The Kashmir Valley has experienced a particularly harsh winter this year, with 40 days known as Chillai-Kalan bringing sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall. Tourists have been flocking to the region to see the unusual sight of the iconic Dal Lake freezing over and to participate in winter activities such as skiing and snowball fights.
The Chillai-Kalan begins on December 21 and continues until January 31, followed by a 20-day Chillai-Khurd from January 31 to February 19 and a 10-day Chillai-Bachha from February 20 to March 2. These periods are typical for the region, but this year’s temperatures have been extremely low, with the lowest recorded temperature being minus 9.2 degrees Celsius in Pahalgam, South Kashmir. Qazigund and Kupwara have also experienced sub-zero temperatures.
Despite the harsh conditions, locals and tourists have been visiting the frozen Dal Lake. Some were seen breaking the ice on the lake; therefore, authorities have warned that it can damage the fragile ecosystem. Dal Lake is a popular tourist destination and an important part of the local economy. Houseboats offer tourists the chance to explore the lake and its surroundings.
To stay safe during the winter, the India Meteorological Department has warned people to take precautions such as wearing warm clothing and covering exposed skin. It is also important to check vulnerable family members and neighbours at higher risk of suffering from cold-related health issues. Freezing temperatures have become a challenge for some people, whereas others enjoy the beauty of the winter season.