With each passing day, Kashmir will reel under an intense cold wave with temperatures dipping to sub-zero. The people in the Valley will be using every method and appliance to keep themselves warm. But the age-old Kangri (earthen pot) is all time favourite to keep themselves warm.
Kangri is an earthen pot encased in a wicker basket. The weaving around it is intricate and beautifully designed. The locals in the Valley call it a portable heater to keep warm under freezing conditions.
Sometimes Plain, Sometimes Piece Of Art
From the beginning of November, one can see the delectable presence of kangris stacked up for sale in every market across Kashmir. The sale lasts until early spring. Depending on the design, each piece costs between Rs 250 and Rs 1,500. But the kangris which are commonly used for warming are mostly sold at an affordable price range of Rs 250 to Rs 350.
Affluent families display kangris in their drawing rooms as a work of art and also present them to non-Kashmiri friends. These artistic kangris are expensive compared to the utilitarian ones used in winter. So, besides during winter, the kangri-makers earn a sizeable income by making artistic pieces.
Our Fire Pot Of Delight
Kangri – the darling of every Kashmiri in winter, is a fire pot which gives warmth during calm, cloudy, and cold days of “Wandah” and “Shishur” seasons in the Kashmir valley. It has a special significance for Kashmiri, both rural and urbanites. The rural inhabitants, especially the farmers make use of the Kangri in and outside their dwellings i.e., they carry the Kangri along with them, when they visit their fields round the year, for alighting tobacco in their hukka.
Local Cottage Industry
A puff of hukka provides respite to the farmer from his hard labour. A city dweller makes use of a kangri in his kitchen only. It consists of two parts, the inner or the earthenware, designed by potters, is called “Kundal” in Kashmiri. The outer part of the coverage is an encasement of wickerwork of various ordinary and beautiful designs and forms. A kangri is a portable structure, which can be easily carried to any place. The kangris are manufactured in every nook and corner of the valley.
It is a local cottage industry, depending upon the raw material available from the local soils and the forest vegetation. Chrar-e-Sharief and Bandipora are famous for their special design and frame of Kangris, which are often purchased to be presented as gifts.
A special kangri, the Wuda kangri, is designed in a beautiful frame. It is used for burning the essence during marriage ceremonies in Kashmir. A special kind of charcoal (Tapantsini) made up of chinar, willow, popular, apple, and kikar twigs are used in the kangri. These twigs are set on fire and are not allowed to turn into ash by sprinkling water over the fire.
They retain the black charcoal colour and are solid in nature. In the kangri, the charcoal is lighted by application of some burnt substance, and charcoal burns very slowly and steadily, leaving the little ash in the earthen pot, which is then thrown away and used as manure for kitchen gardens.
Govt Support To Kangri Industry
The markets in Srinagar city and other towns of the valley are flooded with kangris of different frames, from November till March, every year and people in some parts of the valley earn their livelihood in this small scale industry. The government is providing loans under Khadi and Village Industries schemes for the manufacturing of kangris. It is surprising that the Kashmiris during their migration to other parts of the state i.e. Jammu and Ladakh regions have carried this gift to such areas and these gifted specimens are exhibited in the marketplaces of Jammu, Leh, and Kargil towns.
Although gas heaters are now being used in the cities and the towns of Kashmir, it is impossible for a Kashmiri to say goodbye to the Kangri which is his inseparable need during severe cold and harsh winters.
One can enjoy the sweet warmth of the Kangri under a special Kashmiri gown called Pharen or under a Kashmir blanket called Chadar. During severe winter when snowflakes cover the compound, one is delighted to taste Namkeen tea enjoying the warmth of Kangri under a Pharen.