Sunday, April 15, 2007

Down The Memory Lane Celebrating Vishu, A Kerala festival & A Virtual Glimpse Into The Backwaters Of Alleppey, Kerala.

To start your Slide show , Click on the picture below.

A couple of days back, I received a comment from someone saying that he/she is a regular reader of my blog. I felt very happy at the fact that I do have some regular readers and some ghost readers, though I started my blog hardly 2 ½ months back. But I dread the day when someone comes saying that I am a "prisoner of the past" as my rambling and musings occupy more space than my recipes and hence, better change the title from Mishmash! to Nostalgia! or as my dear friend LJ puts it Nosti ! ;-) So if someone is contemplating on the above-mentioned suggestion, then I have only one thing to say, I don’t mind being a prisoner of the past if the imprisonment is with some sweet memories :)

Whenever the festival season arrives, I get swallowed up in the whirlwinds of nostalgia and today was one such day, Vishu, a festival of Kerala and is considered beginning of a New Year even though it is not the first day in Malayalam Calendar. Last two days, I have been thinking about my childhood days and the picture of my grandfather’s house kept flashing in my mind as we used to be there during most of the festival season; A big house, our Tharavadu (ancestral home) in an extra-ordinary large plot with lots of coconut trees, mango trees, jackfruit trees and much more..In the front yard, there was a Jambakka tree and during the time of Vishu, the tree was illuminated with its own jambakka fruits, and the most splendid sight was that of the fully bloomed Kani Konna (Cassia Fistula/Indian laburnum), a golden yellow flower which is a must-have in the Vishu Kani, the most important ritual on a Vishu morning and it used to appear like a ‘golden shower’ as the Konnappoo ( flowers of Cassia Fistula) fell when the winds touched ‘em gently :)

My grandfather’s house had a couple of maids (Yes, that’s an Indian luxury!!) to help us in the outdoor chores and I remember how they used to clean up the yard and burn all the dry leaves and branches as the day before Vishu is called Sankranthi and cleaning up is part of the tradition. As kids, all our cousins used to be high spirited as we got new clothes during the festival time as well as got to burst the crackers and sometimes we started this one week in advance :) The night before the festival, my aunts made arrangements for preparing the Vishu kani, the most important ritual of Vishu, which literally means the first thing that you see or a good omen and it is based on the traditional belief that since Vishu marks the beginning of a new year, one is supposed to see good things which will bring prosperity and fortunes in the whole year. So my aunts used all the brass metal cleaning liquids and made the Uruli, a wide mouthed bell metal vessel shine like gold and then it was filled with grains and topped with traditional vegetables like a golden cucumber,mangoes, jackfruit, banana, pumpkin, a halved coconut containing oil and a wick to be lit in the morning, a mirror and some silver coins and gold ornaments on a traditional Kerala saree (as shown in the picture) and this was placed in front of a garlanded statue of Lord Krishna. Early morning on Vishu, one of my aunts would get up around 5 am to light up the lamp, to view the Kani, which is the abundance and prosperity of nature and then she used to wake up others in the household and led them blindfolded to the place where Kani was kept. Special instructions were given to all small kids not to open their eyes and have a sneak peak at the things around them :) And then followed the most luring tradition of the season, 'Vishu Kaineettam’ (a handsel) given by our grandfather and it used to be new shining silver coins. To be frank, we were a bunch of greedy kids and hence were interested in receiving some currency rather than coins and all those uncles and aunts who used to give currencies, used to be our favorite aunts & uncles ;-) We used to spend all that money for buying more crackers :)

