Kangri – The Warmth of Tradition

By: Samreen Mushtaq
Winter has always arrived Kashmir with biting cold, hoar frost canopies and icicles suspending from roof edges. To counter these companions of winter, the people of Kashmir have to arm themselves and the key weapons which the Kashmiris have inherited from their ancestors to survive this tough spell are Kangri (a portable heating device) and Pheran (Kashmiri cloak).
There are varying thoughts about the origin of Kangri. While some believe that it originated from Central Asia, most others reject that for lack of historical evidence. “So far as the origin of Kangri is concerned, we don’t have any accurate data available through historical books like Kalhan’s Rajtarangini or from other archaeological sources. No relevant parts have been evacuated from archaeological sites by which we could attribute the origin of Kangri to them”, says Abdul Wahid, a professor of history. He further adds, “Despite this inability to trace its roots, it shouldn’t be forgotten that such things hold a great cultural value for us. The introduction of Kangri must have certainly been one of the reasons that led to the permanent settlement of people here, who’d otherwise migrate away for six months because of unbearable cold.”
Kangri is made at a very few places in Kashmir, the most famous being Bandipora and Chrar-e-Shareef. Everyone in Kashmir, ranging from the young generation to old men and women, loves Kangri. With Pherans or with jackets, people don’t hesitate in using it. On roads or inside the four walls of homes, people use Kangri to protect themselves from the chill. It forms a part of our rich cultural heritage, a part of who we’re. “Imagining a winter without having Kangri held within my Pheran is an impossible task for me”, says Abdul Gaffar, a man in his late 70s.
“We leave our homes early in the morning in search of livelihood and Kangri acts as our companion from dawn to dusk in these cold waters”, says a fisherman Abdul Aziz.
It is a secret to none that with every passing day, modern gadgets and new heating appliances have been making their way into the market. But people still prefer Kangri over them and that’s why its’ sales haven’t seen a decline. “Despite the arrival of electric heating systems, the Kangri sales haven’t been affected at all. Infact, it’s only picking up day by day. In Bandipora alone, the sales are so high that we’ve to sometimes get more Kangris from Srinagar in order to meet the growing demands”, says Gh. Qadir, who works as a Kangri distributor in Bandipora district.
Times may change but for a Kashmiri, the importance of Kangri will never be any less. After all, this WARMTH OF TRADITION continues to warm Kashmiri hearts and will ever do.

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