What is Patiala Peg ? History and Story

The Patiala Peg is an integral part of urban- and rural-drinking vocabulary in Punjab, and is a measure of whisky defined by the distance between the index and little finger when they are held parallel against a glass. It is roughly equivalent to 120 ml.

There are multiple theories how the measure got its name, all of which revolve around Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh who ruled the princely state of Patiala from 1900 until his death in 1938.

The Patiala Peg is generally associated with Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala . An enigmatic personality who came to rule when he was merely nine years old, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh was a fierce warrior, a man with fine tastes. It is said that he had 365 women (queens as well as concubines) in his palace.In his famous . 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 also owned more than 10 Rolls Royce cars and the famous Patiala Necklace which had 2930 diamonds including the world’s seventh largest called De Beers. The founder of State Bank of Patiala, he lived life king size. Interestingly, he was also the captain of the first Indian cricket team that visited Britain in 1911.

The story behind Patiala Peg:

“Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala had a Polo team, which was undefeated during his reign. Part of his army consisted of legendary warriors of Punjab. Their favourite pastime was skullpegging. 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, rider and horse inebriated with ‘bhang’. The civilized version of the game came to be known as ‘Tent Pegging’. Tent-pegging is a cavalry sport traced back to ancient origins when men on horseback would lance the pegs of the enemy camp’s tents to trap the soldier’s inside. It evolved to an event where riders charge across a straight course and use a lance to pick up pegs stuck in the ground.It was a fearsome Maharaja’s generous reward for a fine performance and dire retribution for the loser that made the Patiala team world tent-pegging champions. It was in the Patiala tradition to invite the ‘Viceroys Pride’, for a friendly engagement in the Maharajas territory.

The ‘Viceroys Pride’, all Irish men, handsome in their gait, were the ones who would drink till the night’s end, and were still able and proud to walk straight. The Irish team members were known to be heavy drinkers. Wherever this competition was held, there used to be a party night before and Irish were known to drink to full capacity and perform at their best the next day. Same as routine, a night before the competition, a party was held in Patiala, huge amounts of whisky was served to both teams and both teams drank to their capacity.
When the ‘Viceroys Pride’ arrived in Patiala for a friendly match, the home team felt nervous and feared that if they lost the game, it would be their skull on which their Maharaja would peg his spear.
On the evening before the encounter, the ‘Viceroys Pride ‘ was entertained to the pouring of a double measure of whiskey in every peg, later called the “Patiala Peg“. In the morning, they went into the friendly match of tent pegging, their heads heavy and groggy. They could not display their best and thus they lost the competition.When they went to the Maharaja to complain about their drinks, he famously replied, “Yes, in Patiala our pegs are large!”

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


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