Chilling challenges in Kashmir

The life under shivering cold in winter this month at the fag end of Chilla i Kalan ( the 40 day long harshest season of winter) when the mercury dipped to all time low in last thirty years just three days back reminded Kashmiris that traditional non electric heating appliances used decades ago are more demanding now than ever before  In fact traditional architecture of Kashmiri homes is more relevant than ever before as this housing style in Kashmir provides the facility of stone-floored rooms with hollow bases heated by burning wood underneath locally called “ Hamams”.  In the conventional Kashmiri homes the cold won’t seep in as the wooden window frames bore small glass panes and the thick brick walls were plastered with clay and straw on the inside.  Following the unprecedented change in the taste of architecture the newly built homes in Kashmir have become colder. Practices like warm cloth flooring, sealing windows with plastic sheets and using woolen blankets for curtains on doors and windows do not cut much ice in the chilly season of winter in Kashmir. Experiences show that modern houses in Kashmir have “poor insulation levels and loose-fitting doors and windows and as such are resulting in the long-term costs of heating during the harsh winters.  Still the “kanger” the clay made heating pot with a wicker frame is the cheapest and the safest heating equipment in Kashmir. Keeping in view the experiences of the harshest winter in Kashmir, the traditional architecture of Kashmiri residential houses has to be combined with modern architecture to make homes warmer and comfortable during the harshest season of winter called “ Chilla i Kalan”.

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Unless and until the new houses constructed with or without the intervention of home builders  are not designed to meet conventional heating requirement in Kashmirs, the challenge to live in deep freeze period in Kashmir will continue to grow year after year.  

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While the facility of stone-floored rooms with hollow bases easily heated by burning wood underneath locally called “Hamams” is safer and cheaper than the modern heating appliances including the electric fire places, gas heaters and electric blankets used for heating up rooms, the use of earthen water pot or copper made water container called “mat” for hassle free availability of water during the deep freeze periods is also safer and cheaper. Such changes in architecture of Kashmiri homes would make winter in Kashmir more comfortable than ever before but all depends on the change in the modern architecture tastes of the people in Kashmir and particularly the home builders expanding the network of house constructions in Kashmir. Unless and until the new houses constructed with or without the intervention of home builders  are not designed to meet conventional heating requirement in Kashmirs, the challenge to live in deep freeze period in Kashmir will continue to grow year after year.

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