Climate is closely related to the topography of a region. Alberuni – the famous Arab geographer has described the climate of Kashmir in an accurate manner. He has the reason why the Kashmir valley does not receive monsoon rains. According to him, when the heavy clouds reach the southern mountains of Kashmir, the mountainsides strike against them, and the clouds are pressed like olives or grapes’. In consequence, the rain pours down and the rains never pass beyond the mountains. Therefore, Kashmir has no Varsakala, but continual snowfall for two and half months. The moderate temperature of the Kashmir summer is ensured by the high elevation of the valley.
Mirza Haider Dughlat was all praise for the climate of Kashmir. He says, “I have neither seen nor heard of any country equal to Kashmir, for the charm of climate during all the four seasons”. According to Abul Fazal, the climate of Kashmir is invigorating, and compares its rain and snowfall with that of Turkistan and Persia.
About the climate of Kashmir Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal has rightly said:
- Har Sukhta jane ba Kashmir Darayad,
- Gar murgha kabab ast aba balu – par – ayad.
- Any burnt creature entering Kashmir, even if a roasted fowl, it shall grow fowl, it shall grow feathers.
The valley of Kashmir is situated in the sub-tropical region, but owing to its high altitude, it is cold, consequently, the weather varies between two extremes. The proverb “Kashmir, Pankha Postin” (in Kashmir one must-have fan and fur together) is true enough and the air in Kashmir is generally calm and storms do occur sometimes. The winds blew often and are classified as Vija waw – the northeastern winds; Kamraz – the northwestern winds; Nat – the western winds; Sindabaat – the eastern winds; Banihal – the southern winds and Nagaken – the northern winds. Red twilight in the morning presages rain, and red sunset is a sure prelude to fine weather. While clouds are sure to bring heavy rain but dark clouds mean a thunderstorm and light rain, a strong wind, called chang, blows down the Jhelum valley road throughout the winter.
The valley of Kashmir experiences a temperate climate i.e., neither cold in winter nor hot during summer. The climate of Kashmir varies according to the situation. In the surrounding mountains of the valley, the climate is extremely rigorous while in the valley it is temperate. The salubrious and invigorating climate of the valley of Kashmir is much similar to that of Switzerland and that is why Kashmir is referred to as “Switzerland of Asia” and “Venice of the East”.
The valley of Kashmir experiences a totally different climate. Due to encompassing mountain ranges, its seasons are marked by sudden changes. It attracts the western precipitation in winter mostly in the form of snow which covers the valley and surrounding hills from December to March, January is the coldest month. The spring season which follows winter is mostly wet and the summer is humid and warm August is the warmest month in the valley, however, it is breezy and pleasant in the side valleys and many mountain meadows. The Autumn season during October and November is dry and bracing with the maximum hours of sunshine.
The highland ranges prevent the western precipitation which is responsible for the winter snowfall in the valley from crossing over Ladakh and Gilgit region.
History of the valley reveals that the climate of the valley has been changing and it is recorded that there have been severe winters in the old past. In Maharaja Gulam Singh’s time, it is said that the snowfall during winter was up to a man’s shoulders while in Ranbir Singh’s region it was up to knees. Now in modern times the winters often pass without any significant snowfall. Kashmiris often profess about the coming weather as they are weather-wise and believe in the proverb:
“Red in the night, the Sphered’s delight,
Red in the morning, the Sphered’s warning”
“Obrus Hetun Nar” which is the clouds that have caught fire in the evening, is a sure prelude to fine weather; “Nehdrauv” which is red in the morning presages rain. White clouds are certain to bring heavy rain. Dark clouds mean no rain.
The valley is surrounded by tall and towering mountains of the Himalayan ranges and has a modified subtropical climate. The climate of the valley often changes and there is a proverb in Kashmir about the changing climate i.e., “One must have fan and fur together in Kashmir.”
Hassan Khuihami describes the climate of Kashmir into four seasons:
1- Spring – Chhatar, Besakih & Jaith months:
It is a season of moderate climate with refreshing air. It rains heavily in the season and there is plenty of green vegetation and flowers everywhere. People often go for picnics and outings, during this season.
2- Summer – Har, Sawan & Badon months:
This is the hot season experienced in Kashmir. The mercury at peak hours often touches the 360C mark. The days are long while nights are short. During this season the rains, are often accompanied by lightning and hail and the heat decreases gradually. During the summer seasons, the days are long while nights are shorter. Paddy, the staple crop of Kashmir is transplanted in summer.
