Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Vishu Keralites' NEW YEAR

Keralites celebrate Vishu as their new year.  It falls every year in the middle of April. Pampered at the western coast of the Indian subcontinent by the Arabian Sea, Kerala is the smallest state in India.
A consoderable part among its 30 more million population lives overseas in Africa, Europe, America, Canada, Australia, the Middle East and Asia. No wonder, Keralites with their love for culture have taken the vishu or at least its idea to all these continents.

The exact date of the celebration is fixed based on some astrological and astronomical calculations. According to which, it is the day Sun enters the Mesha zodiac. On the celestial map it comes after the autumnal equinox. Zodiac is seemingly an imaginary band of 12 constellations around the sky with the ecliptic passing through its center.

The celebrations kick off in the early hours of the day with the watching of the Vishukkani (kani). Kani as shown in the picture is an arrangement of few natural articles easily available in any Kerala home during the season. It is set out by the lady of the home. She sets it the previous night after the rest of the household went to sleep so that nobody else sees it before the right time, the early morning of the next day. Vegetables and fruits, golden in colour, rice or paddy, konna (cassia fistula) flowers, a clean folded linen, a coconut half, beetle leaf, a book, coins, rounded metallic mirror and gold are the items usually needed to set the kani.

A bell-metal pot or any round pot will do as the base . To start with, paddy is spread in it. Then pour oil into a coconut half to which a cotton wick (cloth folded and tied to form a bulb at the bottom) is lowered. This coconut lamp is placed over the paddy at the centre. Everything else is arranged around it in an orderly fashion with the mirror behind the cotton wick to reflect its light when lighted. Prayer room, if you have one, is an ideal place to set the Kani.

When the lamp is lighted, the kani is ready to be seen. Normally the lady of the house leads everybody in the family one by one to the kani blindfold so that it is his or her first sight of the day.

The golden colour of the fruits and the flowers resemble the colour of the Sun. The light from the coconut lamp reflected from the round mirror when shines through the yellow article creates the semblance of a spectacular miniature sunrise.

After peoples’ turn the kani is taken to the outside to be seen by cattle, birds, animals and plants.

Vishu observations are secular. Nothing about religion is mentioned in its original texts in spite of the contemporary Kerala temple practices to attach it with the deities.
Indians in general and Keralites in particular are people who wish to carry on with their traditions wherever they happen to live. It is important to pass on their ancient customs to their younger generations. Even if you live away from home it is not difficult to organize a Vishukkani.One can replace original things in the kani with the locally available products. For example, in South Africa a yellow pumpkin and a yellow ripe mango can replace the jack fruit and golden coloured cucumber. Any yellow flower of the season can replace the konna flowers. Coconuts are available all over South Africa and a cotton cloth wick can be made out of pure cotton (or any small lamp will do).

I wish all Keralites and all those who like to share the joy with them, a very Happy Vishu and a prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Was it Nehru?

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India was known for his public outburst of anger and taking seemingly impulsive decision, instances plenty, pepper Indian history. Of late, adding credence to the claim is the revelation from Australian journalist Neville Maxwell. according to him, ''it wasn't China, but Nehru who declared 1962 war'. It was known to all Indians that China attacked India in the boarder region of Ladakh in 1962 rousing their patriotic instincts and irrespective of caste and religious affiliation they thronged along the streets and public places in protest against China. The war put the Indian army to rout and many soldiers lost their lives.