The Enduring Ember: How Kashmiris Rediscover the Warmth of the Kangri in a Changing Winter
Srinagar: The first snowflakes whispered secrets of winter’s descent upon the Kashmir Valley. A hush fell over the bustling squares, replaced by the rhythmic clack of hammers against clay. In workshops tucked away from the tourist clamor, artisans breathed life into age-old companions – the Kangris, traditional firepots that have warmed generations amidst the harsh Himalayan chill.
This year, however, the winter whispered differently. A prolonged dry spell cast a shadow over the Kangri makers, their hopes for brisk sales fading like the retreating sun. Their shops, usually echoing with the clatter of clay and the buzz of eager customers, sat eerily quiet, filled with unsold firepots that seemed to echo their anxieties.
Ghulam Qadir Shakshaaz, a Kangri maker for over 25 years, remembers the stillness with a sigh. “December came and went,” he says, his weathered hands caressing a newly crafted Kangri, “but sales remained almost static. It was a difficult time for us.”
The culprit, it seemed, was the capricious hand of nature. Uncharacteristically warm days and a lack of snowfall lulled residents into a false sense of security. Modern heating gadgets, readily available and seemingly convenient, found their way into homes, relegating the traditional Kangri to the back burner.
But the mountains hold their own counsel. As winter tightened its grip, so did the reality of dwindling electricity and soaring fuel prices. The promise of instant warmth from gadgets flickered with the erratic power supply, leaving many shivering in the cold.
Then came the snowfall, a gentle reminder of the enduring power of tradition. The first flakes were a signal, a call to arms for the Kangri makers. Hammers clanged once more, shaping clay into vessels of warmth, fueled by the readily available charcoal and pine cones.
Abdur Rashid Matta, another veteran Kangri maker, witnessed the tide turning. “The past few days have been good,” he says, a smile crinkling his eyes. “People are coming back to the Kangri. It’s the most reliable source of warmth, especially when the power goes out.”
The reasons for the Kangri’s resurgence are as diverse as the people who use them. Shameema, a homemaker, finds solace in its familiar warmth. “Even without snow, the electricity cuts force us to rely on the Kangri,” she says. “It’s not just heat; it’s a comfort, a tradition passed down from generations.”
For others, it’s the economic practicality. “Electronic heaters and electric hamams are luxuries,” says Matta. “The Kangri is affordable, readily available, and fuel is easily accessible.”
But the appeal goes beyond mere practicality. The Kangri is more than just a heating device; it’s a cultural touchstone, a silent storyteller of resilience and resourcefulness. It embodies the spirit of Kashmir, a community forged in the face of adversity, drawing warmth and comfort from the very elements that challenge them.
The resurgence of the Kangri is not just a story of economic revival, but a testament to the enduring human spirit. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the simplest solutions, rooted in tradition and community, offer the most sustainable warmth in the face of ever-changing winters.