After seeing the Vishu Kani, for us kids it used to be fun time with crackers again and my mother and aunts used to hit the kitchen to prepare Sadya, a grand feast, a vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf. And I remember my father saying that when my grand mother was there, she used to prepare 'Vishu Katta and Manga Curry' ( A rice dish with Mango curry) for breakfast but I 've never tasted that and don't recollect anyone making it when we were kids. Anyway, the most interesting conversations and gossips took place at this time in and around kitchen..I still remember how two of my aunts sat on the floor and grated the coconut sitting on a 'Chirava', a wooden seat attached with serrated blade for scrapping the coconut, (the main ingredient in most of the dishes prepared for Sadya) and exchanging stories, a euphemism for gossiping, about relatives and marriage proposals and all related stories ..and two in the other corner chopping the vegetables....another pair at the kitchen doing the main cooking.....and there were some who used to be the motivators...Now one of you might be wondering how big our family is...indeed big enough for an army battalion! My father had 9-10 siblings and all their spouses and kids and these days a dozen grand kids too!! By noon, Sadya was made ready and I remember my father and uncles going into the backyard to cut the fresh banana leaves and in those days we were supposed to sit on the floor cross legged and eat; believe me, it is a fat man's as well as tall man's agony. I used to hate sitting on the floor cross legged as I could never enjoy the feast thoroughly; I used to get pain on my thighs. And when one was going through all that pain and discomfort, one of my aunts would pop up that most annoying question, whether the banana should be served on the extreme top-left or bottom-left of the banana leaf and then there followed an exchange of opinions. Now I know what is the reason behind all those discussions as there is a specific place for each of these dishes, starting with banana chips, pickles and so on. And the food used to be heavenly with two types of desserts. After the lunch time, there was generally a lump in the activities...some hit the most cozy rooms and curled up like snakes and snored like owls....some enjoyed a movie...some were still busy 'exchanging stories' !! For us kids, it was more crackers...more crackers...and more :)

Sigh !!!! Sitting in Uncle Tom’s land, at times I rewind my memories to my enriching childhood and get lost like this.....! And hey, apart from this festivals and feast, there is one more thing which is as heavenly as this, the pristine beauty of the backwaters of Kerala ! In this post, I have shared some of the snapshots from our trip at the backwaters of Alappuzha, Kerala..gliding along the backwaters in a Kettuvallom (houseboat) .......unwinding oneself enjoying the serene beauty of the nature...floating along the coconut and palm tree fringed narrow canals...paddy fields....the locals passing by in small country boats carrying vegetables and milk for diving into the waters searching for clams & mussels...taking an interim stop to buy fresh catch of Karimeen (pearl spots ) for the day’s meal and enjoying a bottle of fresh toddy (Local liquor) .......relishing the fresh meals prepared on board with local delicacies like Meen Pollichathu, Podimeen fry (small fish fried), Kakka Erachi (Clam/mussels fry)..etc..Let me tell you, ours was quite an amazing experience and I strongly recommend a backwater trip for anyone visiting Kerala. You can hire the boat for a whole day and night and the boats are the floating version of a typical Kerala house with fully furnished bedrooms and toilets, dining room, conference halls and decks with all the modern amenities. If a trip to Kerala is not in the cards, then please take a virtual tour through my slides :) For a list of 20 MUST Do’s in Kerala, Click here.

Here’s a cyber Vishu Kani for all my readers and fellow bloggers; since mine was not a very traditional Kani, our friends R & R was generous enough to share a picture of their Kani for you all, so let me thank my friends too :)

And here’s the Sadya I prepared at home and hope you enjoy it the cyber way :)

We wish you all prosperous days ahead !

UPDATE: For Sadya recipes check out SADYA VIBHAVANGAL - Learn to make the traditional Kerala Feast- An Artist’s Edible Palette !


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. waw waw waw!!!! amazing pic. I am drolling!! Lovely pics, the sari, jewels, the food. OMG!! You must have been exhausted cooking, celebreting. posting this etc.


  2. forgot to mention, beautiful pics!!I had been to exactly the same place. Btw I found banana leaves! one of my mallu friend told me where we get here in NJ.

  3. Hi Shn,
    I am amazed at the wide variety of dishes that you made for Vishu.How long did it take you to put everything together? I was exhausted just making 5!Your
    " kani " looks so beautiful . Happy Vishu!

