Kashmir Valley is bracing for ‘Chillai-Kalan’, the 40-day period of the harshest winter in the region when the mercury dips by several degrees at most places in Jammu and Kashmir.
‘Chillai-Kalan’ begins from December 21, and during this period the weather in the Valley continues to remain dry and cold with minimum temperatures hovering below the freezing point.
It is during this period that snowfall increases in intensity.
The people usually stock up essentials including dried vegetables, coal and kerosene. The demand for Kangri – an earthen fire pot woven by a wicker case – has already gone up. People are covering themselves in layers of woollen clothing and jackets.
The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai-Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai-Bachha’ (baby cold).
The cold wave that has engulfed Srinagar recorded the minimum temperature of minus 3.2 degree Celsius, a decrease of over two degrees from the previous night’s minus 0.6 degrees Celsius, an official of the MET Department said on Saturday.
The cold wave has led to the freezing of many water bodies. Water in the taps of the city also freeze while early morning motorists are facing difficulties due to a thin layer of frost on the roads.
Dal Lake and other water bodies freeze during this harshest period of winter.
The inhabitants of Dal are seen using their oars to break the layers of ice at several places and make way for their houseboats to reach of banks of the lake.
But for the tourists, witnessing this chill, the snow covered Valley and the frozen lakes is a lifetime opportunity.
But people face lot of difficulties because of non-availability of electricity, the main source of heating rooms, continues to fuel protests in parts of the Valley.
Schools in the Valley have been closed for the long winter vacation and the civil secretariat is functioning from winter capital Jammu.
The chilling cold has impacted the pace of life too and shopkeepers are closing down their shops as soon as evening sets in.
During these winters it is the ‘Hamam’ that comes to the rescue. Hamam are rooms where firewood is used beneath the floor, made of special stones, to keep it warm night and day.
Most shops and business centres open up late in the morning due to the frosty conditions. Snow and frosty road conditions have already forced the closure of Bandipore-Gurez Road in north and Simthan-Kishtwar Road in south Kashmir for traffic.
Meanwhile, with the minimum temperature dropping to 5.5 degrees Celsius, Jammu experienced the coldest night of the season on Friday, the weather office said.
According to weather office, a drop in the temperature was also recorded in the other towns across the Jammu region.
The minimum temperature at Mata Vaishno Devi Base camp town of Katra was 5 degrees, while it was 0.8 in Batote, minus 1.2 in Bannihal and minus 2.5 degrees in Bhaderwah towns.
Though ‘Chillai-Kalan’ would end on January 31, the winter continues after that. Thankfully, it won’t be as harsh as the 40-day-period.