Chabeel, is a sweet, energising cool drink that holds immense importance to the Sikh community.
Chabeel, is a sweet, energising cool drink that you would often find on the roadsides particularly in hot months. The only difference between Chabeel and other roadside summer coolers is that the former is rarely ever on sale.
The Sikh community is renowned for their Langar, a community kitchen that serves thousands of people free meals in Gurudwara premises. Tied to this spirit of seva or volunteering is the practice of serving Chabeel. Chabeel is a Punjabi word for something sweet and cool. The drink is non-alcoholic in nature, and often fragrant. Traditionally the drink is served to the general public between the months of May and June as a respite from the heat. It is around this time, the Sikhs also commemorate one of their spiritual Gurus Arjun Dev Ji.
The Great Sacrifice
It is said that the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjun Dev Ji, became the first Sikh martyr in the year 1606, because he refused to change the Sikh scriptures as per the wishes of Mughal emperor Jehangir. Legend goes that the Mughal emperor called for the changes due to the growing influence of Sikhism in India.
As per many Sikhs, Guru Arjan Singh refused to make any changes to the scriptures and was punished for his rigidity. He was apparently made to sit on a hot plate and hot sand was poured on top of him.
Significance of Chabeel, The Punjabi Cooler
The Sikhs commemorate this episode and the sacrifices made by their Spiritual Guru by serving others a chilled glass of Chabeel. This is also tied with the Sikh concept of ‘Chardi Kala’, which literally translates to ‘ever rising spirit’. As per ‘Chardi Kala’, not mortals, even the Gurus have had to brave many harsh conditions, but that should not make one bitter, and the spirit of optimism must not die. And this is what make Chabeel such an intrinsic part of the Sikh tradition of volunteering. Even as Guru Arjan Singh had his skin burned down, the Sikh devotees, serve Chabeel to those bothered by the sun and the blazing heat.
While Chabeel can refer to any cool, sweet drink that is energising. Sometimes, it may just refer to a mixture of milk and sugar. One of the popular concoctions that people commonly associate with chabeel is that of rose syrup, whole milk, water and ice cubes.
Have you ever tried the Punjabi Chabeel? Have you ever voluteered to serve it to other commuters, onlookers and travellers around. Do share your thoughts with us and do not forget the pictures too.