Sard Khana in ruins

Three of the seven temporary brick pillars which were raised to support the roof of the verandah, collapsed a few months ago and have not been rebuilt yet, endangering the verandah.

Archaeology and Cultural Affairs Department officials have not approved the latest estimate for the restoration of the pillars. If the roof of the verandah caves in, it will bring down with it not only the Roman pillars, but also damage irreversibly the entrances to the basement of the building.

The Sard Khana was built in two stages. The rear portion is built of Nanakashi bricks in Rajasthani style with basements which adjoin a deep well. Built by the early Rajas of Patiala around 1765 because they did not have any access to the hills to spend the summer, the Sard Khana was their summer residence. The adjoining well had outlets into the basement. The spill-over of the water created a draft which cooled the basement.

The front portion was built after 1857 by Maharaja Narinder Singh when Patiala had cordial relations with the British. The front portion has huge Roman pillars and majestic arches. It was used for the stay of British guests. An imposing hall and adjoining rooms formed its core.

At present, the Sard Khana is in need of urgent attention. It gives the appearance of a ruin as the main hall lies exposed to the elements ever since its roof caved in many years ago. Due to this it has become a home for bats and pigeons who have littered the entire building with droppings. The verandah is littered with rubble from the collapsed pillars. Twisted and rusted girders are supporting its roof.

However, even in this state, it stands out for its coloured marble floor and a beautiful, intricately carved fireplace in its middle. The fireplace looks stunning despite the weeds that surround it. In the corners lie some carvings in plaster of paris and one wonders what the original form would have been. Art connoisseur and bureaucrat Rupinder Singh Randhawa, who was in charge of restoration of the Quila in 1995, said it had been envisaged to convert the building into an eatery serving Patiala cuisine under a heritage project. He said it was felt that the building could be retained in its present state by covering the hall with a fibre glass dome. He said this could still be done even if funds were not available for complete restoration of the roof.

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