Keeping warm the Kashmiri way

As Delhi winter draws to an end and the days get warmer, I am thinking of my brief stint with the cold and snow in Kashmir in January.

Different cultures learn to keep warm in different ways. While the Bhutanese, for instance, eat chillis to keep warm, Inuits use seal oil lamps and animal skins, and the Japanese huddle around (or under) kotatsus.

kotatsu
(image source)

kangriIn Kashmir, they use the kangri. It is somewhat like a personal heater; a mud pot filled with red-hot coal embers kept under your clothes and close to your body. When I first saw all these Kashmiris walking with their hands hidden under their voluminous robes (called pheran), I thought it was just a way to keep their hands warm – the local equivalent of putting them inside the pockets. But no, they are actually keeping their entire bodies warm with kangris, earthen pots covered by a wicker basket.

kangri1

kangri2

Kangris are sold in shops everywhere, with vendors even carrying them around in local markets. Imagine the skill needed to hold a burning hot mud pot close to your stomach, but even kids carry them with insouciance, walking with one hand holding a kangri and the other, a school bag. I am told that kangris are also kept on beds, under quilts or blankets. And guest are welcomed at home with a kangri, as much as a cup of hot kahwa.

kangri3

kids with kangri
(image source)

Interestingly, the Japanese have a similar “belly warming” device, called haramaki. The original haramaki is armour a samurai would wear around his chest, but now refers to a narrow knit garment wrapped around the tummy to keep your core warm. They used to have a ruddy-duddy image, associated with the very old or with kids. But now, fashion houses have gone all out to make the haramaki a trendy, must-have accessory in both winter and summer.

So, it is true that if you call it high fashion, anything goes in Japan.

But if it is Kashmir you are still thinking about, see this lovely photoessay on the kangri. Like other forms of indigenous knowledge, the kangri is also fighting against more modern heating aids, but nothing comes close to its cost effective and eco friendly little pot.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Prasad Np says:

    I have never seen a Kangri in use actually.. so interesting to see the pictures here …

    1. charukesi says:

      Thanks, Prasad. It was quite fascinating to see how easy they were with using it.

  2. Hi Charu I loved the writing style and the great pictures….It has inspired me to travel to kashmir
    I have come across one more blog which has great information about the island continent…..If you want to have a look https://thetraveler289.wordpress.com/ which has smart tips on travelling

    1. charukesi says:

      Thank you! I’ll gave a look at your blog soon.

  3. We saw these baskets for sale in shops when we were in Kashmir. I thought they looked pretty and even wanted to buy a couple of them as souvenirs.. We didn’t get a chance to do so, sadly. At the time, we didn’t know they were kangris.

    Beautiful post! I have read about the Kashmiris using kangris in the harsh winters, but have never seen them in actual use. Your post sheds a lot of light on the same.

    1. charukesi says:

      Thank you! I know people who bought this to use as flower pots back home. You should have got one too 🙂

  4. What an amazing object and I agree what skill to hold it and walk / perform ones duties! I would love to try it out when I visit Kashmir.

    1. charukesi says:

      I wanted borrow one from a local and try it too – just never happened. Not sure if I can manage keeping it close to my body without causing some serious burns!

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