Monday, March 30, 2009

Nov Sheen Mubarak: Traditional Kashmiri April Fool

I have been twice in Kashmir when the new snow has fallen. About the 10th of December the summits of the Panjal are enveloped in a thick mist and the snow usually falls before the 20th. This is the great fall which closes the passes (as already noticed) for the winter. It frequently happens that a casual fall takes place a month or three weeks earlier. This remains on the ground for three or four days, and then disappears beneath the sun's rays. I am speaking now of its falling on the plains of Kashmir. It occasionally falls on the mountains as early as September, and the cold blasts which it produces do injury to the later rice crops.
They have a custom throughout these countries which answers in some respects to what we call making an April fool. When the new snow falls, one person will try to deceive another into holding a little in his hand; and accordingly he will present it to him (making some remark by way of a blind at the same time) concealed in a piece of cloth, on a stick, or an apple folded in the leaves of a book, or wrapped up in a letter, &c. If the person inadvertently takes what is thus presented to him, the other has a right to shew him the snow he has thus received, and to rub it in his face, or to pelt him with it, accompanied with the remark in Kashmiri, "No shin muburu"* - new snow is innocent! and to demand also a forfeit of an entertainment, or a nach, or dance, or some other boon, of the person he has deceived. The most extreme caution is, of course, used by every one upon that day. Ahmed Shah of Little Tibet, told me that some one once attempted to deceive him, by presenting him with a new gun barrel, and pretended that he wished for his opinion about it; but that he instantly detected the snow in the barrel, and had the man paraded through the neighbourhood on a donkey, with his face turned towards the tail.

- G. T. Vigne, an Englishman visited Kashmir in 1835, wrote in Travels in Kashmir, Ladak, Iskardo, the Countries Adjoining the Mountain-Course of the Indus, and the Himalaya, north of the Panjab with Map, Volume 2.
 Snow at Gulmarg, Kashmir. - April, 2006.Photograph: Gulmarg,  April 2006

I don't know if this funny tradition was popular or if it still is popular in the valley; I haven't heard about it from my elders.
* Shouldn't that Kashmiri line be -" Nov Sheen Mubarak". Yes, it should be.

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I talked to my parents and it turns out that the tradition prevailed even during their younger days.
 Nov Sheen Mubarak
One the morning of first snow, while shaking hands with someone, if you found snow in your hand, you could expect the line Nov Sheen Khoti, New Snow is On You - which meant you owned that someone a treat.

Nov Sheen, New Snow, also had a special significance for newly wed brides. If a mother-in-law played out this prank on her new daughter-in-law (and she often did), then the bride's parents were obliged to send over gifts to their daughter's new family.

With time, this curious practice became an ingrained tradition and during the first year of marriage, after the first snow of winter, a bride's family was expected to send gifts to the bride's new family.

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One fine day, a telegram was received in Srinagar.
On receiving the news of snowfall in Kashmir, a young and recently married man, who at that time happened to be posted 'on duty' in the distant land of Jammu, sent the following message to his in-laws in the Srinagar city:
 Nov Sheen Mubarak. Namaskar. Send Transistor.
 -0-

2 comments:

  1. Great job Vinayak. I always love the work which u do. By the way have a look at my blog a123lad.wordpress.com . Its nov Sheen Mubarak right now & i am not fooling u :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haamid,
      nice to hear someone from Kashmir say that to me! Nov Sheen Mubarak to you too! And a nice blog you have going there.

      Delete

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