Dubai: Indian expats celebrate spring festival with traditional fervour

Called Vishu, the day also marks the New Year for people following Malayalam calender

by

SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Sat 15 Apr 2023, 7:18 PM

Last updated: Sat 15 Apr 2023, 8:44 PM

For many expat women from the South Indian state of Kerala, the preparations to celebrate the spring festival began as early as 4am on Saturdaym April 14 in the UAE.

For them, the day began with Kani, a tradition that involves a decoration made of flowers. " We use a particular yellow colour flower called konna puvva which blossoms during this time,” explains Lakshmi Supin.

The spring festival in Kerala is called Vishu, and it is usually celebrated with traditional fervour by the expat community. A new agricultural cycle connected with values like togetherness, care, respect, feasts, new clothes, firecrackers, and much more begins on this day.

The Vishu festival is also celebrated in of Karnataka's Tulu region, Puducherry's Mahe and pockets of Tamil Nadu.

According to Vishu rituals, family members are made to see the Kani the moment they open their eyes in the morning. “First, I wake up my husband (Sudharsam). I close his eyes with my hand and escort him to a place where he is made to sit in front of a religious idol. Then I slowly open his eyes, and the first he sees the idol,” explained Lakshmi, adding that the procedure is repeated for every member of the house, including her daughter Ashika, and son Aarush.

Another Keralite expat from Dubai said it is the day of welcoming Aries in the astronomical calendar (Medam) and the New Year/harvest festival in Kerala. The day also marks the New Year for the people following Malayalam calender in Kerala.

“In Kerala, in every Hindu home, we welcome the year by making the Vishu Kani. It's the first thing we want to see to begin the year. The ritual begins at dawn and this year we started at 4am. It usually falls on April 14 or 15,” said Divya Praveen.

“The Kani consists of Lord Krishna's idol, and konna (flowers of the golden shower tree) Kodi is the new Kerala off-white with golden clothes we generally wear them,” added Praveen.

The faithful place a pattu (silk), valkanndi (mirror), golden cucumber, mango raw and pineapple, plantains and coconut in an uruli (large bowl), and the first view is said to bring prosperity and abundance.

“We place rice, cash and jewellery. It is the manifestation that the year is going to be good, abundant, and happy,” said Praveen.

After the morning rituals are over, preparations begin for sadhya (a traditional meals consisting of vegetarian dishes) begins.

In Dubai, Vishu is marked with a variety of dishes, including avial, pachadi, thoran, pappu, sarkara vatti, chammathi, inji pulli, pradhaman and other itens. “A grand feast is laid out with many traditional dishes and the meals is served on a banana leaf,” said Lakshmi.

After lunch, some traditional games are played amongst the elders and the young ones of the family. Then in the evening, children are given a kaineettam gift (money). “Elders in the family give cash or pocket money to kids,” said Praveen.

“Even the elders receive kaineettam from the eldest members at home. Even I get the money from my husband,” said Lakshmi.

Many expats said they miss home during Vishu, “However, the cultural atmosphere in Dubai embraces festivities and makes us feel at home,” said an expat.

ayaz@khaleejtimes.com

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