The 40-day period of harshest winter in Kashmir known as 'Chillai-Kalan', began on Monday as the mercury dipped to season's lowest at several places including Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
The mercury in Srinagar plunged by over five degrees from the previous night's minimum of minus 0.3 degrees Celsius to settle at a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, an official of the MeT Department said here.
This was the lowest night temperature of the season so far in the city, which resulted in freezing of some water bodies and residential water supply pipes. Fringes of famous Dal Lake were also frozen due to the sudden drop in the minimum temperature.
The minimum temperature also dropped by over five degrees in the tourist resort of Pahalgam which serves as a base camp for the annual Amarnath Yatra in south Kashmir as the mercury there settled at a low of minus 7.2 degrees Celsius compared to the previous nights minus 2.1 degrees Celsius, he said.
The famous ski-resort of Gulmarg recorded a low of minus 11 degrees Celsius over three degrees down from the previous night's low of minus 7.8 degrees Celsius, the official said, adding the resort experienced the season's coldest night.
The minimum temperature in Kupwara in north Kashmir slipped by over three degrees from the previous night's low of minus 1.3 degrees Celsius to settle at minus 4.5 degrees Celsius.
Kokernag town in south Kashmir registered the minimum temperature of minus 2.4 degrees Celsius, over a degree down from the previous night's minus 1.6 degrees Celsius, the official said.
Qazigund -- the gateway town to Kashmir -- was the only recorded place in the Valley where the night temperature increased as the minimum there settled at minus 2.4 degrees Celsius compared to the previous night's low of minus 2.8 degrees Celsius.
The minimum temperature in Leh, the frontier region of Ladakh, dropped nearly five degrees from the previous night's minus 10.6 degrees Celsius to settle at a low of minus 15.1 degrees Celsius, the official said.
This was the lowest night temperature of the season in the town which was also the coldest recorded place in the state, he said.
The temperature in the nearby Kargil town also decreased by over five degrees as the mercury there recorded a low of minus 14.2 degrees Celsius against the previous night's minus 9.0 degrees Celsius, the official said.
The MeT office has predicted the weather to remain mainly dry over the week ahead.
Chillai-Kalan, considered the harshest period of winter when the chances of snowfall are most frequent and maximum and the temperature drops considerably, began today on a dry note.
It ends on January 31 next year, but the cold wave continues even after that. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long Chillai-Khurd (small cold) and a 10-day long Chillai-Bachha (baby cold).
Image: (Above) A boatman shows a piece of frozen surface of Dal Lake on a cold morning in Srinagar. Photograph: S Irfan/PTI Photo. (Below) A man pushes his handcart through a snow-covered street. Photograph: Danish Ismail/Reuters