Calgarians gather for Vishu Hindu festival to celebrate New Year in India

The middle of April marks an important occasion for Calgarians hailing from the Indian state of Kerala, who are celebrating a cultural festival known as Vishu, which honours the beginning of their new year.

The holiday is marked by family time, preparing colourful decorations and gathering together in prayer.

A couple hundred Calgarians did just that Friday afternoon at the Renfrew Community Centre where primarily Malayali Indians worshipped a deity of Lord Vishnu and his incarnation Lord Krishna.

“It’s such a beautiful adornment accompanied by fresh fruits and flowers,” said Meera Unnikrishnan, secretary of the Organization of Hundu Malayalees Calgary.

“Back in India, we would have freshly harvested seasonal vegetables because this is also the marking of our harvest season, so we have things like mango, coconut, grains of rice, and wear pieces of new clothing called silver.”

Unnikrishnan adds that the ceremony also allows community members to offer blossoms of the Indian laburnum which is Vishnu’s favourite flower and the state tree of Kerala meant to symbolize prosperity for all.

The prayer ceremony featured mantras chanted by Sriram Vancheeswaran, who says Vishu is meant to bring everyone together.

“In India, there are fireworks, a cultural feast, dances and other cultural programs so this is actually a way of living,” he said.

“We call it a Satsang, which is a group of good people who come together, forgetting their differences, who is big, who is small, so when you look at them you will see they are not from different families, they’re from the same family.”

Following prayers, a feast called Sadhya was held and elders offered small amounts of pocket money to children with a blessing that their wealth will multiply and they will prosper in the future.

Aaryan Praveen is just 11 years old but says this celebration already means a lot to him.

“It makes me feel happy to enjoy this day and get to a new start,” he said.

“Before everything was online, but now we can go meet each other, see our friends again, and this is such a good feeling.”

Others elders like Karan Menon agree that this day is symbolic because it’s the first major gathering he’s been able to take part in since the pandemic.

“It is surprisingly amazing to see all these people again after two years,” said Menon.

“It’s just overwhelming, especially for the kids celebrating such an occasion and I’m looking forward to the future.”

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