Sheesh Mahal crowning glory

The Sheesh Mahal was constructed at the rear of the Motibagh Palace and has a huge tank with two towers on both sides of 'Lakshman Jhula' which takes one across to the Banasar Ghar, which earlier housed the National History Gallery.

The Sheesh Mahal in the building comprises a long room with a small longitudinal antechamber, occupied a place of pride. This was because the longitudinal room was laid with convex and coloured mirrors amidst miniature paintings. The main room along with this was covered with paintings of Kangra and Rajasthani style. The ceiling was painted with floral designs, besides wood carvings.

Today the room known as the Sheesh Mahal is a shadow of its former self. The glass has oxidised and is presently exudes a deep green shadow. Due to earlier dampness in the roof, part of the mirror work has been spoiled beyond redemption. The room along with the Sheesh Mahal has suffered more, specially the paintings below the roof. Many of the paintings have been completely destroyed due to continuous seepage of water. The roof of the room has been completely redone with geometrical designs in bright colours.

A visit to the Sheesh Mahal is an exhilarating experience due to the fact that it has been converted into a museum. The entrance to the first floor, which houses the museum, is through a narrow dim lit staircase. The passage to the museum has sculptures mainly from Dholbaha and a few other sites on both sides. The narrow passage leads to a broader one with the miniature painting gallery on one side and the chandelier room and adjoining Tibetan pottery and manuscripts room on the other.

The miniature paintings belong tly to the 19th century with the themes being based on 'Geet Gobinda' of Jaya Deva's poetry. There are also paintings from the Kangra school which depict Krishan Lila in varied aspects and also paintings from the Rajasthani school. The objects of Tibetan art include sculptures in metal, ivory carvings of Punjab, royal wooden- carved furniture and a large number of Burmese and Kashmiri carved objects. One can also see portraits of rulers of Patiala adorning the walls of the museum hall. Rare manuscripts include Jain manuscripts with the t valuable among them being Gulistan Bostan by Sheikh Sadi of Shiraz.

The top floor of the Sheesh Mahal has been converted into a gallery housing traditional Punjabi cultural items like a 'gadda' (wooden wheeled cart), clothes, utensils and locks. Traditional motifs drawn on mud walls are also on display in this gallery.

All along the empty tank in the front of the Sheesh Mahal upturned canons greet visitors. The wooden carriages of the canons had long been eaten away by termites and presently they are either on one wheel or without any wheel at all. The erstwhile Banasar Ghar which can be accessed by crossing over the 'Lakshman Jhula' has been handed over to the North Zone Cultural Centre and is now used to hold exhibitions. A sculpture park is also situated alongside the park which has metal sculptures of various kings and queens of England on display. These have withstood time, probably the only artifacts to do so in the complex.

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