Valley Prepares For ‘Chillai Kalan’ Amidst Intense Cold20 December 2010
Srinagar: The bone-chilling cold wave continued to intensify its grip over the Kashmir Valley as its residents prepare themselves for ‘Chillai Kalan’, the harshest 40-day period of winter, which begins on Tuesday. Night temperature in the Valley has stayed three to four degrees below normal for this time of the year and Srinagar witnessed the coldest night of winter so far at minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, recorded during the early hours of Sunday. The summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir recorded a minimum temperature of minus 5.0 degrees Celsius on Monday, a MET department official told PTI. Other main towns of the Valley are also experiencing an unusually cold winter as the night temperature has stayed below the freezing point for most of December. Frozen taps have become a common sight in the Valley as a thin layer of ice forms over water bodies due to freezing temperatures during the nights. Electricity supply has also reduced due to the cold wave as the glacial discharge in the rivers, which fuels power generation projects, has decreased, resulting in unscheduled load shedding for long hours becoming a daily affair. The early setting in of the cold wave has raised concerns among the residents that Chillai Kalan will be even harsher. These concerns have grown as the weatherman has forecast dry weather for the next 48 hours. “Generally, snowfall around the start of Chillai Kalan provides relief from intense cold and freezing temperatures but that has not happened yet. The open skies with no cloud cover have made it worse as it reduces the chances of any kind of downpour,” 75-year-old Abdul Gani, a resident of the Valley, said. “The dry winter has also resulted in significant increase in common ailments like cold, cough and respiratory problems, especially among the children and elderly. It also causes skin problems,” general physician Dr Mohammad Tanveer said. Chillai Kalan is the period when the chances of snowfall are maximum and the most frequent as well. Snowfall and rains during the winter usually lead to cutting off the Valley from the rest of the country as the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, the only road linking Kashmir to other parts of the country, is blocked by heavy snow. A good snowfall, however, ensures that games like skiing, ice skating and snow boarding would go on for a longer period at hill resorts like Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Pahalgam and Patnitop in Jammu region. Traditional warm gowns or pherans made of wool or tweed have become a common sight in the Valley. Kangri, the earthen fire pot in a wicker basket which helps to stay warm, has made a comeback into the lives of Kashmiris, though people in cities use modern gadgets like gas and electric heaters. Traditionally, Kashmiris used to dry vegetables like tomatoes, turnips, brinjals and gourds during the summer for consumption during winters when the Valley would remain cut off from rest of the country. Although the practice has stopped in the city and other major towns due to availability of fresh vegetables even in winter, the tradition continues in remote and far-flung areas of the Valley. Dried fish, popularly known as ‘Hokh Gard’ in Kashmiri, is still a delicacy during the winter. Chillai Kalan is a treasure for Kashmiri literature and folk as the bare trees, snowfall and winter chill of this period have provided content for many folk songs and poems. Towards the end of January, the Chillai Kalan comes to an end but that does not mark the end of chill in Kashmir. It is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day-long ‘Chilla Bachha’ (baby cold).