In Jammu and Kashmir, the 40-day ‘Chilla-e-kalan’, considered the ‘Emperor of Winter’, has started from December 21, but the severity of winter has already increased before the arrival of Chilla-e-kalan this year.
Meteorological officials calling the cold wave unusual, and elderly Kashmiris say no such cold has been felt in recent decades.
In Kashmir, meteorological officials believe that this time the temperature in some parts of Jammu and Kashmir could drop to minus -14 degrees Celsius, breaking the record for decades of cold.
Winter in Jammu and Kashmir is divided into three periods. ‘Chilla-e-kalan’ or big winter consists of 40 days, then 20 days ‘Chilla Khurd’ and finally ten days ‘Chilla Bacha’ or short winter. The freezing cold for the first 40 days keeps people indoors. In the next 20 days, the snow begins to melt and in the last ten days, along with the rains, the arrival of spring is predicted.
The literal meaning of ‘Chilla-e-kalan’ is ‘forty big’ and it refers to the 40 days of severe cold after December 21 during which the blood-curdling cold falls in Kashmir. These 40 days of severe cold start on December 21 according to the solar date and 9 Poh according to the Bikram date. These days it is so cold in Kashmir that it has the power to collect blood in the body of an animal and go down to the bones.
People in Kashmir continue to prepare for these 40 days even in summer. During Chilla-e-kalan, all the men and women of across Kashmir burn embers in kangri and wear ferns. These days the temperature in Kashmir drops to minus degrees due to which the water in lakes, streams and rivers freezes and water taps in human populations freeze and burst. It snows a lot these days and is often shrouded in fog and mist.
People living in all the divided parts of Jammu and Kashmir complete their preparation for the weather in these hot winter days only in summer. In remote areas, people store food and drink, and in addition to firewood and fuel, hay and dry fodder for livestock are collected in the summer, as well as snow removal tools from houses and roads.
Summer preparation helps to cope with extreme cold and icy weather. Although winter in Kashmir brings with it immense hardships, the people here not only enjoy the season but also congratulate each other on the arrival of ‘Chilla-e-kalan’, the severe winter season.
By the end of ‘Chilla-e-kalan’, the severity of the cold has reduced considerably and the process of freezing of water has ended. Over the next 20 days the severity of the cold gradually decreases. These 20 days are called ‘Chilla Khurd’ in Kashmir while ten days are called ‘Chilla Bacha’.
The arrangement of these three walks is as follows: walk from December 21 to January 31, walk from February 1 to February 20 and walk from February 21 to March 1. The cold gradually subsides in both the walks after Chilla-e-kalan and the end of Chilla Bacha is considered to be the arrival of spring.
The 60 days from the beginning of January to the beginning of March are famous for the gusty winds in Kashmir. Snow, rain and blood in the veins and cold winds freezing to the pulp in the bones camp in Kashmir.
Chilla-e-kalan, Chilla Khurd and Chilla Bacha are all Persian words and have been used in Kashmir for centuries.