Sikh Kingdom's Only Fort Fights for Survival

Its name means the 'fort of triumph', and it's a symbol of the courage and culture of the Sikhs. Qila Mubarak, the only fort built by a Sikh ruler, has withstood many attacks in its over 200-year history but is today fighting a losing battle - against government apathy. A peek into the interiors of Qila Mubarak, Patiala town's royal fort, by a television documentary series has highlighted how the fort is being neglected. Instead of letting in only the admiring tourist, the complex houses several government offices, including a forensic laboratory.

"The only fort built by the Sikhs is in danger because of the state government's apathy. We are going to lose it soon. It is not only ironical but tragic that the state government is blind to the imperilled Patiala fort that was once the pride of entire Punjab," leading theatre personality Gurcharan Singh Chani, who has prepared a documentary series on the leading forts in India for Doordarshan with his son Gyandev, told IANS.

The foundation of the fort was laid by founder of Patiala dynasty Ala Singh in 1763. It was completed by his grandson and successor Maharaja Amar Singh, but historians differ over the exact year.

The Patiala chiefs, who opposed the Muslim rule as guerrilla fighters, founded a state in the 1760s. Ahmad Shah Abdali, the Afghan ruler after Nadir Shah, conferred the title Raja on Ala Singh.

Built on level ground, which now stands in a crowded area right in the middle of Patiala town, 80 km from Chandigarh, the fort is classified as a 'Nara Durg' - a citadel defended primarily by brave soldiers because it is not protected by any natural armour like mountains, forest or water body.

Ala Singh wanted a sophisticated fort on the plains, one that was strong enough to repulse a fierce Maratha attack in 1794. Initially built as a mud-fort, Qila Mubarak was later built with bricks. The fort housed the palace of the royal family of Patiala at one stage.

The rulers of Patiala had reached an understanding with the British in the 18th and 19th centuries to keep Maharaja Ranjit Singh at bay.

However, today, the fort complex houses offices of 10 government departments, a testimony to the shocking neglect by the authorities. Even the state forensic sciences department has its office and laboratory, where chemicals are used freely to conduct tests on human organs as part of criminal investigations, inside the Qila Mubarak complex.

"Ranvas (a portion of the fort complex), which has beautiful paintings, is being used as state forensic laboratory," Kavita Singh, an art historian from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said in the documentary. "The first time I went to Patiala, a number of government offices were functioning over there. Here was a beautiful structure filled with amazing paintings, architecturally very interesting and doubly significant because it is in Punjab unlike Rajasthan, where there are so many forts which have good architectural qualities. I remember going there and seeing a wall, where there were beautiful, delicate paintings...and a nail is driven right through the painting and a calendar hung on that nail," she recalls.

The buildings inside the fort reflect a blend of Rajasthani, Pahari and Mughal cultures.

"The style of Patiala is greatly influenced by Rajasthan. A number of arts and crafts bear the imprint of Rajasthan. It was the painters of Alwar and some from Jaipur who came to work here in Patiala," noted art historian B.N. Goswani said.

"Sheesh Mahal is a beautiful hall in the Qila Andaroon palace in the fort, in the image of Mughal style. The rulers here were particularly fond of walls decorated with small and large mirrors. Hundreds of reflections on an individual created a bewildering effect. A single source of light could dazzlingly light up the area to make it look like Diwali," he added.

The main gate of the fort is all but lost in the hustle and bustle of the crowded and popular Adalat Bazaar.

"The beautiful carvings on stone are invisible. One cannot even notice the small towers and windows with petite balconies jutting out. It is matter of great regret that such a beautiful fort has suffered from neglect and stands crumbling in a shamefully ruined state," Chani said.  


More by :  Jaideep Sarin

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Comment It is generally worth preserving ancient monuments simply because of their age or architecture, but the Sikh fort at Patiala is a monument of shame not pride. Its builder's infamy deserves demolition more than preservation.

I am pasting four small paragraphs from Wikipedia regarding Ahmad Shah Abdalli (Durrani) , the victor of the third battle of Panipat and the desecrator of Harmandir Sahib with whom the shameless Sikh ruler of Patiala traitorously collaborated. The Sikhs have been more foolish than brave. Ranjit Singh with his debauchery destroyed his own Sikh kingdom.

Rise of the Sikhs in the Punjab
Then in 1756-57, in what was his fourth invasion of India, Ahmad Shah sacked Delhi and plundered Agra, Mathura, and Vrindavana. However, he did not displace the Mughal dynasty, which remained in nominal control as long as the ruler acknowledged Ahmad's suzerainty over the Punjab, Sindh, and Kashmir. He installed a puppet emperor, Alamgir II, on the Mughal throne, and arranged marriages for himself and his son Timur into the imperial family that same year. He married the daughter of the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah. His de facto suzerainity was accepted by the East India Company.[20] Leaving his second son Timur Shah (who was wed to the daughter of (Alamgir II) to safeguard his interests, Durrani finally left India to return to Afghanistan.

On his way back he attacked the Golden Temple in Amritsar and filled its sacred pool with the blood of slaughtered cows. Durrani captured Amritsar in 1757, and sacked the Harmandir Sahib at which point the famous Baba Deep Singh and some of his loyalists were killed by the Afghans.[21] This final act was to be the start of long lasting bitterness between Sikhs and Afghans.[22]

During the Third Battle of Panipat (1761) between Marathas and Abdali, The Sikhs did not support either side and decided to sit back and see what would happen. The exception was Ala Singh of Patiala, who sided with the Afghans and was actually being granted and crowned the first Sikh Maharajah at the Sikh holy temple.[30]

The victory at Panipat was the high point of Ahmad Shah's and Afghan power, this situation was not to last long; the empire soon began to unravel. As early as by the end of 1761, the Sikhs had begun to rebel in much of the Punjab. In 1762, Ahmad Shah crossed the passes from Afghanistan for the sixth time to crush the Sikhs. He assaulted Lahore and Amritsar. Within two years, the Sikhs rebelled again, and he launched another campaign against them in 1764, resulting in an even battle. During his 8th invasion of India, the Sikhs vacated Lahore, but faced Abdali's army and general, Jahan Khan. The fear of his Indian territory falling to the Sikhs continued to obsess the Durrani's mind and he let out another campaign against Sikhs towards the close of 1766, which was his eighth invasion into India.(all four above paras from Wikipedia)

The foolish Hindu and Muslim sepoys under British officers then fought the Sikhs in the British invasion of the Sikh kingdom after the death of Ranjit Singh (who had murdered his mother) and whose lesser queen or concubine had plotted to usurp his throne. His heir Dalip Singh converted to Christianity and gifted the Kohinoor diamond to Queen Victoria.

The Sikhs had their revenge when they remained loyal to the British and not only didn't join the 1857 mutiny, but fought with the British to recapture Lucknow, Meerut and Delhi. Nothing has changed even to the present. The current ex- Maharajah of Patiala joined the Congress to become Chief minister of Punjab despite Congress led atrocities against ordinary Sikhs in Delhi. Before that idiot Indira Gandhi had encouraged and supported Bhindranwale to ignite the Khalistan insurgency and many unthinking Sikhs started massacring Hindus. Now the foolish puppet prime minister Manmohan Singh who is a Sikh is sacrificing the interests and independence of India to appease terrorist Pakistan at the behest of his Italian mistress and American masters. No wonder India has been colonized for millennia.

gaurang bhatt

gaurang bhatt
23-May-2011 17:08 PM

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