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On First April, in many societies & Western countries, lies are spread in the shape of jokes, hoax & pranks by people on their friends, relatives, neighbours & colleagues which put the latter to great embarrassment & sometimes to harassment or actual harm. It is a custom called April Fools’ Day which actually calls upon people to concoct a special lie for the occasion by playing a practical joke or hoax with the victim. Some people try to see how far their lie can spread. There are conflicting theories regarding the origin of this custom. There is no need to go into those theories here as they are already in public knowledge. In India, the custom, as such, is unknown but due to the foreign influence, there are references of April Fools’ Day in Indian literature and in 1964, a big musical hit movie titled “April Fool” was made featuring Saira Banu & Biswajeet.

The custom that is annually celebrated in European & Western countries has been unknown to the Kashmiris.  However, Sir Godfrey Thomas Vigne, internationally acclaimed  English traveler-cum-cricketer of 19th century, in his monumental travelogue, Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh & Ikardo, way back in early 19th century, records that the Kashmiris had a custom , throughout centuries, somewhat answering Western Custom of April Fools which was followed on the occasion of new snow fall. One person will deceive another by holding a little of snow in his own hand & accordingly present it to the another ( 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 in a letter , & etc. If the other person inadvertently took what was presented to him, the presenter had then a right to rub it (snow) on his face or pelt him with it, accompanied by the remark in Kashmiri: “No Shin Mubarak” (New Snow is Innocent!), and also a right to demand the forfeit of an entertainment or a nach or dance or some other boon, of the person he had deceived. (Page 356, Vol 1). This chronicle is verbatim adopted & quoted in Gazetteer of Kashmir (1890).

Sir W R Lawrence in 1895 has also reported the said custom , as somewhat like April Fools’ Day, prevalent among Kashmiris when the first snow falls everyone tries to hand to his neighbour a piece of snow concealed in some clever manner. If he succeeds in deceiving his neighbour, he can demand a forfeit. (Page 272).

I may mention here that Kashmiris nowadays congratulate each other by the remark “Shin Mubarak” on first snow fall each year that usually happens in last weeks of December. “No Shin Mubarak”, new snow fall, that was most probably remarked among Kashmiris in April as it might have been snowing those days heavily but , it is no more in vogue, now. Snow falls in Kashmir have also dried from some years. Instead, we observe that on first snow fall in December or January, now people congratulate each other by wishing well on it orally or calling or messaging. It is not a Lie. It is a good will gesture shown by people to each other, & bringing smiles & laughs by making snowman effigies in compounds, parks & roads, when it snows heavily.

That said; April Fools’ Day custom has been connected by some with the fall of Garnada (Muslim Spain) on 25th November, 1491 that ended 780 years’ Muslim rule of that Iberian Peninsula & “alleged” massacre of Muslims by misleading & playing prank on them (Muslims) on a day, notoriously called, 1st April. There are several theories already in public domain on internet connecting this day of playing pranks & hoax on others through different means with Muslims shown as the victims on this day at the hands of the Christians on fall of Garnada. However, as already mentioned, there are different stories floated to trace its origin. Encyclopedia Britannica too has different versions about its origin. But, none of those theories is anyway linking this Festival or Custom to Islam or Muslims of Gernada.

Without going into this issue of genuineness of the theories associating with fall of Spain to end 780 years’ Muslim Rule  there, one thing is candidly clear that on this day lies are spread in the shape of jokes, hoax & pranks which put the others , at times, to great trouble as stated already.

We know that a lie is defined as giving information about something, where that information is at variance with the truth. A lie is forbidden in Islam. So, is it or Lying forbidden in all religions of the world. Then, why to spread it by celebrating April Fools’ Day which is truly a foolish and banal custom followed in some societies on the arrival of 1st April. Why to follow a custom based on Lie that is likely to bring great harm at times. Extreme caution is to be exercised while making “April Fool” of others. Sir Godfrey Thomas Vigne has recording an interesting story of Ahmad Shah, last Muslim Ruler Rajah or Gulfo of Little Tibet/ Baltistan (capital of Iskardo) till 1840 when Gulab Singh conquered it. The story goes like this: a man had made Ahmad Shah “April Fool” by deceiving him by presenting a new gun barrel, and pretending to have his opinion about it. But Ahmad Shah immediately detected the hoax as there was only snow in the barrel. He got the man paraded through the neighbourhood on a donkey with his face towards the tail. (Page 356) The story shows that sometimes playing a practical joke or hoax with others may prove very dearly.

 

M J Aslam is Academician, Author, Story-writer & Columnist

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