By: G M Mir Nadim
As we all know that winter in Kashmir is most fascinating
than summer. It has its own charm and attractions. But at the
sametime, winters in Kashmir bring several miseries and
sufferings for the poor people of Kashmir.
The most severe part of the winter in Kashmir consists
of three months. It is divided into 3 parts called the Chillas.
The Chillai Kalan, the Chillai Khurd and the Chillai Bache.
Chillai Kalan is the local name given to 40 days period of
harsh winter in Kashmir. It is the coldest part of winter,
starting from 21 Dec to Jan 29 every year. Actually it is a
Persian term which means “major cold”.
Chillai Kalan is followed by a 20-day long Chillai Khurd
(small cold) that occurs between Jan 31 and Feb 19 and a 10-
day long Chillai Bache (baby cold) which is from Feb 20 to
Interestingly according to Persian tradition night of 21 st
Dec is celebrated as Shab-e-Yalda “Night of birth” or Shab-e-
Chellah “Night of Forty” which marks the beginning of the
first 40 days of winter. The Iranian concept also survives in
Kashmir, where Chillai Kalan designates the 40-day harshest
During Chillai Kalan, the weather in Kashmir valley
continues mostly dry and cold with minimum temperatures
hovering below the freezing point. The chances of snowfall
are sometimes most frequent and maximum in Chillai Kalan.
The snow during the 40-day period freezes and lasts longer. It
is this snow that adds to the glaciers of the valley and
replenishes the perennial reservoirs that feed the rivers,
streams and lakes in Kashmir during the months of Summer.
Any snowfall after the Chillai Kalan does not last long. It
mostly remain overcast during this period and even if the sun
breaks loose of the cloud cover, it is feeble and helpless
against the bone chilling power of Chillai Kalan.
In the past, many families would prepare “Shebdeg” on
the 1 st day of Chillai Kalan. A fat duck would be cooked with
turnips and spices in an earthen vessel during the night
intervening Dec 20-21.
Chillai Kalan affects the daily life of kashmiris. Use of
Pheran (Kashmiri dress) and a traditional fire pot called
‘Kanger’ increases. Due to sub zero temperature, tap water
pipelines freeze partially during this period and world famous
Dal Lake also freezes. Famous tourist resorts like Sonamarg
and Gulmarg receive heavy snow.
Celebrating Chillai Kalan with sumptuous Harisa is a
quintessential part of Kashmiri tradition. The first day of
Chillai Kalan was celebrated as “World Pheran Day” the other
In order to promote “winter Kashmir” tourists are
offered a slice of its world class snow meadows sports,
cuisine and culture- in short, a Switzerland- like experience at
an affordable cost.
The government also organizes National Winter Games
in Kashmir at the famous Gulmarg ski-resort and in trying to
persuade Federation of International Skiing (FIS) to host the
International Ski Championship here.
Thousands of tourists visit Gulmarg every year and it is
assured a must-visit winter destination.
Snow festival is also organized in Gulmarg and
Pahalgam. Students from cities such as Mumbai & Delhi are
invited to join the winter camp, there instead of heading off
Pertinently tourism sector has the potential to become a
fulcrum around which state’s economy can rebound in a big
Kashmiris welcome Chillai Kalan with cool pictures,
posing with icicles and taking selfies in pherans, brace bravely
for the hardest period of winter.
Formation of very long icicles from water dripping from
a hillock, roofs of houses, thatches is a wonderful experience
during Chillai Kalan, which are many times taller than
humans, as big as 15 metres (45 ft) long. The sight of
hundereds of icicles is a wonderful experience. The best time
to watch them is early in the morning or late in the evening
and they require around minus seven degree celcius for
Lack of facilities makes Chillai Kalan a dull period. Snow
clearance of roads, lanes, byelanes is not done fast, resulting
in huge miseries and sufferings for the people living in
Kashmir. Shortage of electricity supply, fuel, kerosene oil add
to the pain of people living below poverty line.
Non availability of essentials during Chillai Kalan like
ration, vegetables & other food grains needs to be tackled by
the government with strict adherence to the laws enforced
from time to time. Besides health facilities in nook and
corner of valley needs to be upgraded particularly during
Chillai Kalan period- health facility at door step should be
ensured. In case, government would extend all these facilities
to the common masses particularly down-trodden and poor
people, it would be a blessing in real sense for all of us. Since,
the deserving lot has been experiencing lots of difficulties
during winters, unfortunately it proves to be a curse for
I may suggest here that the section of the society who
don’t earn even a simple penny during harsh winter should
be financially supported by the government as well as
nitizens who are well off so that the poor and needy survive
this harsh period of winter comfortably.