Kerala Gears Up for Vishu, with Travel Restrictions in Place
Vishu, one of the most important Malayali festivals, is here. And with COVID-19 still a force to reckon with, the Kerala government has announced multiple restrictions to curb the spread of the virus among the local population and visiting tourists. The state has installed COVID-19 STEP (Screening, Testing, Educating and Prevention) kiosks at all entry ports of the state, including air and sea. It also recently concluded a campaign to tell tourists that the state is “safe to explore”. Therefore, if you are not feeling sickly, there’s no reason to fear travelling to Kerala to witness the various cultural events during the month of April.
With that, let us explore the origins and significance of Vishu, and what you should know before you set foot in this beautiful southern state.
The Hindu calendar in Kerala begins with the celebration of Vishu (usually in the 2nd week of April), which marks the new year for all Hindus in Kerala. Vishu originally marked the beginning of the first solar month of the new year, named ‘Medam’. It is during this time that the farmers of Kerala enjoy a bountiful spring harvest.
Vishu is also associated with the Spring Equinox as it sets the stage for the start of spring. The main deities worshipped on this occasion are Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna. However, the story behind these festive celebrations is quite unique.
According to Malayali mythology, Vishu marks the day of victory of Lord Krishna over the demon Narakasura. However, many variations of the origin story exist. Another belief marks Vishu as the day the Sun deity Surya Deva began to rise again from the East. This is said to be the result of the death of demon king Ravana, who never allowed Surya Deva to rise from the east. This story puts the Hindu epic Ramayana at the centre of the Vishu celebrations.
The beginning of Vishu is celebrated with an important ritual where everything considered sacred and auspicious in a household is placed into a metal bell-shaped container known as the ‘Uruli’. According to Malayali Hindus, witnessing this collection of items known as the ‘Vishu Kani’, immediately after waking up, ensures peace and prosperity for the entire family throughout the coming year.
After this, a traditional Diya known as the ‘Nilavilakku’ is lit to mark the beginning of the Vishu festivities. Members of the family recite verses from the Ramayana and consider the values imbibed by it to deeply influence their lives in the forthcoming year. They burst crackers and, among other festivities, also have a grand feast known as a ‘Vishu Sadhya’.
Entering Kerala is no longer a hassle with the resumption of domestic air travel. Passenger trains also connect Kerala with all other parts of the country.
* Air Travel
Passengers opting to fly to Kerala need to register themselves on the COVID Jagratha portal and obtain an e-pass that deems them fit for travel. However, there are certain restrictions for visitors planning to stay in Kerala for more than 7 days. For such passengers a negative test report of an RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen test, not older than 48 hours, is necessary.
* Rail Travel
For visitors to Kerala, rail transport may not be preferable for local transportation. The beginning of 2021 saw an unprecedented hike in the price of rail tickets for local daily commuters in Kerala. Daily commuters with Aadhaar-verified accounts were given only 12 online tickets per month. As a result, ticket counters at railway stations across Kerala have become extremely crowded. Moreover, travelling within Kerala for short distances has become even more time-consuming as the commuters are required to enter all their address and personal details during ticket booking.
* Road Travel
In terms of road travel, there are no current restrictions placed by the Government of Kerala, except for the mandate on wearing masks and following all other routine COVID measures. The earlier restrictions of the number of passengers allowed in a private car have now been lifted and this makes visiting Kerala with your family much easier even by road. However, it is always advisable to get tested for COVID-19 before commencing any such travel and one should stay at home in case COVID-like symptoms surface.
With Kerala’s past experiences in active disaster management with respect to the floods of 2018 and the NIPAH outbreak in 2019, the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases has been something that the government has been prepared for. With investments in education and the emergency healthcare response infrastructure of the state, Kerala has been able to bring up the rates of recovery from the Novel Coronavirus. This means that the state is quickly progressing towards normalcy and public places of interest, restaurants, hotels and resorts have mostly been reopened in the state. Club Mahindra’s luxurious resorts located at some of the most mesmerising terrains of Kerala, including green hills and white sandy beaches, are some of the most blissful places to spend your Kerala vacation.
Since Vishu is such an important part of the Malayali culture, visitors staying at several Club Mahindra holiday destinations during the month of April can experience the colourful delights of this festival. Club Mahindra resorts in Kerala will envelop you in the warm lap of nature and offer you an opportunity to immerse yourself in the Malayali culture at its finest. Tourists can choose from a splendid offering of natural sites to visit and pick up savoury mouth-watering local delights as well. Complete with all necessary COVID-19 precautions, celebrating Vishu has never been safer and yet exhilarating for tourists who wish to indulge in the local cuisine, folk art, lore and more.
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