Jess, a first-class Manager-walli in Dishoom Edinburgh, (she’s awesome) has taken some time to tell us a little about Vaisakhi and what it means to her and her family. We’re ever-grateful Jess… you’re a big-hearted gem.
Vaisakhi, a day marked across India by people of many faiths, is celebrated in the Punjab as the start of the new Harvest. It falls on the 13th or 14th April depending on the calendar for that year.
A particularly important day for villagers, landowners and farmers, it’s the day they give thanks for their prosperous land and the crops they were able to harvest that year, while at the same time praying for another fortunate year of cultivation. Without this crop, they would have no income, and no means of feeding their families, friends, and fellow villagers. In a very dry and hot country, this is a truly significant day on which hopes lie for good fortune in the following year. You could, therefore, consider it as India’s Thanksgiving.
For others, this marks the start of the New Year and streets fill with the sound of music and laughter while families and communities dance, eat and celebrate together.
Vasaikhi is also a commemoration of the day that Sikhism was born as a collective faith.
Growing up, I remember Vaisakhi being a time of parades and street parties. I grew up in a town with a high concentration of Sikhs (and Indians of all faiths, for that matter). The day would start with a religious procession where floral decorated carriages dressed in flags and the colours of the Khalsa (navy and orange) would carry as many people as they could fit. The rest would follow on foot.
They were following the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ – our Holy Bible if you like. The last and eternal Guru with all the teachings, stories and encounters of the first ten Guru’s in their journey to reach the final stage of enlightenment and eternity.
The significance of this is to celebrate the day that ‘Guru Gobind Singh’ the 10thand last Guru, chose to form the Sikh brotherhood of the Khalsa know as the ‘Panj Pyare’ – the beloved Five – in 1699. This was a very small army of Sikh warriors that was prepared to risk their lives to protect the religious freedoms and equalities of the people of India who came under attack from the Mogul Empire, attempting to strip the country of its multiple faiths and religions, liberties and riches.
As the procession continued, the streets would fill with friends, families, neighbours and anyone that wanted to join in. Residents would prepare and distribute fresh tea and snacks to all those taking part in the processions, whatever their faith or beliefs. Five men representing the ‘Panj Pyare’, walking barefoot, would lead the carriage carrying the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ through the streets, and it would end with a ceremonial sword fight – the weapon of choice for these 5 warriors.
But the celebrations wouldn’t end here. Most of the town would be pedestrianised for the day and people of all faiths, backgrounds and persuasions would come together to dance, sing and play in the streets. Everyone was welcome to join the party and it was, without doubt, the celebration that me and my family looked forward to the most.
As Dishoom is a place where we celebrate differences and believe in the power of food to break down barriers and bring people together, it is only fitting that we invite everyone to join us in marking this special day.
Happy Vaisakhi to you all!
On the day of Vaisakhi, 14th April, we will offer mithai to all guests throughout the day and you’ll get a Mango and Fennel Lassi on us when you wish “Happy Vaisakhi” to your server (before 6pm).
IT HAS BEEN an annual December habit of mine, these past ten years since we embarked upon this restaurant business, to sit alone, with myself, and reflect on the year gone by. I am grateful to be here in the Permit Room in our restaurant in Shoreditch scribbling and writing, the oddly enjoyable taste of splintering wood from my chewed up pencil smoothed by my decently strong drink.
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.