1. The most severe part of the winter in Kashmir consists of three months. It is divided into three parts called the Chilas:- The Chillai Kalan, the Chillai Khurd, and the Challai Bache.
3. Chillai-Kalan is followed by a 20-day long Chillai-Khurd (small cold) that occurs between January 31 and February 19 and a 10-day long Chillai-Bachha (baby cold) which is from February 20 to March 2.
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4. Interestingly according to Persian tradition, night of 21st December is celebrated as Shab-e Yalda-“Night of Birth”, or Shab-e Chelleh. – “Night of Forty”. Iranian Azerbaijanis call it Chilla Gejasi, which marks the beginning of the first 40 days of winter. The Iranian concept also survives in Kashmir, where Chillai Kalan designates the 40-day harshest winter period.
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7. The snow during this 40-day period freezes and lasts longer.
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8. It is this snow that adds to the glaciers of the Valley and replenishes the perennial reservoirs that feed the rivers, streams and lakes in Kashmir during the months of summer. Any snowfall after the chillai kalan does not last long.
9. It mostly remains overcast during this period and even if the sun breaks loose of the cloud cover, it is feeble and helpless against the bone chilling power of chillai kalan.
10. In the past, many families would prepare ‘Shebdeg’ on the first day of ‘Chillai Kalan’. A fat duck would be cooked with turnips and spices in an earthen vessel during the night intervening Dec 20-21.
11. Since many years there has been more snowfall and cold during chillai khurd and chillai bachcha than during chillai kalan.