As the winter sets in Kashmir Valley, I become the inevitable companion of every Kashmiri be it children, adults or elders who carry me inside their Phiran to keep themselves warm. I am the famous Kangri of Kashmir which carries fire in my belly to keep others warm.
My association with Kashmiris is quite old and I have been offering warmth to every Kashmiri in the biting cold during the period of Chillai Kallan and snowfall.
As the winter approaches, I adorn the shops in the market with my beautiful and colourful designs and attract the locals as well as the tourists towards me. I am found in every household of the valley ranging from the poorest to the richest. I don’t discriminate between anyone based on their caste, financial status, age, religion or gender - I provide warmth to everyone to sail through the sub-zero temperatures of Kashmir. I am affordable & durable and don’t need electricity which is quite scarce a resource.
When the tourists look at me hanging in wicker craft shops, they are amazed as to how a small object like me is capable of keeping everyone warm. I am a beautiful creation crafted by my creator also known as Kainyal or Shakhsaaz.
The journey of my life is very interesting and it begins in the autumn season when Kainyal/Shakhsaaz venture out in the forests to collect thin twigs of a Willow tree - the raw material I am made of. The twigs are boiled in water until they become soft. The twigs are then cooled off, the bark peeled and bundled, ready to be weaved to take the shape of a Kangri. Some twigs are even coloured in blue, green and red, weaved in various geometrical patterns to make me look attractive.
My belly is made of an earthen pot also called Kundal, which is made by a potter. The Kainyal starts weaving willow twigs around the Kundal to give me a beautiful and perfect design with handles which is easy to carry. Once ready, I am sent to the shops and households. The onset of winters is my favourite season when people start buying me in great numbers and I can be seen in the hands of every Kashmiri. I carry burnt charcoal as the source of heat in my belly and keep my companion warm inside the Phiran.
Life in the valley is unimaginable without me but as the winters come to an end people forget the sacrifice, I make for them. I am kept in some corner of the house and forgotten for months till the next winter. But I don’t have any remorse as my only aim in life is to give warmth to the people and I am satisfied in doing so.
With an increase in usage of modern heating appliances, my world is becoming smaller day by day and I am afraid that future generations would forget my old-age contribution and I may ultimately turn into an antique piece.