Patiala, the princely state of erstwhile Punjab, is a place where hybrid history and architecture come together. With its majestic palaces, religious shrines and glorious gardens, this royal city is much more than just ‘Patiala pegs’. By Ritika Dixit
The city of Patiala is filled to the brim with its rich cultural heritage and certain old-city charm. It enjoys a significant historical backdrop, starting from Mughals to Sikh Gurus to ostentatious kings. The city showcases the perfect blend of Rajput, Mughal and Punjabi cultures in amalgamation with modernity. If the magnificent palaces, awe-inspiring gates and mouth-watering delicacies aren’t enough, the warm-hearted locals in the city will sweep you off your feet.
1. Qila Mubarak
First developed as a mud fort or Kachi Garhi, Qila Mubarak was constructed by Baba Ala Singh after his conquest of the region of Sirhind. The present Qila is made up of two parts – the Qila Androon by Ala Singh and the Darbar Hall by Maharaja Karam Singh. For a look at the rare arms and armours, including a sword of Nadir Shah, the Darbar Hall has now been converted into a museum. The art lovers can rejoice in the rare specimen of Kangra and Rajasthani paintings inside the palaces. The thrilling experience of a lifetime at the Cannon Park within the Qila premises are not to be missed by any metallurgy fanatics. The tree-like chandeliers made from Bohemian cut-glass emitting prism-like radiant splendour will win you over.
2. Sheesh Mahal and Museum
The Sheesh Mahal is adorned with exquisite paintings of Kangra and Rajasthani qalam showcasing the poetic aspiration of Keshav, Surdas and Bihari. With walls and ceilings rich in floral designs and the Kangra paintings depicting the Krishna Lila reflect the highest professional and delicate taste. Paintings displaying the Raga-mala of the Rajasthan schools and that of the Mughals give a visual meaning to the Ragas. The museum is also home to several miniature paintings of the 19th century and fine objects of Tibetan art sculptures. Some rare manuscripts can also be found here, the most valuable one being Gulistan-Bostan by Sheikh Sadi of Shiraz, which was acquired by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his library. Do not miss the medal gallery inside the Sheesh Mahal, which displays a whopping 3,200 medals — the largest number of medals and decorations on display in the world. The numismatic collection is also wide and detailed, making the Sheesh Mahal and Museum a favourite among the readers of art and history.
3. Bahadurgarh Fort
Originally named Saifabad, the fort was renamed to Bahadurgarh by Maharaja Amar Singh who reinforced and renovated it. The fort commemorates the memory of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Behind the fort is the neglected tomb of Saif Khan, who was a relative of Emperor Aurangzeb, and held several important positions before becoming a hermit and settling down at the very place. If you visit the Bahadurgarh fort on a Thursday, you will come across followers who still light a lamp at the tomb in his memory. The two inscriptions inside the fort testify that the village and the mosque were founded in 1668 and that is exactly how far back in history one can delve when in Patiala.
4. Gurudwara Dukhniwaran Sahib
The Gurudwara is sprawling over several acres and the black and white marble pathways lead to the principal building. There is a small marble shrine inside the building where it is believed that Guru Tegh Bahadur used to sit under the banyan tree during his visit to the Lehal village. The modest Gurudwara was built on the land donated by people of Lehal. Legends have it that anyone who prays at this Gurudwara is relieved of his sufferings, thus the name. Dukhniwaran translates to eradicator of sufferings. Basant Panchami is also celebrated at the Gurudwara every year as it marks the day of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s visit to Lehal. No visit to Patiala is deemed complete without praying at this auspicious Gurdwara. You can also volunteer to help feed people or help clean the Gurudwara and pay your tributes to this holy site.
5. Moti Bagh Palace
Incorporating a unique mix of Indian and European styles of architecture, the Moti Bagh Palace was built by Maharaja Narinder Singh. It is also known as the Pearl Garden Palace. The new Moti Bagh Palace was built by Maharaja Yadavindra Singh and is now converted into a museum and the North Zone Cultural Centre, which was the first of its kinds aimed at promoting the arts, crafts and cultural heritage of the country. Another building in the New Moti Bagh Palace is currently the residence of Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh. The east wing of the palace houses the National Institute of Sports where the annual Patiala heritage festival was held. Set amidst beautiful gardens, Rajasthani jharokhas and chhatris, the Moti Bagh Palace can only have you begin imagining the richness of culture and history in this royal city of Punjab.