Next on the leaf goes the Thoran, which is basically a vegetable stir-fry with a dash of coconut in it. Though the choice of vegetable isn't specified for the thoran, beetroots, carrots, and beans make for the most popular choices.

These are followed by an array of side dishes, like traditionally prepared aviyal and olan.

At the bottom centre of the banana leaf, a generous portion of rice is served that is meant to be eaten only with your fingers, without the use of any cutlery. Along with it, the Parippu Curry (moong daal curry) is served with a dollop of ghee.

Kerala Sadya

The Sambar is served next with a curry prepared with curd called Kalan. A glass of piping hot rasam follows these.

And then finally the most popular dish, the dessert, is served. Generally, two to three varieties of Payasam (pudding prepared with rice/vermicelli/pumpkin etc.) are served with a generous helping of dry fruits in them.

Most enjoy a glass of buttermilk along with their Sadya. And with it ends the delicious meal to celebrate Vishu.

To end on a sweet note!

Semiya Payasam

Here's our favourite Semiya Payasam recipe for you to try at home to celebrate Vishu this year. Here’s what you need:

¾ cup of thick vermicelli
½ cup of sugar
½ teaspoon of cardamom
4 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of ghee
15 cashews
10 raisins
In a pan, heat a tablespoon of ghee and fry the cashews. Then add the raisins and sauté them till they plump up. Set them aside.
In the pan, add the remaining ghee and vermicelli. Roast them over medium flame till they turn golden brown.
To the pan, now add the milk and let it come to a boil gradually over a medium flame. Allow the vermicelli to boil until they turn soft.
Add the sugar then and cook till the payasam becomes thick.

Garnish with the fried dry fruits and serve hot!

The preparation of payasam in most homes is a traditional recipe passed down from one generation to the next! Is there a particular recipe of payasam you follow during Vishu celebrations in your homes? Please tell us; we'd love to know!

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