It is April. And it has been one of those hottest summers, ever. The Kanikkonna (the Indian Laburnum) trees have been in bloom for some weeks now. This is the time when traditionally, in the "old days" of a nostalgic era, the affluent farmer families would make a ceremony and ritual of commencing agricultural operations for the new year.
In those 'good old days,' the Vishupakshi, the Indian Cuckoo, used to sing 'vithum kaikotum' to the farmers as they toiled in the fields. The produces would be collected and presented at the houses of the local landlord. After the traditional 'Vishu Kani', the elders of the family would give off new clothes and money to the younger members of the family, which is called the 'Vishu Kaineetam'. There would be firecrackers bursted, and of course, a good sumptuous meal for all the kith and kin who have gathered.
During the olden days, when the society was still agrarian, the village astrologer would be summoned and an almanac would be prepared for the coming agricultural year. Vishu was, in those days, a time for families to come together and celebrate. Your grandparents or parents would tell you about how they used to walk from one house to other singing 'Vishukaniye, Vishukaniye' and how the housewives in those places used to treat them to sweet rice cakes and the Vishukaineetam.
As times changed, the smells and sounds of nature have been replaced, but Vishu is still a festival a Malayali holds close to his heart. The main difference is just one, they go the temples early in the morning for the 'Vishu Kani'. And no mention of the Vishu kani is complete unless we tell you about how it is celebrated at the famous shrines of Sabarimala and Guruvaayoor.
People from all walks of life gather at Guruvayoor for seeing the 'Vishu Kani' and Vishu Vilakku. The deity was shown the 'Vishu Kani' by the main priest at 2.30 am and then to the devotees who had been waiting patiently. There will be special pujas throughout the day and in the evening there will be a special performance.
At Sabarimala, the 'Vishu Kani' will began at 4am. The main priest of the temple will give the devotees the Vishukaineetam too.
These are not the only temples where Vishu is celebrated with pomp and piety. There are temples in UAE and USA where Vishu is celebrated. And of course in a smaller version, by every Malayali where ever he is across the globe.