Chillai-Kalan, which begins with Winter Solstice, is the period when the chances of snowfall are maximum and most frequent. The weather remains cold during this period as the day temperature also dips drastically, freezing most of the water bodies including the famous Dal Lake.

The winter games at the skiing resort of Gulmarg are held during this period.

Though minimum temperatures continued to remain below the freezing point, they went up by several degrees across the division, increasing the chances of snowfall in the region which has seen dry weather so far.

The MeT office here has predicted widespread rains or isolated snowfall over the next 24 hours.

The minimum temperature increased by over two degrees in Srinagar as the city recorded a low of minus 1.8 degree celsius, compared to the previous night's minus 4.4 degree celsius, a spokesman of the MeT office here said today.

The famous hill resort of Pahalgam in south Kashmir registered a low of minus 2.4 degree celsius, up by over three degrees from minus 6.2 degree celsius recorded the previous night, the spokesman said.

He said Gulmarg, the famous ski-resort in north Kashmir and the star attraction for tourists visiting the Valley during the winter, recorded a minimum of minus 2.8 degree celsius, as against the previous night's minus 3.4 degree celsius.

The minimum temperature in Qazigund, the gateway town to Kashmir on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, increased by four degrees from minus 5.8 degree celsius the previous night to settle at a low of minus 1.8 degree celsius, he said.

North Kashmir's Kupwara town, 90 kms from here, recorded a low of minus 4.3 degree celsius, the spokesman said, adding that Kokernag hill resort in south Kashmir recorded minus 1.7 degree celsius.

The minimum temperature in Leh was recorded at minus 6.0 degree celsius, over seven degrees up from the previous night's minus 13.9 degree celsius, he said.

Kargil, also in Ladakh region, registered an increase of over three degrees from the previous night's low of minus 13 degree celsius to settle at minus 9.6 degree celsius, the spokesman said.

This year, the cold wave in the Valley began earlier than the normal period of Chillai Kalan, with the minimum in Srinagar plummeting to over four degrees below the freezing point on December 11.

Though Chillai-Kalan would end on January 31, the winter continues after that. The 40-day harshest period will be followed by a 20-day long Chillai Khurd (small cold) and a 10-day long Chillai Bachha (baby cold).

As the harsh winter period begins, the demand for 'Kangri' (earthen fire pot filled with charcoal) has risen sharply as the residents prepare to face the bone-chilling cold.

People stock eatables and other essential commodities for the period as the national highway often closes due to heavy snowfall.

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