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).
With February comes a gladdening of spirits, lighter morning skies and discernibly louder birdsong. It is also the month to bid farewell to our winter cocoons (at least partially) and tune back into the world beyond our blankets. Allow us to ease the de-hibernation process, by sharing some of the things piquing our interest this month.
“Who wants to see some magic?” Chef Arun calls out. He flings the rolled out dough into the air, sending it soaring above the counter. It spins and twists, a graceful dancer in the air. The children watch its arc, their eyes wide with wonder, until it lands gently back in the chef's hands. The children shriek in delight.
January is a most divisive month. For some it heralds the hopeful turning over of new leaves; for others it is a month to trudge begrudgingly through towards the promise of spring. Whichever camp you find yourself in, we have plentiful diversions to share. See them as the cherry atop your already gleeful January cake, or a welcome distraction while you await winter’s end.
I AM HERE, dear reader, slovenly and slouched, staring into my drink at the end of the bar in our new restaurant in Battersea. My mind is still down and out, sifting around in the dregs of ’23 but of course it knows that I should really straighten my back, raise my chin and look squarely up into the cold new light of ’24. My drink – Choti’s Punch – clear and strong, sweet with a little salt, may help.