Asia Pacific
Indian-controlled Kashmir's harshest winter spell begins
Last Updated: 2013-12-22 08:25 | Xinhua
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The harshest spell of winter in Indian-controlled Kashmir began Saturday with cloudy weather.

The 40-day cold spell of winter, locally called Chillai Kalan starts from Dec. 21 and lasts until Jan. 31.

There have been years in the past when the entire Dal Lake in Srinagar city, the region's summer capital froze to a solid mass.

Reports pouring in from Pahalgam, Gulamarg and Shopian said a light snowfall has started in the evening.

The region's Meteorological Department officials had predicted light to moderate snowfall in upper reaches and some plains of the region.

"Snowfall has been reported from Pharkiyan, Gulmarg, Phalgam, Kangan, Bandipora, Shopian and light rain at Banihal," said Sonam Lotus, director Meteorological Department.

Chances of snowfall would increase and become frequent during Chillai-Kalan, while the region's tourism department officials would focus on Gulmarg to organize skiing and other sports events.

This year, a cold wave intensified in the region much ahead of Chillai Kalan triggering icy cold winds and pushing temperature below freezing point.

To coincide with the beginning of winter season, the Google released a new doodle on its homepage Saturday to celebrate the first day of winter. The animated sketch for the Winter Solstice, which marks the shortest day of the year, is a scarf and glove being knitted into the shape of Google search engine's logo created by German illustrator Christoph Niemann.

Ahead of winters, all schools and educational institutions in the region were all closed. Residents in colder parts of the Indian-controlled Kashmir started wearing warm and woolen clothes to keep themselves warm.

Majority of the population, including women and children are seen wearing long traditional outer garments known as pherans. The traditional fire-pots known as Kangris are in great demand besides the electronic heating gadgets. The residents have already stored firewood and charcoal for heating purposes.

During the winters, there remains a dearth of electricity in the region. Officials would announce power curtailments and thereby plunge residents into darkness for long hours. People often took to roads against the unscheduled power cuts and are met with stiff resistance from police. Sometimes these protests were fatal.

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