How Winter Brings Blessings For Kashmir?

How Winter Brings Blessings For Kashmir?

How many lessons of faith and beauty we should loose, if there were no winter in one year”

                                                                                                                                          _ Tomas Wentworth Higginson

The Kashmiris say that one needs sanctions from the Lord to see Kashmir in all its beauty; implying of course to the beauty of their winters. The great Mughal ruler Jahangir wasn’t exaggerating when he said “If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here”. This is especially true for the winter backdrop of Kashmir. Nature knows its course best. Every season has its own importance and utility. No season is less important than others. One season opens the smooth passage for the other to flourish. Kashmir is known to be mesmeric no matter in which season you visit it – summer or winter, spring or autumn. Winter is the coldest season of the year. During this season the sun loses its heat and brightness and often remains hidden behind clouds, fog or mist. The temperature is usually around freezing point. It’s usually a cruel and an unpleasant season though it has a charm of its own. In winter, the valley seems to be dressed in white overalls. The streets, bazaars, fields, gardens and roofs are all covered with snow. Water freezes and it is icy everywhere. Birds, beasts, cattle and other creatures are unwilling to roam about. Dogs forget their barking and crow their cawing. Winter is the fourth season of the four well known seasons of Kashmir, It follows autumn and lasts from December to February.

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“Chillai-Kalan” is a Kashmiri term referring to the harshest period of winter. It is a 40-day duration between 21st December and 31st January when the temperature drops down several points below freezing. This period receives intense snowfall in many regions of Kashmir and is a sight to behold. The ongoing 40-days long cold climate is followed by a 20-day and a 10-day long period called “Chillai-Khurd” (small cold) and “Chillai-Bachha” (baby cold) respectively. For the Kashmiris, this is a celebrated time. Although it makes life ever so hard, it is most beautiful. It is, in spirit, the soul of what Kashmir stands for. The Kashmiris have culturally devised ways to beat the cold and enjoy the essence of this time of year. They wear long woollen overcoats called “Pheran” and often hold a clay coal pot encased within a cane basket called a “Kangri”, under their Pherans.The houses also have Bukharis and Hamams in them to keep them warm. Bukharis are also used in houseboats, some hotels, huts etc to provide warmth. This provides cosy warmth throughout. It is a common sight to find people in this attire even in public. The water in the pipes, taps, and lakes gets frozen. In winter times the Dal lake freezes during the night and the locals have to clear out boat routes every morning to make way for their Shakira’s (traditional boats). It is indeed a rare scene for an outsider to experience as very few travellers brave to venture into Kashmir in the peak of its winter, but the ones who do are hugely rewarded. In winters, people in Kashmir enjoy winter sports like ice skating, skiing etc.

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Gulmarg is a winter destination like no other in India. The name literally translates into “a meadow of flowers” referring to 21 different varieties of wild flowers that were collected by the Mughal emperor Jahangir for his own gardens. During winters this region takes on a completely different attire and transforms itself into an ocean of soft snow. The weather conditions and the texture of the snow is ideal for Skiing and Snowboarding. The Gulmarg Gondola is one of the world’s highest operating cable cars. The two-stage gondola lift ferries about 600 people per hour to and from Kongdoori Mountain and Apharwat Peak. There are a lot of changes in the food and lifestyle of people during winters to apt the climate changes and adjust to the winter weather and keep themselves warm. A varied variety of hokh-syun & winter foods are used by the people in the winter which includes: Wangan-Hachi, Gogji Aar, Winter Farrigad or smoked fish, Shab Deg, Harissa.

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As soon as winter sets in, the business hustle and bustle declines. The Government offices shifts from Kashmir to Jammu from November till mid-April and this period is coined as” Darbar Move”. There is a two capitals for Jammu and Kashmir, one is Srinagar in summer and other Jammu in winter. Because of the chill and heavy snowfall in Kashmir valley, the schools and colleges remain closed in winter almost for two and a half or sometimes for three months. Winter is a time of comfort, warmth, family, introspection, looking back at cherished memories and looking ahead to hopeful times. It brings with it the sweetness of melancholy and leaves us with a heavy heart as the snow melts away into springtime. It is the chill of the winter that gives meaning to the warmth of the summer. These lines are more relevant to Kashmir than to any other part of the country. It is an understatement to say “Jannat e Kashmir”.

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