Chillai Kalan & Winter Solstice


    In Context

    • With the winter solstice today (December 21), one of the harshest winter periods of 40 days, called Chillai Kalan, has begun in Kashmir.

    Key Details

    • Chillai Kalan is the local name given to intense cold waves in Kashmir and Ladakh region, it consists of three months. It is divided into three parts called the Chilas:-
      • Chillai Kalan
      • Chillai Khurd
      • Challai Bache
    • Chillai-Kalan is the 40-day period of harsh winter. Chillai-Kalan begins from December 21 and ends on January 31 next year.
    • Chillai-Kalan is followed by a 20-day long Chillai-Khurd (small cold) that occurs between January 31 and February 19 and a 10-day long Chillai-Bachha (baby cold) which is from February 20 to March 2.
    • Impacts– Affects daily life of people, use of Pheran (Kashmiri Dress) and a traditional firing pot called Kanger increases, world- famous Dal Lake also freezes and it replenishes the perennial reservoirs that feed the rivers, streams and lakes in Kashmir during the months of summer.
    • Cultural Importance- According to Persian tradition, the night of 21st December is celebrated as Shab-e Yalda-“Night of Birth”, or Shab-e Chelleh. – “Night of Forty”. 
      • The Iranian concept of Chilla Gejasi also survives in Kashmir, where Chillai Kalan designates the 40-day harshest winter period.

    About Winter Solstice

    • It is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere.
    • On December 22 the day will be one second longer and gradually the duration of day time will increase.
    • This situation will be reversed six months from now, on June 21, 2021, when the Northern Hemisphere will see the Summer Solstice.
      • The day will be the year’s longest on the Summer Solstice.
    • It occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, located at 23.5° latitude South.


    • For centuries, this day has had a special place in several communities due to its astronomical significance and is celebrated in many ways across the world.
      • Jewish people call it ‘Tekufat Tevet’, which marks the start of winter. 
      • In Iran and neighbouring Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, the Winter Solstice is celebrated as Yalda or Shab-e-Yalda.
      • In Vedic tradition, it is the first day of Uttarayana.
        • Uttarayana: It is the period between Makar Sankranti and Karka Sankranti
      • In the Southern Hemisphere, where the Winter Solstice is in June, Peru celebrates the day with a festival called Inti Raymi, meaning “sun festival”.

    What are Equinoxes?

    • There are only two times of the year when the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun, resulting in a “nearly” equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes and these events are referred to as Equinoxes.
    • There are two equinoxes namely Vernal and  Autumnal.
    • The days become a little longer at the higher latitudes (those at a distance from the equator) because it takes the sun longer to rise and set. 

    Source: IE