Kila Mubarak set to revive royal splendour

Forgotten by the state and its people after the last of its inmates had left, the Kila was virtually dug up in the mid-1990s by an ambitious team which wanted to restore the glory of this heritage site. The team cleared a massive amount of rubble and partitions which had been constructed by various government departments in the complex. It was during this time that the last of the government offices were shifted out of the complex.

The state government has decided to give the entire restoration work to INTACH. Its Vice-Chairman S K Misra said the painted chambers in Kila Androon, which is the nucleus of the fort as well as its oldest part, will be restored on a priority basis. Kila Androon was also the residential palace in the fort. Meanwhile a two-day workshop held in the Kila as part of the Patiala Heritage Festival has divided the entire complex into three zones. Gurmeet S Rai, head of an NGO, CRCI, said the work under zone one would concentrate on reinforcing the central axis between the gates of Kila Androon and the sacred jyot. In the second zone "reuse opportunities" would be explored, and restoration work of the outer wall would be taken up. The third zone will stress on recovering and restoring open spaces, and improving access to the Kila.

The mahal of Florence, the European rani of Maharaja Rajendra Singh, in Kila Androon
Even though the Punjab Government has a complete conservation wing consisting of conservators, architecture engineers and a chemical laboratory with trained staff, the painted chambers in the Kila have been allowed to go to seed. The government sought the services of a UNESCO-recognised laboratory in Lucknow. Technicians from the laboratory could restore only three-fourths of the masnad (throne room). They have not returned since the last four years but the glow which they brought back to the portrait of Maharaja Karam Singh in the chamber as well as the gleam of gold and vivid vegetable dyes in panels depicting the life of Guru Nanak as well as Lord Krishna leave the viewer awestruck.

A large portion of the remaining three chambers seem to be beyond repair. This chamber has two antechambers alongside the main room as well as a private courtyard. Both antechambers, knows as sheesh mahals because they are adorned by cut glass, are in a deplorable condition. The painted panels in the courtyard are literally falling apart.

The Kila stands secure even now mainly due to the depletion of ground water. This has reduced moisture and protected the walls of the palace from damage. However, the dryness has led to corrosion of the wooden supports of the roof. t of them have been infested with termite. Strengthening of the roof would also be a priority with INTACH. In the recent past, the dhuni (smouldering fire)which is placed in a special enclosure on the top floor of Kila Androon was in the danger of dying out. This fire, which was brought from Varanasi and is burning for nearly 225 years, occupies a special place in the hearts of Patialvis, for it is believed that the city will remain safe as long as the fire will burn. Though the roof of the room housing the dhuni has been strengthened, restoration work has to be done to strengthen the adjoining rooms too.
The only Victorian building on the first floor of Kila Androon requires attention too. This mahal was built for Florence, the European rani of Maharaja Rajendra Singh. This palace was the only building in Kila Androon which had running water facility, bathrooms and a false ceiling. The rooms of the building are still intact though the roof of its verandah has fallen.

The other buildings of Kila Mubarak are in a condition worse than that of Kila Androon. Sard Khana, which is behind Kila Androon, is a fine example of building material and architecture suited for the Indian climate. In the main hall of Sard Khana, only a beautiful marble fireplace remains. Another building close to Sard Khana is Jalau Khana, which was a museum during princely times. It now showcases photographs of the work done during the earlier restoration exercise. This building too needs repairs. The roof of Durbar Hall with its glittering chandeliers also needs to be strengthened. The chandeliers, which were put up a few years ago, weigh several tonnes. Attempts are being made to make Kila Mubarak a living monument. Currently, visitors are allowed only into Durbar Hall, which has been converted into a museum. The Patiala Heritage Society has plans to make the Kila a hub of art and cultural activities by holding regular programmes and throwing parts of it open to artisans. 

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