We drove down from Thrissur to Ottapalam yesterday. On both sides of the road, we noticed a number of Kanikonnas in full bloom. It appears that this year's exceptionally hot weather has triggered the early blooming. Normally, the blooming takes place around Vishu in the middle of April. And that is why the tree is also known as Vishu konna. The other explanation is the 23* odd difference between the Sidereal and Tropical Zodiacs which has taken place over the years due to Equinox precession and Nutation. Vishu used to coincide with the Spring equinox which is March 21 when day and night are of equal duration. If you go by that, the blooming was on time in Kerala.
I had noticed that farther up North you travel, away from the equator, the blooming of the Kanikonna is also later in the year. I have seen Kanikonnas in full bloom in June-July in Jorhat and Kolkatta during my inspection travels. In Assamese it is known as Sonaru and in Bengali it is Sonali or Sondal. There was a particularly good specimen in full bloom at Victoria Memorial in Kolkatta. There were a couple of trees in the Botanical garden at Alipore.There was also an albino variety at the Maidan near the Kolkatta stadium side by side a normal golden variety. Wikepaedia mentions in the article on Indian Laburnum (Cassia Fistula indica) that the flowering occurs in May in the Northern hemisphere and in November in Southern hemisphere.
In many ways, Kanikkonna has as great an influence on the Malayalee psyche as the Cherry blossoms on Japanese. Cherry blossoms also flowers in March-April and the flowering of trees advances from the South to North. But the Japanese have made it an occasion to be celebrated systematically. The Japanese Meteorological Agency monitors the advancing cherry blossom front. The Hanami festival is in celebration of the blossoming of cherry blossoms. To the Japanese, the cherry blossoms represent the transient nature of life as the trees blooms but only once a year and that too for a short period. I am reminded of a sentence written by Shanta Rama Rau in Readers Digest quite some years ago. It goes like this. "Most people possess the ability to appreciate art to some extent; but it is only the Japanese who have made an art of appreciating art" The viewing of the cherry blossoms is as elaborate a ceremony as tea ceremony or viewing the rain or sunset or chrysanthemums.
The Vishukkani need not be confined to an early morning darshan of Konnapoo on Medam 1. It has the potential to be developed as a big festival like the Hanami festival or the viewing of the fall colours in US. With a little effort, both sides of our roads could be lined with Konna and May flowers and when in bloom it would be a sight for the Gods to behold! We have spent or wasted crores on Vana Mahotsav, social forestry etc. for planting useless shrubs like acacias, sheemakkonnas etc We could spend some on a native variety.
Konna is the state flower for Kerala. It also is the National flower for Thailand which is not much bigger than Kerala. The names for Konna in Sanskrit are quite expressive. Kritamala" "Suvarnaka""Saraphala""Chaturangula"For a detailed list please visit http://www.worldforestrycentre.org/ and look up Indian Laburnum.
Someone mentioned to me years ago that we could have a 'kanji ceremony' like the Japanese tea ceremony. We could use the leaf of the jack fruit tree in the traditional way instead of a spoon, have a whole lot of other dishes like chammanthi, cherupayar, chutta pappadam, ghee, kappa etc. We can have as elaborate a ceremony as we want. May be someone will give it a try. Some young guys have started following the Monsoon clouds after the publication of Alexander Frater's book 'Chasing the Monsoon'. A vishu konna festival has also marketing potential .