Vishu is celebrated in Kerala to welcome the Malayalam New Year. It is celebrated wearing new clothes, a humongous feast and fireworks. Vishu normally falls on April 14 but this year it is celebrated on 15th as the equinox occurs late on 14th. Vishu starts with a Vishukkani, a display of fruits, vegetables, rice, mirror, coins, a piece of new cloth, jewels and bunches of a special yellow flower known as ‘Konna’. This is placed with the statue of Lord Krishna and all members of the house should have a first look at this display when they wake up in the morning. It is supposed to bring prosperity and a bounty to the farming community.
This is my last year’s Vishukkani as I will set up this year’s Kani tonight for tomorrow morning’s first sight. It is normally the mother who blindfolds her children with her hands and guides them to see the Kani, after she lights the oil lamp in front of the deity. On the day of Vishu, elder family members give a gift of coins known as Vishu kaineetam to young children. Money and new clothes are given to all workers in the household as gift. Then, during midday there is a grand lunch called Sadhya, a feast with multiple curries. There is a particular way in which different curries are to be served on the banana leaf. The last item of the feast is a sweet dessert called Payasam. Milk payasam, a liquid pudding made with rice and milk is a special treat for the day.
At night there will be a colouful display of fireworks from every house. There are also community celebration with cultural entertainments in Hindu temples.
Any Sadhya is not complete without a payasam, the classic Kerala dessert. Milk payasam is a ‘Naivedyam’ in most Krishna temples like Guruvayoor and Ambalapuzha. I have a very easy Paal payasam made in a pressure cooker to celebrate this festival. This payasam is done with simple ingredients and it is simmered to perfection when one is busy making all the other items of the feast.
• 2 cups milk
• 2 tbsp raw rice
• ½ cup sugar
• A pinch of salt
• 1 cardamom
1. Wash rice, drain and pulse it in a mixer to break it coarsely.
2. In a pressure cooker, add milk, broken rice, sugar, salt and cardamom.
3. Mix well and put it on a stove and let it steam.
4. Put the weight on the pressure cooker.
5. After 1 whistle, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
6. When it cools, open the lid and serve.