  4. Happy Vishu to you :) Lovely description of the festival.Sadya looks tasty.Even we serve food on banana leaves,and each item has its own place.
    I too find it uncomfortable to sit down and eat.Tucking the pallu, serving food to every one bending down all the time is again a pain :)

  5. Happy Vishu to you! Your sadya looks amazing. Could you list out all the items? I was exhausted after making only 4 dishes :D. The write-up was good..surely, the festivals do take us down the memory lane..I was also thinking abt my childhood Vishu celebrations today..waking up to see the beautiful kani and to the noise of fire crackers..ah..those were the days!


  6. enne ange Kolle..engane kothippikkale..Oh dear What a beautiful spead!!2 types of Payasam,I am drooling over your pictures.
    "Avide njan undayirunangil ennu
    oru mathra veruthe ninachu poyi..veruthe ninache eirikkam allae..Vallathu tharooo"
    I got lot of information from ur write up..Lovely Presentation!
    innale parangitte poyappol ethrayum pretheekshichilla..CJJ is lucky!

  7. perfect sadya:) how did you manage to do everything- great work..wish I could do a perfect sadya one day....tried this time but ended up doing few dishes..seeing your pictures it gives me motivation-ha ha-may be next time ....happy vishu:)

  8. Aadyam oodiche nokkiye yullu..eppo full vayichu..
    Lovely Pics,I want to go there...
    Last few minutes I was there in ur grandfather's house..Nosti,Wounderful!
    Enna aa recipes edunne?

  9. Happy Vishu to you and CJJ!! Was thinking of a write up in the same lines, but am quite busy now... Hmm, sadya is mouth watering, I too made it but thats the magic of a sadya, no matter how many times you've eaten a sadya, you can have it again and again!! And I dont think I've grown up, I still love to receive kaineetam!!! Sadly hubby is the only one here...nostalgia, nostalgia!!

  10. Who cares whats the name of the blog and what you write about . :) As far as its a pleasure to read no one cares. :)

    That was a lovely peek down the memory lane :) And the pics are just too awesome!!!!!

    Now my desire to visit kerela is even more heightened!!!!!

  11. Happy Vishu to you and your family, Shn. I am a regular reader of your blog and I love each and every visit. You can take me down your memory lane anytime, it is a journey that I treasure and it tells me a lot about you and I learn so many things about your world. So, thank you very much for sharing and please, continue to do so.

  12. Who tells you that?! They must be crazy with no real past!! It's great to see these pics and read your memories!That's what makes us really,isn't it?You keep writing and I will read them all:))

    Feast looks so good.I wish I could transport myself there!:D

  13. lovely spread.. why don't u list the items too or too tired after all that work?how long did it take u to get everything? where did u get the banana leaves? frozen?

  14. Wow,what a spread...lovely pictures ...and do'nt worry about what others say...think yourself blessed that you've got such a treasure of sweet memories to share...

    Belated Vishu wishes to you and your family...our's is called Bohag Bihu.

  15. lovely sadya photo shn, wishing you and your family a wonderful year ahead.

  16. A lovely festive spread and an absolute visual treat, Shn. Wishing you and CJJ a very happy Vishu!
    Beautiful images and loved your write up.

  17. Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

    Warm Regards

    Biby Cletus - Happy Vishu

  18. Perfect! Oh boy, how did you cook all that? You have to give a crash course on making the perfect sadya.

    When I showed my husband some houseboat pictures in Kerala, and suggested a backwater trip during our next vacation, his response was "is there a 911 service?"!

  19. mishy, beautiful kani and scrumptious feast. far away from home and still looked like a typical kerala vishu sadya. i could kill for one banana leaf:):). we had our vishu sadya in plates:))


  20. Hey the pics are lovely ! I think cooking the mallu way is comparitevely very easy but learning the language .. TOUGH !! The Sadya is looks so tempting ..! beautiful pics !! Wish you and your family a very Happy Vishu !!

  21. Lovely Post! The Kani looks beautiful, The spread looks wonderful, in short, Wonderfuk!

    I wish you a happy Vishu..though belated.


