The Joyous Feast Of Vishu: A Journey Through Kerala's Cuisine
Image Credit: Jackfruit Halwa

Vishu, also known as the Malayalam New Year, is a grand celebration in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It is a time when people come together to celebrate the arrival of the harvest season and pray for prosperity in the upcoming year. The festival falls in the month of April and marks the beginning of the astronomical New Year in Kerala. The day of Vishu is considered auspicious, and people start their day with the traditional Vishukkani, which is an assortment of items that are believed to bring good luck and prosperity. 

Vishu is not only a time for prayer and reflection but also a time for indulging in the delicious cuisine of Kerala. The state is known for its rich and diverse culinary heritage, and Vishu is the perfect occasion to experience the unique flavors and traditions of Kerala's cuisine. From mouth-watering seafood delicacies to savory vegetarian dishes, the festival offers a plethora of culinary delights that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. In this article, we will take you on a journey through Kerala's cuisine and explore the unique flavors and traditions of Vishu. So, let's dive in and discover the joyous feast of Vishu!  

History and Significance of Vishu  

The origins of Vishu can be traced back to ancient times, when it was celebrated as a harvest festival. The festival marks the end of the spring harvest and the beginning of a new agricultural cycle. It is believed that the festival was originally celebrated by the indigenous people of Kerala, who offered prayers to their local deities for a bountiful harvest. 

Over time, Vishu evolved into a more religious festival, with a focus on seeking the blessings of Lord Krishna, the Hindu god of love and compassion. The festival is also closely associated with the astronomical phenomenon of equinox, which occurs when the length of day and night are equal. The equinox is considered an auspicious time for new beginnings and is believed to bring good luck and prosperity.   

Vishukkani - The Auspicious Arrangement  

One of the most important rituals of Vishu is the Vishukkani, which is an auspicious arrangement of items that are believed to bring good luck and prosperity. The arrangement typically consists of a mirror, a lamp, a holy book, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. The items are placed in front of an image of Lord Krishna and are meant to be the first thing that people see on the day of Vishu. 

The vishukkani is believed to bring good luck and prosperity to the household and is an integral part of the festival. The arrangement is prepared by the head of the household, who wakes up early in the morning and arranges the items in a specific order. The Vishukkani is then kept in a prominent place in the house, and family members gather around to offer prayers and seek blessings. 

Vishu: A Culinary Delight  

Vishu is a festival that is celebrated with great enthusiasm and excitement. People come together to exchange gifts, share traditional dishes, and enjoy cultural performances. The traditional dishes of Vishu are unique to Kerala and reflect the region's cultural diversity. From vegetarian dishes to seafood delicacies, Vishu has something to offer for everyone.  

Vegetarian Delights  

One of the most iconic dishes of Vishu is the sadhya, a vegetarian feast that is served on banana leaves. The sadhya consists of a variety of dishes such as avial, sambar, thoran, and olan. Avial is a mixed vegetable curry that is flavored with coconut and yogurt. Sambar is a lentil-based curry that is seasoned with a blend of spices. Thoran is a dry vegetable dish that is sautéed with coconut and spices. Olan is a white pumpkin and red bean curry that is flavored with coconut milk.  

Another vegetarian dish that is popular during Vishu is 'pachadi,' a dish made with yogurt and a vegetable or fruit, such as cucumber or mango. It is flavored with mustard seeds, curry leaves, and red chilies. The sweetness of the fruit or vegetable and the tanginess of the yogurt make for a unique and delicious combination. 

Seafood Delicacies  

Kerala is also known for its love of seafood, and Vishu is the perfect occasion to indulge in some seafood delicacies. One of the most popular seafood dishes during Vishu is the meen pollichathu, a fish curry that is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. The banana leaves impart a unique flavor to the curry, and the steaming keeps the fish moist and tender. 

Another seafood dish that is popular during Vishu is the chemmeen (prawn) curry. The curry is made with coconut milk and a blend of spices such as turmeric, coriander, and cumin. The prawns are cooked in the curry until they are tender and juicy.   

Sweet Treats 

No festival in Kerala is complete without some sweet treats, and Vishu is no exception. One of the most popular sweet treats during Vishu is the pal payasam, a rice pudding that is flavored with cardamom and garnished with cashews and raisins. Another sweet treat that is popular during Vishu is jackfruit halwa, a dessert made with jackfruit pulp and jaggery.  

Vishu is a festival that is deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of Kerala. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate the bounty of nature, seek blessings for a prosperous future, and indulge in some delicious traditional dishes. The festival is a celebration of new beginnings, and the Vishukkani is a reminder of the importance of seeking the blessings of the divine. Whether you are a resident of Kerala or simply curious about the rich cultural heritage of India, Vishu is a festival that is not to be missed.