The Golden Shower Tree (Cassia fistula) or Amaltas is symbolic of Vishu

Indian Laburnum – the Vishu tree

Wherever you go in the world, Mallus can be identified on Vishu’s eve as they strip Golden Shower trees bare of flowers! On that cheery note, Happy Vishu!

The Golden Shower Tree (Cassia fistula) or Amaltas is symbolic of Vishu
The Golden Shower Tree (Cassia fistula) or Amaltas is symbolic of Vishu

Today is Vishu, the day of many new beginnings if you happen to hail from Kerala, as three of the Ogres here do. Interestingly, the assembly elections in our home state have seen over 75 percent voter turnout. Good beginnings, we hope, are in season. 

Vishu is also associated with wealth and prosperity, and one of the festival’s enduring symbols is the Indian Laburnum (Cassia fistula) or Golden Shower Tree, known in Kerala as Kani-konna. In northern India, where the tree flowers copiously at this time of the year, it is known as Amaltas.

Two weeks ago I saw several trees in abundant flower in Nagarahole. But here in Bangalore, the best trees seem to be hidden way inside the campus of Christ University. Flowers are eagerly hunted on this day by displaced Malayalees looking to recreate a semblance of homeliness, so many trees are forced to part with their pendulous golden cascades. 

Wherever they are in the world, Mallus (like these in Pondicherry) can be easily identified as they raid Indian Laburnum trees for their blossoms on the eve of Vishu

In Bangalore and Mysore, Ogres searched high and low for a suitable tree to photograph. None were available. Finally, it was left to a non-Mallu (or a Nor-Mal, as a good friend describes our kind) to find a tree good enough to be photographed. In Pondicherry, where most trees are not yet in flower, Sahastra shot these small but splendid trees in full bloom. We hereby anoint him an honorary Mallu!

Wish you a Happy Vishu!

Photographs by Sahastrarashmi. Text by Beej.

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