Tuesday, 11 April 2017

VISHU festival - by K. J. Thomas

Sweet thoughts of bygone days – Vishu festival
Today (14th April 2016) falls VISHU, the New Year of all Keralites begins today. At the outset I wish all my readers a happy, prosperous VISHU and may God Almighty bless you all and your friends and family members on this auspicious occasion. I also dedicate this article as my ‘ Vishukkaineettam’ to all of you!
 For me, Vishu is not a mere Hindu festival, but one of important national festivals of Kerala and it is the occasion of ‘Vishukineettam’ for every Malayalee. It is the festival of light and prosperity. There are two stories related to the observance of Vishu. It is the day when Lord Krishna killed the demon Tharakasura and Vishu is observed as the victory of Virtue over Vice.
 The second is related to the demon king Ravana who had never allowed Surya deva (the Sun god) to rise up direct from the Eastern horizon. It was only after the death of Ravana that the Sun began to start his journey from the East. This is why Vishu is the day of light and prosperity symbolizing the rise of the Sun god!
All Keralites, irrespective of religion or politics or caste differences, believe in ‘Vishukkani’ and treat the day as very auspicious for the starting of a venture. They all know that the first impression is not only the best but also last for an  year, whether it is good or bad omen!
The living symbol of vishu for all Malayalees is the ‘konna maram’ (the tree of cassia fistula). You can see this tree softly dancing like the mohiniyattam of a malayalee girl on the way side to the song of her dear breeze, in the gardens and parks. Her golden flowers flutter in the April breeze is a wonderful sight.  We may think the inner dome of heaven had fallen on the earth pouring down the holy liquid gold!
 There is a story behind the birth of ‘Konnappovu’( cassia fistula ). Once there was a poor child who was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna. In his dream he saw infant Krishna (kannan) had come to console him in his poverty and sorrow and gave him a tinkler from the gold girdle tied around His waist and disappeared. On waking, the child saw the gold tinkler lying on his bed. But his mother thought the child had stolen it and was beaten up. In deep sorrow and despair, the child cast away the gold tinkler, which hit the tree in his courtyard.  Suddenly thousands of golden coloured flowers blossomed in every branch of the tree. It was a miracle of miracles! The hut became a palace and they lived in comfort and prosperity!
 Ever since then ambitious Malayalees began to plant ‘konna tree’ in every courtyard. During the Vishu period it is a beautiful sight of konna trees stand majestically representing the cultural tradition of Kerala, with millions of gold flowers pouring pageantry of beauty and glory of our age old mythical culture and belief.
If you believe in these mythical stories or not, our Onam, Vishu,  Athapoo and Njattuvelappattu  reflect our cultural heritage transmitted from generation to generation to us on the wheels of time. These cultural values and traditions cement us into the miraculous symbolic universe called Malayalee whether you are Christian, or Muslim or any caste or political ideas to which you belong. These festivals reminds us of the golden bygone days when our forefathers who were farmers and lived in the lap of Nature and they loved flowers, rivers, ponds, water lilies, lotus and shoe flowers, green carpeted hills and valleys and meadows and even worshipped Nature as the gift of God and thought that ‘konnappoo’ had originally been the tinkler of the gold chain tied around the God’s waist and had come to us for our prosperity and comfort of life.  Their life was far better than our sophisticated, ultra-modern, electronic artificial and mobile communication culture covered with plastic ‘ konnappookkal’, plates and dishes. In ancient days our grand fathers had peace of mind. Their life was like the jungle brook bubbling with love and devotion.

 I wish to believe our forefathers’ superstitious ideas because these ideas protected our Natural resources and helped to grow our jungles and preserved our wild animals, flora and fauna. Now wild animals are in conflict with man and kill him whenever the pachyderm is beaten up mercilessly and forced the animal to do hard work for hours together in the timber mills and festivals. These poor innocent pachyderms are forced to parade in the temple processions and tortured with the devastating sound of loud explosions emitted from fire-works. It is high time that we went back to Nature. In this Vishu let’s take a pledge to love Nature, her flowers, green vegetables, animals and make arrangements to protect these wild animals in their habitat – that is jungle and we should not encroach their living place.                                                                                                                                                                           Kjt/14-04-2016