Kashmiris welcome ‘chillai kalan’ with cool pictures

Posing by icicles and taking selfies in pherans, residents brace for the harshest period of winter

People in the Kashmir valley are finding unique ways to celebrate the start of ‘chillai kalan’, a local term for the 40-day period of harshest period that begins annually from December 21.

Dozens of local tourists were seen thronging Baramulla’s Drang tourist spot, around 40 km away from Srinagar, to witness the formation of very long icicles from water dripping from a hillock. Scores were seen taking selfies on Monday against the backdrop of the icicles, which are taller than humans.

“It is an amazing experience. I have been visiting Drang for the past seven years to enjoy the icicle formation. This year, many icicle formations were as big as 15 metres (45 feet) long. I guided scores of domestic tourists at the spot. They were equally excited,” Muneer Alam, an engineer-turned-mathematician, said.

He said the sight of hundreds of icicles makes for a unique experience. “The best time to watch them is early in the morning or late in the evening, and they require [a temperature of] around minus seven degree Celsius for formation,” Mr. Alam said.

In the Persian tradition, the night of December 21, the longest of the year, is celebrated as Shab-e-Yalda (night of birth) or Shab-e-Chelleh.

Dozens of netizens from Kashmir named it the ‘Pheran Day’, after the long woollen gown worn during the winters in Kashmir.

“The first day of ‘chillai kalan’ is to be celebrated as ‘World Pheran Day’,” radio jockey Sardar Nasir Ali Khan said. He started an online trend to post “pheran selfies”, which hundreds followed and did.

The 40-day chillai kalan is followed by the ‘chillai khurd’ and ‘chillai bacha’, which sees a rise in day temperatures.

The Kashmir valley is reeling under a cold wave as minimum temperatures hover around minus 6 degrees Celsius, freezing water taps and creating sheets of ice around the edges of most water bodies.

According to the Meteorological Department, tourist hotspot Gulmarg is witnessing minimum temperature of around minus 10.6 degrees Celsius and Pahalgam is about minus 9.2 degrees Celsius.

The department has predicted a further dip in the night temperature.

“Except for light to moderate snowfall on mountains of Kashmir and Kargil of Ladakh, the weather is likely to remain dry and cold till December 26th. A spell of light to moderate snowfall is likely to take place during the night of December 26-27,” the Met Department’s forecast said.

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