3- Autumn – Asuj, Katak & Maghar:
The autumn season in Kashmir is the harvesting period and the air becomes dry. Crops and fruits are in their ripening state. The trees shed their leaves and especially the Chinar leaves exhibit a wonderful scene during the autumn season. People accumulate provisions for the winter like wood, coal, and dry vegetables. Snow begins to fall on the mountains. People make use of woolen cloths. The “Kangri” is used to keep warmth, and people keep it close to themselves throughout the day and night to avoid cold. Due to the heat of Kangri, black spots appear on the belly and on the thighs of Kashmiris and sometimes blisters are formed.
4- Winter – Poh, Magh & Phagun:
It is cold and dry everywhere in this season. Rain and snowfall are continuous features in the Poh and Maagh months. The water of the lakes and rivers gets frozen and the temperature falls to the freezing point. Along with the skirts of the house roofs, rows of icicles form in cylindrical shapes. The sky gets covered with vapors and creates congestion. Such poisonous weather is called Kat Kashu in Kashmir. The trees get dried up and people become vary of it. During this season, sometimes the Behat (Jhelum) gets frozen, so much so that people ride over it. The lakes also get frozen during the winter season.
In the valley of Kashmir, a year is generally divided into 4 main seasons i.e., spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Enclosed by lofty mountain ranges and snow-covered peaks, the weather season in Kashmir is marked by sudden changes. The Pir Panjal range which lies on the south-western borders of the hardly allows the south-west monsoons to enter the valley.
The duration of the four main seasons is as:
1- Spring = Mid-March – Mid-May – 2 Months
2- Summer = Mid-May – Mid Sept – 4 Months
3- Autumn = Mid-Sept – Mid-Nov – 2 Months
4- Winter = Mid-Nov – Mid-March – 4 Months
There are generally 2 main seasons i.e., winter and summer each of 4 months duration, and between them are two transition seasons of 2 months duration i.e. spring and autumn.
1 – Spring Season:
After winter rains and snowfall, the spring brings altogether changes in the weather conditions all over the valley. The vegetation begins to grow and this is usually the flower blossoming season of fruit trees, i.e., almonds and apples in Kashmir. The mustard fields blossom around spreading fragrance all over. Farmers in villages start their agricultural activities. Spring rains are common in March and temperature begins to rise above 100C, “Moorcraft” remarks that the end of March and beginning of April are distinguished by the popular terms of “dirty spring” or “mud season”. The spring season in Kashmir experiences frequent windstorms, which are occasionally accompanied by hail and rain. The month of March is a fairly wet month due to the high frequency of western disturbances. The spring rains melt snow at high elevations, causing floods that create havoc in the vicinal area of River Jhelum – the main drainage artery of Kashmir.
2 – Summer Season
The summer season in Kashmir lasts for four months. The temperature begins to shoot up and July is the hottest month, in which the mercury may even go up to the 370c mark. The sky is clear, the atmosphere rarefied and the temperature is quite oppressive. The mean monthly temperature during the summer season remains above 200c. However, people during the months of July and August, do visit the side valleys of Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Yusmarg, etc. to avoid the sun scorching heat and dust of the lowland areas of Kashmir valley. The paddy, a Kharif crop, the staple food of Kashmiris is usually sown during May-June and 21st of June, which is a limit for its transplanting operation. The summer season is ideal for the cultivation of different crops in Kashmir.
Thunderstorms are frequent during the summer months but are not usually severe, while dust storms are exceedingly rare.
The subcontinent receives ample rainfall through the southwest monsoon season from June-Sept, but the valley of Kashmir receives less quantity of rainfall during this season, as the inflow of monsoon winds is obstructed by the Pir Panjal range. Fruits like cherry, peach, pears and early varieties of apple are available in the market in the summer season.
3 – Autumn Season:
The autumn season in Kashmir is characterized by the least disturbed weather. In this season, the sky is clear, with sweet sunshine and very little precipitation. It is perhaps the most enjoyable weather in the valley, which attracts tourists from within and outside the country.
In September, the mean maximum and mean minimum temperatures read about 250 and 110c respectively. In autumn, the farmers are busy harvesting the paddy crop from the fields. It is the busiest season for a Kashmiris farmer. The apples, almonds, and walnuts of Kashmir are packed to fetch good prices in different markets of India, during the autumn season.
