April and May mark the start of a new year and spring harvests in many parts of India because of the country’s agrarian cultural roots. While the folks up north celebrate Baisakhi and Bihu, South India and Kerala in particular celebrates Vishu, with Vishu 2017 falling on 14 April. The festival is also celebrated in parts of the Tulunadu region of Karnataka, and its solemn, mellow festivities stand in stark contrast to the pomp and show of Baisakhi and Bihu.
Apart from the fireworks display that happen in parts of Kerala, Vishu ushers in the new year with humbleness and sobriety. The literal meaning of Vishu is equal, symbolizing the completion of one yearly cycle and the beginning of another. A deeply familial festival, Vishu also revolves around Krishna, a Hindu god and avatar of Vishnu.
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To celebrate the start of a new year, Kerala households arrange a tray of auspicious items, ideally from the new harvest, and present in front an idol of Krishna, which is the first thing that they see when waking up on the even of the new year. With blessings given right at the start of the year, the new year is off to an auspicious start.
Celebrated in the Tulu region of Karnataka, Bisu or Bisu Parb is celebrated very much like Vishu in Kerala, with freshly harvested fruits and vegetables considered ausipicious being placed as an offering to god, with a mirror beside the heap. Every member sees his or her face in the mirror and prostrates before the offerings, in veneration of mother nature and her gifts.
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