The Origin of Patiala Peg

Punjab, India has always fascinated me, be it's history, it's food, love of it's people. Recently I was in Punjab where I visited Chandigarh, Jalandhar and then went ahead to Amritsar Golden Temple. I spent couple of days traveling and interacted with locals listening various stories, some I remember, some I don't. The one story that I will never forget is the story that dates back to the era of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, who ruled the Princely State of Patiala.

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh was six and a half feet tall, and legend has it that when he rode through his kingdom on his black Arabian horse, he left many ladies dazed and weak in their knees. In his famous Moti Bagh Palace he had a bevy of 365 of the most beautiful women from North India, as his queens. He was one of those who could reach the court of the King Emperor late, and still be received by his Majesty, without the least sign of displeasure. The Maharaja of Patiala had the reputation of being a ‘king of kings’ and was Chancellor of ‘The Chamber of Princes of India’.

He was also a keen sportsman. He had a Polo team, which was undefeated during his reign. Part of his army consisted of legendary warriors of Punjab. Their favorite pastime was skull pegging. The skulls of their enemies buried half way into the ground, they lifted the skulls by pegging them with their spears as they rode their horses. The civilized version of the game came to be known as ‘Tent Pegging’.

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh once invited the Irish team “The Viceroy’s Pride” for a match of Tent Pegging. The Maharaja‘s team had never lost a game of Tent Pegging but he was not sure of winning the match against such a formidable opponent. He invited the Irish team for a lavish dinner a night before the match and in a cunning move the Irish team was served with abnormally large Peg of whiskeys. As expected, the next morning the Irish team woke up with a very bad hangover that they couldn’t concentrate on the game and lost the match against the Maharaja’s team. When the Irish team later went to the Maharaja to complain that they were given very large pegs of whiskey before the Dinner the night before, the Maharaja replied “Yes, In Patiala our pegs are larger” and thus was born the “Patiala Peg”.

Next time, you drink a Patiala Peg, have one more for Maharaja Bhupinder Singh.


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