  22. Shn its such a pleasure to read your nostalgic stories,if anyone doesnt want to read they can sure dive straight into the recipe.Such a beautiful spread and with the lamp and the kasavu saree 'aishwaryaum niranja oru sadya'What you said about someone asking abt the correct placement of the banana leaf is so true,it happens always always :))Hats of to you dear girl for the lovely spread.

  23. hey happy vishu dear..i see u had a wonderful vishu and a great feast. we had a great feast too but couldn't get the banana it was a kind of bufeet and was no fun..

    i wish u a very happy and a prosperous year ahead.

  24. Shn
    Lovely lovely post. Though I don't know about Vishu much, your words painted a beautiful picture.
    The Sadya looks so traditional and you cooked so many things !!!

    The backwater pictures were very beautiful too. I loved those houseboats. We had taken a boat ride but had not stayed in one of thos boats and now I want to do that.
    Kerala indeed is very beautiful

  25. wow
    thats more than awesome
    luv it

  26. wah... u do know how to make me nostalgic. kani remnds me of vishu celebration back home where my amma used to fill big uruli with different grains and then tie that years batta to door fronts. ah!!! best thing for us kids were getting money from elders ofcourse with blessings.
    looks like we both share similar kind of childhood with dozens of uncles and aunts and big bunch of cousins:)those were the days...
    beautiful post with gorgeous spread of delicacies. u r right...i will change my blog title and even u change it to nostalgic from mishmash;) he he he... hugs to u dear:) for everything:)

  27. Shn, I am speechless...the pictures, the story, the spread amazing!
    I'm sure someone has already told you this, but you should publish these memories and recipes and pictures as a book... I am serious girl!

  28. Belated Vishu to you and your family.Loved reading the writup and my memories went back to my grandparents house.

    Lovely photos!

  29. Mishmash you have a very captivating way of narrating your memories. great post with all that lovely pictures and a grand sadya.

  30. If you continue puttin up snaps like this..I will request blogger to block your blog.. ;-P

    I get dehydrated seeing your blog!!

  31. Wow!!! what a colorful and variety meal for vishu. Pictures looks great.

  32. Dear Shn,

    Wishing you and your family a very Happy Vishu. Hope you had a great time and happiness, peace and success be always in your life..

    Loved to see the traditional food served in such a lovely traditional way...and it was really good to know the importance and meaning of Vishu festival


  33. Hi Shn,
    First of all, a very happy belated Vishu to you. Hope the day went well and hope you have a wonderful year ahead of you.
    I can tell that indeed the day must have gone good with all that wonderful food! I'm sure u were really tired from all that cooking as well!
    The meal looks yummy! wish i could have come :-)
    Your explanation of the tradition in your grandfather's home is beautiful! I've never experienced vishu but my aunt/mom used to tell me about this. It seems they had a good friend who was a malayalee and they went to spend the day with her on Vishu!
    I am sure all this is very nostalgic. I miss those times, especially festival times of our childhood!
    The pictures are very beautiful! My visit to kerala has been limited to Guruvayur! MY fil is from Manantoddy.. in Wyanaad. He grew up there and keeps telling me that I have to visit his hoemtown :-) I will someday.. and will defintiely visit the backwaters of beautiful Kerala. Thanks for a veyr beautiful informative post :-)

  34. Thanks for transporting me! I just loved reading about you and your family, and your photos are gorgeous.

  35. Thats a lovely spread ..Ohh I am looking at these Vishu spreads in different places and feeling like eating them all.

  36. OMG..What A lovely spread...Can't believe you did all this abroad!Or are you hanging out somewhere in Alleppey??.....Great job,Neat presentation..(burp).. Tasty sadya.. Burp...Zzzzzz

  37. hey prisoner, your posts from your prison are awesome. :-))
    beklated vishu greetings to you.

  38. shn, that was great! now, i want to live on one of those little boats, in that tropical place, and eat that food everyday...mmm! and of course, do the 20 things! i love your blog the way it is, too!

