Kashmir Celebrates Winter Chill
Winter is the harshest period in Jammu and Kashmir. Called Chilla-kalan, the coldest period is from December 21 to January 31. The 40-day Chilla-kalan is a period of sub- zero temperatures when stagnant water bodies across the Kashmir Valley freeze. This is also a season when cold and cough as well as fever are common illnesses in Kashmir. There are more deaths during winter, mostly because of the aggravation of ailments like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, bronchial asthma and post-TB complications. According to medical experts, the drop in temperature is accompanied with a 30% rise in viral infections. In short, Chilla-kalan is scary and depressing.
However, since the last four or five years, people have started to celebrate Chilla-kalan. The attitude is what cannot be cured must be endured. Chilla-kalan cannot be wished away. The season recurs every year and we should enjoy it. After all, there are many regions in the world that go through even harsher winters. Ladakh, which till recently was part of Jammu and Kashmir, experiences far harsher winters than the Kashmir Valley. They are not intimidated, however. In fact, people in Ladakh find ways to enjoy and celebrate every season. It is a healthy sign that people in Kashmir too have started celebrating the
Chilla-kalan. Jashn-e-chilla-kalan festival is organized by the Department of Tourism and also by the army. It is good to see people participating in these festivals. These festivals will gradually become part of our culture and rightly so. December 21, the first day of chilla-kalan, is also observed as International Feran Day. Feran is the long warm tunic-like dress traditionally worn by Kashmiris during winter. It is encouraging to see people going back to their roots. Kashmiri culture has seen so many disruptions. People wittingly or
unwittingly surrendered their identity and culture to foreign invaders and intrusions, mostly in the name of religion. It is quite heartening to see Kashmiri Pandits observing International Feran Day. The region’s cultural richness should be preserved.