In Photos: 'Chillai Kalan' Begins in Jammu and Kashmir

Kashmir is in a deep freeze as the forty-day long harsh spell of winter, locally called ‘chillai kalan’, has begun.

3 min read
In Photos: 'Chillai Kalan' Begins in Jammu and Kashmir
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Kashmir is in a deep freeze as the forty-day long harsh spell of winter, locally called ‘chillai kalan’, began on Tuesday, 21 December, with the minimum temperature already sub-zero in the entire Valley.

The period, which begins from 21 December and ends on 31 January, sends shivers down one’s spine.

Chillai Kalan is a Persian term. Chilla means 40, Kalan means bigger. There are three chillas - The Chillai Kalan, the Chillai Khurd, and the Challai Bache.


Chillai Kalan will be followed by a 20-day long Chillai-Khurd (small cold) that lasts from 31 January to 19 February and a 10-day long Chillai-Bachha (baby cold) which is from 20 February to 2 March.

In this pace of the valley, slowed down due to sub zero temperature, people leave homes very late in the morning and return early in the evening.

Tourists coming from outside Kashmir seem very excited to experience the Chillai Kalan and are eager to see the frozen dal lake in the harsh winters.

What Kashmiris do in Chillai Kalan?

Wear Pheran

Kashmiris put on traditional pheran (long woolen gown both for males and females) to protect from cold.

Light Kangri

Kangri is a traditional earthen firepot used to keep warm and ward off the cold. Despite having different avenues of heating, Kangri, in which coal is used, is most reliable. It keeps a person warm for the day. The coal is replaced every morning.

Kangri and Pheran go together. Either of the two is useless without each other.

Eat Dry Vegetable

Dried vegetables are frequently consumed by Kashmiris as most of the time, fresh supplies go scarce due to road blockage from heavy snowfall. The land used for agriculture also remains under snow so Kashmiris stock the vegetables left to dry for months during summers and consume them in the winter.


Celebrating Chillai Kalan with sumptuous Harissa is a quintessential part of Kashmiri tradition.

Harrisaa is prepared from minced meat mixed with rice flour. The mutton is kept in an earthen pot overnight so that the flavours soak in.

Harissa is served early in the morning during the winter season in Kashmir. People believe harissa keeps them warm and helps to protect themselves from the spine chilling cold.

(Faisal Malik is an independent journalist based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir)

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Topics:  Jammu and Kashmir   Winter 

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