In pictures: Winter in Kashmir through its food, fire pots and pherans

Wasim Nabi
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In pictures: Winter in Kashmir through its food, fire pots and pherans

In pictures: Winter in Kashmir through its food, fire pots, and pherans harissa hamam kangri gulmarg winter sports 30 stades

The vibrant fall, with rust-coloured crisp chinar (maple) leaves, makes way for bone-biting cold as Kashmir enters Chillai Kalan – the 40-day period from December 21 to January 31 when the valley looks like white sky dotted with colourful stars. Sheets of snow cover mountains, roads, fields, trees and every open space while rivers and streams freeze, indicating that time comes to a standstill during winter in Kashmir. 

With snow-capped mountains and extreme cold, most people prefer to stay indoors. But for adventure lovers, it is the time to embark upon trips to mountains and meadows. Gulmarg remains one of the favourite spots for tourists and locals alike.

Also See: Visuals of Kashmir’s beauty in autumn

The 10-feet layer of snow in the meadows of Gulmarg offers opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter adventure sports. 

Outskirts of the city don’t look much different. When it snows, it snows heavily. Traffic takes days to slither back onto the roads and power-cuts disturb life.

But people find ways to keep themselves warm. Many shops in old Srinagar and even households make harissa - a one-pot slow-cooked mutton dish, which can keep you warm from within.

Also Read: Kashmir’s local bread-baking thrives as kandurs serve up delectable breads

In huge earthen pots, mutton is cooked with cinnamon, fennel seeds, green and black cardamom, cloves, fried onions and salt besides other ingredients to make harissa.

Hours of slow-cooking impart it a rustic taste and mash-like consistency. Most shops make it till March just before spring sets in.

People also find warmth, away from the nerve-chilling cold, inside a Mughal invention called hamam. Hamam is a special room in a house or a mosque, which is heated up by a sturdy fireplace beneath. The warmth of hamam’s stone floor makes it an appropriate venue for debates and banters as it snows outside. 

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When there is no hamam to offer warm respite, there is a traditional companion that comes to the rescue – kaanger or kangriKaanger is an earthen pot enclosed in a wicker basket. Sizzling coal pellets are put in the pot and it provides warmth for hours.

The kangri or fire pot is a personal heater that every Kashmiri carries around during winter.

Chillai Kalan or Chillia Kalan is the harshest period of winter when the temperatures drop to minus 11 degree Celsius. And that’s also when you can see cars being driven on the frozen surface of Dal Lake. It is only kaanger which can protect one from the merciless chill of Chillai Kalan

As winters gradually wane into the pleasant spring, Kashmiris heave a sigh of relief but with a tinge of nostalgia. They can get rid of the traditional woollen cloaks called pherans, and go out once again. But somewhere in their hearts, they wait for Chillai Kalan to once again experience the time frozen between sheets of ice. Wasim Nabi has captured it all in his lens through these pictures:

Snow-capped mountains and clear blue sky. Kashmir in winter. Pic: Wasim Nabi
Water begins to freeze in Dal Lake as winter progresses. Pic: Wasim Nabi

Also See: Visuals of paper maché: Kashmir’s 700-year-old ‘chewed paper’ craft

An umbrella to shield from snowfall. Pic: Wasim Nabi
Coal being broken into small pieces that will go into kangri or fire pots. Pic: Wasim Nabi
Morning fog during winter. Pic: Wasim Nabi

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Kangri or kangeer arrive in the market before the onset of winter. Pic: Wasim Nabi
Willow wicker is used to make the kangri basket. Pic: Wasim Nabi

Also See: COVID-19 impact: Fruit growers stare at losses as strawberries, cherries & apples rot in Kashmir

The little boy's personal heater - Kangri. Pic: Wasim Nabi
Happy being warm with the portable heater (kangri). Pic: Wasim Nabi
Harissa, the one-pot winter dish, being prepared at a shop in Srinagar. Pic: Wasim Nabi

Also See: In pictures: Bihari food beyond litti chokha

Harissa, a mutton mash that keeps the body warm from within, is ready. Pic: Wasim Nabi
Pherans are woollen cloaks worn by men, women and children to beat the cold. Pic: Wasim Nabi
Keeping themselves warm without kangri, pheran or harissa. Pic: Wasim Nabi

(Wasim Nabi is a Srinagar-based freelance multimedia journalist).

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