Autumn in Kashmir

Harud, as the autumn is called in the Kashmiri language, is one of the four major seasons in the valley which typically stays for a very short period from the beginning or mid of September to mid or end of November. The season has its own charm of changing the colour of leaves on the trees.

Autumn in general, even in ancient Greek and other European languages used to be synonymous with the harvest. Later, with time, as people began migrating to towns and away from the countryside, it came to be known as the period between summer and winter associated with "fall of the leaf", and the season became known as the "Fall"; much like end of winter, associated with springing of leaves, became "Spring".

It is said that during the Mughal era in Kashmir, one of the kings stepped over the Chinar (like maple in Canada) leaves during autumn and fascinated by their bright red colour, he asked one of his ministers, "Chi Naar", which translates to, "What is this fire?" And during these few months, right before the onset of winter in Kashmir, it seems as if the flames of crimson have touched the ground, leaving behind an enchanting golden aura.

It’s a magnificent site to watch and experience the magic especially on the Chinar trees when their green leaves turn to golden and then to reddish-orange before turning brown and finally falling to the ground. At this time of year, parks, gardens, and particularly the countryside with Chinar trees take on a glistening appearance from the dropping leaves. The rustling of these dry, vibrant leaves as you move over lawns and even the roadways can be heard and the mystical impressions that it creates, lingers in the mind for a very long period. These Chinar trees are found all across the landscape of the valley but in order to feel the grandeur of Chinars and the essence of Autumn, one must visit the Kashmir University campus, especially the area known as the Naseem Bagh, which literally means "Garden of Morning Breeze". With its thousands of Chinar trees, this picture-perfect garden is undoubtedly one of the most serene spots, and nothing compares to the splendour of this location during the season of fall.

...during the Mughal era in Kashmir, one of the kings stepped over the Chinar leaves during autumn and fascinated by their bright red colour, he asked one of his ministers, "Chi Naar", which translates to, "What is this fire?"

Autumn, also known as Harud locally, is the annual harvesting season in Kashmir. As the leaves in the valley turn yellow and golden, the farmers return to their fields to harvest paddy and pick various varieties of apples for export. During this season, saffron fields of amazing purple colour are in full bloom across various fields along the districts of Budgam and Kishtwar. The best variety of Saffron, however, grows in Pampore, a part of Pulwama district, on both sides of the national highway going towards Banihal. This priceless spice (i.e. Saffron) from Kashmir is considered to be far superior than the Persian variety which has much lower colouring material called Crocin. Harvesters meticulously handpick these little purple saffron blossoms and place them in wicker baskets. Each flower is then separated into three parts: petals, yellow strands, and red threads. The red strands are the ones which are used to make pure, high quality saffron. This delicate process is perfected usually by the womenfolk and is a source of livelihood for over 30,000 families in that area.

Going towards the hilly areas one can spot the maize and walnut trees with their fruit getting ready to be harvested. Apple boxes can be seen being shipped to different regions of the country when travelling towards the apple-producing regions of Sopore in the North or Shopian in the South of Kashmir.

Autumn is an ideal time of the year to be outdoors and enjoy the fragrance in the air with very comfortable temperatures. The entire valley is bathed in different hues of red, orange and gold during these months. It’s one of the best times of the year to visit the valley as the days are sunny and warm, but the misty mornings and slightly chilly evenings serve as a reminder of the impending winter.

Autumn in Kashmir is more than just a season; it is a symphony of colors, a time of cultural celebration, and a period of serene reflection. The transformation of the landscape, the crisp and inviting climate, and the rich cultural traditions make it a time of unparalleled beauty and tranquility. For those who seek a deeper connection with nature and a glimpse into the soul of Kashmir, autumn offers an experience that is both enchanting and unforgettable.