The characterized feature of autumn is the flowering of “saffron” in the Karewas of Kashmir. No other flower is available in this season in Kashmir. The golden color of Chinar leaves during autumn is worth seeing. The autumn season gives a golden look to the paddy fields as well. Towards the end of this season, trees begin to shed their leaves and remain dormant. The autumn is also the Rabi season for a Kashmiri farmer. He sows mustard, wheat, and oats in his paddy fields, during this season.
4 – Winter season
Kashmir is famous for its winter season, which generally lasts for four months. Low temperatures, high precipitation, and high humidity are the salient features of the winter season in Kashmir. The winter in Kashmir is calm, cold, and quiet. The severe winter in Kashmir disturbs the whole fabric of day to day activities of men living in both cities and villages. Agricultural activities come to a standing halt in the village.
The temperature from November begins to decrease. January is the coldest month of the season. The thermometer often records the minus temperatures during the day and night. The total period of severe cold in Kashmir lasts for about 70 days, starting from 22nd December till ending February:
- Chilla Kalan for 40 days – 21st Dec to ending Jan
- Chilla Khrud for 20 days – 1st Feb to 20th Feb
- Chilla Bacha for 10 days – last 10 days of Feb
The snowfall in winter is the gift of western disturbances also known as temperate cyclones, which originate from the Mediterranean Sea and after crossing Iran and Afghanistan strike the valley of Kashmir, where rain pours down in the form of snow.
There was record snowfall in the state during the 19th & 20th of February 2005. Except for Jammu city, all areas of the state experienced heavy snowfall. “Ramsoo” in the Ramban district also experienced snowfall for the first time. The snowfall recorded at the following places was as:
- Banihal Pass – 15 feet
- Uri Sector – 70 feet
- Gulmarg – 66 feet
Waltangoo in kund area of Anantnag, a district near Qazigund, experienced a snowstorm that created havoc on life and property. The survivors have now been settled in a nearby area by the government.
The snowfall during winter is quite useful for the flow of perennial rivers in Kashmir. The absence of snowfall during winter may lead to scarcity of water and drought as well. On average 120 cms of snow are received during the three months of December, January, and February out of which about 50 cms (41.58%) is recorded in the month of January. The rainfall generated by the temperate cyclones is widespread. The rainfall in winter varies from place to place in the valley. The relative humidity is generally over 90% during this season.
During the winter season, the Kashmiris use “Pheran” (a loose woolen gown) and an earthen firepot namely “Kangri” to protect from the severe cold of winter and to keep themselves warm. The winter always brings misery for a Kashmiri, as he has to spend all his savings on food, shelter, and clothing for keeping himself warm. The common disease the common cold is very common during the winter season in Kashmir. One is compelled to be indoors and the activities of people are checked due to the heavy snowfall during this period. The electricity generation and distribution are in a pell-mell condition, due to scarcity of water and the disorder of transmission lines.
During winter, there is the migration of some labor force from the valley to the adjacent state of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, and Delhi to seek employment and to avoid the severe cold of winter. The civil secretariat shifts from Srinagar to Jammu, a process known as “Darbar Move”, an age-old tradition, in which the civil administration enjoys the sunny warmth at Jammu while leaving the entire population of the valley high and dry. Kashmir is famous for winter games especially “Skiing” at Gulmarg, which is played on snow.
Local Weather Seasons
The Kashmiris recognize six weather seasons in the valley. The Kashmir nomenclature is based on the empirical experience of the people about temperature and precipitation conditions during different periods of the year. The nomenclature is scientifically true and appropriate.
The Kashmiris divide the year into six seasons, each of two months duration:
- 1- South (spring) – Mid March – Mid May
- 2- Grisham (summer) – Mid May – Mid July
- 3- Wahrat (rainy season) – Mid July -Mid Sep
- 4- Harud (autumn) – Mid Sept – Mid Nov
- 5- Wandah (winter) – Mid Nov – Mid Jan
- 6- Sheshur (severe cold) – Mid Jan – Mid March
The Kashmiri farmers generally recognize eight seasons, in view of the activities to be carried out during these seasons. The Kashmiri calendar has an equivalent in the Indian system:
|Kashmir Calendar||Indian Calendar|