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“If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
As it is rightly said that Kashmir is the heaven on earth and the beauty of this heaven enhances in the winter season. In winters Kashmir turns into white-carpeted heaven. Kashmir is in a different zone from December to March, as the temperature decreases beauty of Kashmir increases. The snow-capped mountains with bare chinars, beautiful pine trees, and frozen lakes add to the Kashmir’s view and can make a person spellbound. The temperature in Kashmir can drop as low as -6 to -8 degrees. Kashmir has winters for 5 months but the coldest are forty days from December 21 to January 31 and are called Chila Kalan. There are different items which are specially designed to use in winters and to protect the body from the cold weather. The houses have Bukharis in them to keep them warm. Bukharis are also used in houseboats, some hotels, huts etc to provide warmth. People in the houses wear Pheran and kangris to keep themselves warm. The water in the pipes, taps, and lakes gets frozen. In winters, people in Kashmir enjoy winter sports like ice skating, skiing etc. There are a lot of changes in the food and lifestyle of people during winters to apt the climate changes and adjust to the winter weather and keep themselves warm.
The few famous and most used items of Kashmir are briefed as under-
- Pheran- It is a traditional outfit in Kashmir worn by males and females. It gained popularity in the late 19th century. It is made of wool to keep the body warm. The word ‘Pheran’ is a Persian word which means ‘shirt’. Earlier the length of Pheran was up to feet but now the length of Pheran has reduced to knees. The Pheran is made up of wool or wool and cotton mix known as Jamwar. It is designed with thread work, Tilla work or Aari Work. Nowadays it has made its place in the new fashion world as well. People wear it with jeans, salwar, palazzo pants, etc. Today’s Pherans are used for contemporary looks as they have slide slits and has a diffusion with coats which adds up to an altogether different style and looks very nice as well. Along with adding to the fashion statement, it serves its prior purpose of protecting the body from the cold weather.
Kangri- Kangri is basically an earthen pot filled with hot coals which is used beneath clothes and blankets to keep the body warm in winters. Kangri is made by molded earthen pots with two arms made with wicker sticks to give it support and thus it makes a perfect portable hand warmer during winters. People in Kashmir use kangri for different purposes just apart from getting warmth from it.
Kashmiri pandits use kangri to burn Isband in them. Isband is burnt as a part of Kashmiri marriages as it protects from evil’s eye and is considered as to bring good luck.
- Noon Chai- It is popularly known as Sheer Chai. It is a traditional tea of Kashmir which is the essential part of Kashmiri breakfast. It is made up of green tea leaves, baking soda, and milk. It is pinkish in color and is served with a topping of Milk cream (malai) and dry fruits. It is usually made in a copper vessel known as Samovar. It is also served in other states like Manipal and Chattisgarh. There it is made by adding sugar in it but in Kashmir instead of sugar salt is added to it, salt is called as noon in Kashmir and that is why it is called noon chai there. It is also served in marriages in Kashmir. It is prepared in a different way than the regular tea. The green tea leaves and baking soda are boiled till the water is reduced to half and attain a syrup-like consistency with wine like color. Then this syrup is added to a mixture of water and milk along with a pinch of salt and then set to boil and in this way, sheer chai or noon chai is made. It is pink in color. It is also served with Rotis made by Kandar( the local baker of Kashmir).
- Kehwah- It is another traditional tea of Kashmir. It is a traditional way of making Kehwah is to prepare it in a copper vessel called Samovar. It is traditional green tea of Kashmir made with saffron and dry fruits mostly almonds. This tea is usually taken after meals. Kehwa helps in digesting food. It also helps in curing cold and cough. It is prepared by brewing green tea in water with saffron, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon sticks and when poured in a cup than chopped dry fruits mostly almonds are added.
- Harissa- It a type of mutton spread used on bakery bread, naans etc. It is one of the most favorite breakfast options during winters in Kashmir. It takes a little bit of effort to cook but the effort is worth. For cooking Harissa, we need mutton, rice flour, onions, milk, vegetable oil and a mix of different spices. The meat is first cooked in the cooker for 1 hour then cooled down. To this mutton add rice flour mesh everything together make a paste and again cook it for 1 ½ to 2 hours and thus in this way smooth Harissa paste is made. Usually, it is cooked the night before the day of serving. Now- a - days readily made Harissa is available which tastes absolutely delicious and sold worldwide.
- Alhach and Vanganhach- These are dried vegetables which make a wonderful and delicious dish to eat in winters. Alhach is dried bottle gourd and Vanganhach is dried Brinjal. These vegetables are sliced and dried in summers and then consumed in winters. These make a delicious dish to eat as themselves or can be added with mutton. The preparation of both has a similar way. These are first boiled in water then cooked in a cooker with vegetable oil and Kashmiri spices. It is best served with rice.
- Nadru- Nadru is the name given to lotus stem. It is the edible part of lotus and makes a very delicious dish. It is cooked in different ways but among all nadru yakhni is famous and most liked all over the world. Nadru yakhni is a dish which is in every menu of a Kashmiri wedding or an important function or occasion. It has little threads in it which are also edible. There are different ways to cook or prepare nadru. It adds to the menu of many famous Kashmiri or non-Kashmiri restaurants as it is liked almost all over the world and tastes very delicious as well.
- Guran- Guran is another edible item that is consumed in winters. Guran is a type of fish which is just the size of a finger. It is found in Kashmir only it can be consumed as fresh as well as can be dried as used later. It is cooked in a similar pattern as a normal fish is made. It provides warmth to the body and is best to be consumed in winters.
- Walnut- The most widely consumed dry fruit in winters is walnut. Due to its various benefits, it is consumed a lot in winters. It is consumed as a dry fruit and can be added to various dishes as well. It is rich in vitamin E and antioxidants which helps controls cholesterol. It is also rich in Omega-3 Fatty acids. It also helps in lowering the blood pressure and control diabetes as well.
- Varmouth- It is a type of pulse which is grown in the Baramulla and Bhaderwah region of Jammu and Kashmir. It is cooked in Kashmiri spices like the regular pulses are made. It is consumed in winters as well. It also helps in maintaining body temperature in winters. It is best served with rice.