I remember vividly my maternal Grandmother calling me for a Bath “Come on, get out of your bed, Water is Boiling in Samavaar” The shrilled tone of my Grandmother had a sense of urgency and Authority leaving me with no Choice, but to follow her orders. The Samavar, which my Grandmother used was a Heavy Brass Made utensil with a capacity of around 3-5 Liters. “Samavar” is a traditional Kashmiri Utensil, believed to be introduced to Kashmiri Culture by the Iranians 8-9 centuries back. It can be bifurcated into two Hollow cylinders inner and outer cylinder. The inner cylinder which is At least 10 times smaller is enclosed in the larger outer cylinder or body. Burning coal is placed inside the smaller inner cylinder and the outer cylinder is filled with water.
Samavar is traditionally used to prepare tea especially Noon-Chai(salted kashmiri tea) and Kahwaa.Among Kashmiri Pandits who are living in a Exile, Samavar can be seen only at the Marriage functions. However Kashmiris who live in Kashmir make use of Samavars, if not that frequently , with samavar now mostly confined to rural areas.
There is a silver lining to the legend of “Samavaar” and “Kehwa”.Though “samavaar” is becoming obsolete and has been replaced by new and tech-savvy kitchen appliances, “Kehwaa” is still in the vogue. During last couple of years, I could find Kashmiris selling hot “Kehwa” made in colossal “Samavaars” at a number of Indian Hill stations. “Kehwa”, it seems is slow but steadily making its place among the health conscious people of the Indian Metros and cities.
Winter in Kashmir is really bone-chilling and classified in typical Kashmiri nick-names. The names sound horrendous as well as Humorous . With the names like “ Chillai Kalaan”, “Chilla Baccha” and “Chilla Poot” who sound more like the Three Bandits of “Sholay” ,It somehow reminds me of Gabbar singh’s famous Punch line Dialogue “Aree o Sambaa,Kitne Aadmi the? ” Sarkaar teen”. These names always tickle me leaving me with a grin.
“Chillai Kalaan” which comes around 21st December and stretches till 40 days and is considered to be the coldest and harshest among the three “chillas”. Next comes “Chilla Khurd” which is less severe than “Chillai kalan” and stretches for 20 days.At last comes “Chilla Baccha” which lasts for 10 days and finishes somewhere around first week of March.
With such exciting names given to different winter months, It is Obvious that Winters play a significant role to the psyche of every kashmiri. As a child, I always used to shy away from taking a Bath in winters, With sub-zero temperatures, which would often go down to minus six or seven. Taking a Bath was like a ritual which needed courage and was observed twice or thrice a week. Winters was like a powerful yet beautiful opponent. In reply, I was no less a competition and my armory consisted of lot of woolens, ”Pheran” and powerful “ the Kangri”.
“Kangri”—the traditional fire pot used by every kashmiri in winters to beat the chill is no less than your time tested and reliable savior and Multi user friend. Not only It keeps you warm, you can also use it to roast potatoes and hard shell eggs.
Kangri has a powerful influence on the day-to-day activities of common Kashmiris. It is widely used by Kashmiri Pandits in socio-religious ceremonies.Elderly women take a pinch of Sesame seeds with their right hand and touch the right hand gently to the newly-wed brides, Grooms as well as children. The seeds are put into the burning coals of the Kangir to cast off evils and to protect them from the witchcraft.The staccato of the burning sesame seeds is very appealing. This practise is still used by KP’s irrespective of their current location.
This write up will be incomplete without mentioning “Kangri Jung” which can only be witnessed in winters of Kashmir, when sometimes two emotionally charged jilted lovers duped by a girl for another man, met accidently in the middle of a road,And their eyes meet each other in freezing cold and instead of flexing their muscles decide to Check the accuracy of their throw and fumingly hurl philippics at each other, when their entire vocabulary of invectives gets exhausted, then they throw their respective “Kangir” at each other and thereby give a vent to their anger and frustrations, but most probably repent later on ,seeing the deteriorating condition of their beloved “Kangir” which was more dependant,loving,caring ,silent, never complaining and never ever duped them…