The comforting power of the Kashmiri Kangri (fire-pot)

There exists an everyday object used by people in the Pakistan administered Kashmir and Indian administered Kashmir. Not very much known to the outside world, it is called the kanger or kangri which is a traditional utensil (fire pot) and also regarded as a work of art. During the severe winter months in such relatively high altitudes, these objects keep people warm when temperature dips to minus 20.

Ataullah Kiani/

Kashmiri men wearing a traditional pheran.

Kashmiri people wear a long woolen coat called a pheran, down to the knees and they keep this kangri in their pheran or blanket during the cold winters. They have used it for a very long time as a convenient moving heater. In modern times still, it sees a huge demand and during winter it is even used in public and private offices as well.
Kangri is an earthenware which is filled with glowing ashes in handmade wickerwork baskets and is carried as an individual heater. Not just anyone can make a kangir or Kangri. It requires skillfulness, labour and local expertise. Kangri’s manufacturing involves two main steps or parts. In the first step twigs are collected from deciduous shrubs, scraped and peeled and go though a process of soaking, drying, dying and finally are woven around the bowl designed ceramic. The maximum length of a wicker that is used to make Kangri is 4-5 feet. The second step involves decoration. In this step earthenware is ornamented with colourful threads and mirror work and it’s diameter is about six inches. There are everyday Kangris and special Kangris, such as the Maharani (queen) Kangri. These examples come with different colours and beautifications and are used in festivals and ceremonies. 

A practical source of heat that follows you everywhere

A practical source of heat that follows you everywhere
The Kangri remains a stable symbol of local craft that is not only eco-friendly but also cost effective. Kangris are cheaper than gas, oil as well as wood fired heaters because they can be burned by using only a mere 200 grams of charcoal and costs from Rs 70 to Rs 1500 (2$ to 20$).The heat produced by the coals can reach around 66˚C and will burn for up to 10 hours. It’s an effective heating arrangement when electric warming appliances aren’t accessible. In harsh winter when there is no electricity because of load shedding it does not dissatisfy people of Kashmir.

An object with history

If we look back the history of the Kangri it has a significant importance in the heritage and culture of Kashmir. It is also said that Kashmiris learnt the use of Kangri from Italians. Some people think that during the period of Mughal Empire it was adapted from a similar utensil named the ‘scaldino’. There are certain evidences that the Kangri was in use even earlier than 1526. Historical data opposes the statement that it came from the Italian influxence because it is known that it was used during the time of Mughal Emperors. A renowned Saint Sheikh Noor ud din Wali (1377-1440) made note of the great relationship between Kangri and Kashmiris. Among his possessions, the Kangri was one of the crafts he used during his entire life. There is a great proverb associated with the Kashmiri Kangri and the importance of this object’s presence in this culture is explained by the following comparison: “what Laila was on Majnun’s bosom (Legendary Lovers), so is the Kangri to a Kashmiri”.

Those visitng Kashmir for the very first time in their life during winter will be surprised to see people holding Kangri’s (fire pots) in their laps or hands but all Kashmiri people know how to handle that apparatus with care. It comes in different variations, small ones for children and large ones for adults. Many Kashmiris fill a kanger with toh (chaff) or (guh’) lobar (dry cowdung). Although Kangris are made across the Kashmir Valley, artists in some parts specialize in specific Kangri-making. The maharani kanger is especially made for brides only. On the first day after marriage, a bride takes especially ornamented kangri to her in-laws’ house. These have elaborate ornamentation and usually have a silver design. The maharani kangri are not terribly comfortable because of their size, but they are tremendously nice-looking and used basically as an ornament.

Even some poetry has been etched in Kashmiri culture, praising the utility and comfort that the Kanger or Kangri brings to the lives of each person who uses one. The great significance of the Kangri is expressed below in this verse.
Ai kangri! ai kangri!
Kurban tu Hour wu Peri!
Chun dur bughul mi girimut
Durd az dil mi buree.
(Oh, kangri! oh, kangri!
You are the gift of Houris and Fairies;
When I take you under my arm
You drive fear from my heart.

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3 years ago

Sure could use on out here. It’s cold as *+@** this winter!

3 years ago

Never heard of this. Really cool for those cold nights! But don’t you choke off the fumes?