  39. Shn,
    beautiful pictures! Reached home for a moment.........

  40. What an amazing spread. I have never made anything like this ever. Where do you live again?? :) Just kidding!!

  41. Shn, it is a gorgeous sayda you made! You made me giggle when saying how different for fat and tall men to sit on flour :) Oh now I still imagining the breath-taking scene of falling golden flowers...
    but what that rude comment! Hope you aren't bothered by this crap! Food is experience, every food reminds me... if not more food, will be my childhood, my family, the people I came across... everything!

  42. Lovely banana leaf spread Shn. Wish I could come over there. I love to have lunch in banana leaf.
    Belated Vishu wishes... Nice to read abt ur write up abt Vishu.

  43. this is the first time , i`m reading ur blog. good job....i just loved reading ...and the sadya was mouth were geat too. you can have one more reader added to your long list of admirers...keep writing...may be some day i can read all this in the form of a book.

  44. Hi..

    Your story brought up good memories....we still celebrate vishu in the same way as u have described....i love sitting in the floor with everyone and having sadya....good pics too..cheers to u...


  45. vishu .. i was in Kerala .. so *grin*

    but a very nice post very neatly written. Great work ( i wish I could blog lik this one day)

  46. i used to come to ur blog once in a while, then realised u r prathibha's brother praveen's friend :)

    i am prathibha's colleague, and a mal myself. recently started a food blog. hope to be half as good :)

  47. Sharmi, thanks...thanks :) yes, I was quite exhausted after all that cooking, eating and making the 3 mile longt post , with a slide show :) But I felt satisfied too :) I am happy that you could finally find out the store to buy banana leaves.

    Mk, Thanks, I did some planing and preparation the previous day, so it was manageable on the day of Vishu :)

    Archana, oh...yes, I agree with you here, tying a saree and serving the food for those sitting on the floor is more difficult :)

    Anjali, you want me to list out the items..ok, here you go.. starting from the left, Parippu Pradhaman and Semiya payasam in bowls, pazham, pappadam, chips, salt, raw mango pickle, puli-inji, onion pachadi, beetroot pachadi, manga curry, cabbage thoran, erissery, avial, kaalan, olan and rice topped with sambar and rasam. Is that ok now ? :)

    Kitchen fairy, hahaha....we had a good laugh reading your comment and that song :)) unfortunately, my grandfather's house is not there any more, it was demolished and a new house was constructed, but they maintained the kitchen of our tharavadu, which was the real happening place!

    Priya, Thanks for all that compliments :) I did some preparations the previous day too. I enjoy sadya a lot and thats my motivation :)) Thanks for dropping by.

    Jyothsna, Thanks a lot :) hmm....kaineettam is always luring :)

    Coffee, thanks dear :) I am happy to hear that some are interested in reading what I write and its a genuine motivation. Hey, dont miss a trip to Kerala...a must see place :)

    Cynthia, Thanks a lot dear :) Its indeed a pleasure for me when I get to hear such things from people like you and I am all the more glad to write about my homeland, its people and cuisine :)

    Asha, Thank you..thank you :) You re a super woman as Latha wrote, I really wonder how you find time for all this :)) hey, you are always welcome at our place :)

    Mallugirl, yes dear, I was really exhausted after all the cooking, eating and then drafting the write up and compiling the pics et al...I should have done some homework earlier, but didnt have time . I did some cooking and preparation the previous day, so it was easy for me on the festival day. yes, banana leaves are frozen but they look and feel quite fresh when thawed ; got it from a local asian store.

