Moorish que cries for care

Considered a jewel of architecture, the Moroccon-style que depicts the secular thought of the maharajas of the earstwhile princely state of Kapurthala, otherwise known for liberal use of the French-style of architecture in t of the royal buildings. The que took four years to be completed following an order by the then Maharaja of Kapurthala, Jagat Jit Singh, in 1926 that a beautiful place of worship should be built for his Muslim subjects. The que was inaugurated by His Highness on March 14, 1930, in the presence of Nawab Sadiq Mohammad Khan Bahadur, the then ruler of Bahawalpur state. The foundation stone of the que depicts the secular approach of the Maharaja. It says, ‘The existence of the que will be an enduring testimony to His Highness’ broadminded tolerance and solicititude for the welfare of his subjects.’

The beauty of the que structure has been enhanced by the fine carving on the red and sand stone, which has been extensively used by the Moroccon architects, who had been especially brought from Morocco, to design and construct the place after the Maharaja had seen a similar structure in Morocco. On one side of the que is a tower with 158 steps. And lending beauty to the place are three one-piece huge marble saucer-shaped fountains.

But what dims the spirits of the devotees who gather here on Fridays to offer ‘Namaaz’ and tourists visiting the unique que, is years of indifference, which stands out in many forms – seepage of rain water from the main dome for broken tiles, stinking toilets for fountains, which have been lying non-functional for the post more than three decades. So much so that, that those visiting the place on Fridays, don’t get any water for their ‘Wuzu’, a Muslim ritual. ‘The fountains have never worked for the past two decades and the building has had no whitewash after 1994, since the government had no money,’ said an official of the Punjab Cultural Affairs Department, responsible for the upkeep of the que.

During a visit to the place, this correspondent found that cement plaster and whitewash on t of the walls had got pealed off in the absence of timely repairs. Similarly, the two beautiful lamp posts in the premises have been without lamps and glasses for years together. ‘The building has been sans water connection so how can we operate the fountains,’ said Mr Sukhjit Singh Walia, the pump operator of the que, which otherwise has been declared a ‘protected’ monument by the state government. At one time, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had toyed with the idea of taking over the place, but it developed cold feet on realising that the building had lesser historical value as it was less than 100 years old, it is learnt.

Mr V.K. Singh, Kapurthala Deputy Commissioner, said though there was no plan for a complete resurrection of the building but still, the district administration would certainly do something to save it from further deterioration.

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