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Vishu the Dravidian New Year calculated on the movements of the earth and Sun is celebrated across the ancient Sangam Tamil region which spread across the present Tamilnadu, Lower Konkan Coast, Kodagu, Malabar Coast and Kerala. The Vishu or Solar New Year day, the first day of Mesha Raashi falls on the day of Spring Equinox, on the 14th or 15th of April every year.

Vishu literally means equal. The day of spring equinox is heralded with the blooms and fruits of spring equally by all communities. The day begins at dawn with the auspicious sight of Vishu Kani, a rich display of seasonal fruits and vegetables along with idols of Lord Krishna, new clothes, ornaments, sacred utensils, traditional brassware, lit lamp, currency coins and local delicacies of Neyyappam and Elada. Spring harvests of jackfruits, mangoes, golden yellow cucumbers are a must for Vishu Kani. The Kani also includes rice, golden lemon, coconut cut open, Kajal, Betel leaves, Areca nut, Metal mirror (Vaalkannadi), The indispensible element of the spread is the decoration with the tropical spring golden yellow hanging blooms of Kanikonna (Acacia fistula). The Kani is viewed by one and all of the family including the pets and livestock. Following the viewing of Kani the elders of the family bless the younger generations and dependents with Vishu Kainettam in the form of coins. The traditional session ends with fun with all the members of the family gleefully bursting crackers and lighting sparklers.

The feast of the day is sumptuous with Mampazha Pulissery from ripe mangoes, Cucumber-Jackfruit seeds- Yogurt Curry, Chakka Puzhukku from raw jackfruit, neem flower pachadi, Chakka pappadam crackers of raw jackfruit and Chakkapayasam, sweet dish of coconut milk-jackfruit pulp-jaggery. The day ends with temple visits to know about the year’s prospects and visits to relatives. The Vishu day marks the start of the impending agricultural season with the symbolical tilling of the soil and test sowing of the stock seed to confirm its fertility.

The traditions followed in the Indian festivals always have regional, cultural and health significance based on scientific knowledge of our ancestors. The food is anchored on locavorism and the dishes cooked are mutually complementary when it comes to digestion. Vishu is no exception with the values of homeliness, relationships and the positive start for the year with the Vishu Kani. The use of flowers of Kanikonna is proof to the depth of Ayurveda intervention in the traditional Indian lifestyle. Kanikonna as is known very popularly in Malayalam is purging cassia or Acacia fistula. The tropical deciduous tree has medicinal properties to keep the digestive system and skin healthy. The fruit pulp is a very good laxative and a safe drug to treat constipation. The root, bark, flowers and leaves are the best remedies for skin diseases like eczema, summer urticaria, ectopic dermatitis and a host of summer aggravating health problems. The decoction is the medicament of choice in summer fevers both as a remedy and as a preventive. The breeze from the tree cools the body and shields it from summer heat while the beholding of the bright golden yellow hanging flowers induces calmness to the stressed minds. The ancient population through their continued observation and research realized the medicinal values of the plant and included it in the Vishukani so that every household would grow a tree of its own. Spring equinox, Vishu, tropical spring flowers, fruits, vegetables and more than all the Kanikonna or Cassia together make the harsh summer soothing cooling and joyful.

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