    Sunita, Thanks dear :) Yes, I did enjoy all that info you wrote on Bohag Bihu :)

    Mandira, Thanks a lot :)

    Sailaja, Thank you so much and I am glad you enjoyed everything:)

    Biby Cletus, thanks and Welcome to Mishmash! :)

    RP, when I read the word 'perfect', I was all blushing :P .Hahaha, tell your hubby that there is the local version of 911, i.e, the crew on board -anchor, chef and 2 assistants who provided 91 service, actually faster than 911 :))) All the best convincing your hubby :)

    Reena, in plates, thats bad :( yes, you can kill for one banana leave, I understand the situation :) Thanks dear :)

    Vanita, Kerala cuisine is as easy or as complex as other cuisines :) but language part, I agree with you :) Thanks so much :)

    Trupti, oh..lovely lady, thanks a lot :)

    Sumitha, thanks dear :) hmm...'aishwaryaum niranja sadya' ennu parayumbo....oru ela ettalo, erikkunno ? :))

    Maneka, yes yes had a grand vishu but I cant imagine you having the nenthrapazha pradhaman without a banana leaf. Hope you find some place before the next sadya :)

    Sandeepa, hey, not bad, you have been to the major places in Kerala...I rememeber you saying that you had been to thekkady you have enjoyed a bit of Kerala :) Thanks for those generous compliments and I am glad I could paint a beautiful picture about my homeland and its festival :)

    Anusharaji, Thank you and Welcome :)

    Sia, hehehe.....we will find the 'shubha muhurth' and change the blog titles :)) yes, growing up with a dozen uncles and aunts and cousins is really a blessing when we look back now, isn't it :)

    Sig, hahahah, I was laughing out loud when I read the last part of your comment :)) There are many of our blogger buddies who are really worthy of publishing a book, and i will continue with my humble blog and hope you will be there to read my posts , dear :)

    Roopa, I am glad I could transport you to your childhood :) Thanks!

    Pravs, Thanks dear :) I wish we were in the same town, would have sure invited you :)

    Mathew, heheheh....what am I supposed to say ? :) Dont worry, your vacation days are nearing right, make a list of thing you want to eat and send to your family, so they will be ready for the feast from the day you touch down :)

    Aahar Vihar, Thanks and Welcome to Mishmash ! :)

    Sushma, Thanks dear, glad you enjoyed the post :)

    Latha, hey, Wyanaad is a beautiful place, infact its beauty is quite untouched, your FIL is right, should make a trip sometime. I am very happy to see your comment and even more glad to know that you did enjoy the post and pics :)

    Susan, Thanks dear :) I am feeling happy that I could transport you to my homeland through this post and pics :)

    Shilpa, the sadya the cyber way :)

    Bharathy, no dear, I am very much abroad :)Thanks for all that compliments :)

    Bee, hahaha.,.you are quite witty. Thanks :)

    Cinderelly, I knew you would love those pics...and I really wish you visit this place one day and get to enjoy a ride in the backwaters and yes, do the other 20 things ...let me assure you, that will be a trip of lifetime :)

    Seena, thanks dear :)

    Gini, thank you dear :) Wanna join us next year ? :)

    Gattina, no dear, I was just writing down my fears...none made the comment, I was just taking an anticipatory bail incase if someone is planning to :)) I am really happy, I could transport you to my grand father's house and made you visualise the golden showers :)

    Prema, me too...I always feel that the food is tastier if it's served on banana leaf :)

    Nanditha, ohhh dear, thanks so much for all your generous and supporting and inspiring compliments :) hahah, I really dont think all my musings and rambling are bookish materials....I do this for pure fun dear :)

    Rashmi, though sitting on the floor and having sadya is still a big affair for me, I really wish I could bring back all those days, so all the family can get together and reproduce all those great moments of happiness and togetherness !! Good ole days, right !!

    Raghav, Lucky you :) Thanks for those nice comments :)

    N, hey, nice to meet you at the blog world.....Let me check out your blog and then we will decide whether you are half as good or far better :)

    Thank You all ! It's a great pleasure for me to realize that you are enjoying my posts. Hope to see you all more often here!


  48. Excellent Vishu Kani ..Too good

  49. Shn I am a Kerala fan and I looooove Alapu-ah. We stayed at the kerleeyam a heritage home on the banks of Vembanad Lake. I just soak in those memories of 3 days. So I understand you going down memory lane. Love your blog...keep it going.

  50. Hi,
    Your blog is wonderful. Beautiful pictures. It reminded of my trip to kerala during Vishu when I was young.Nice one keep it up.



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