Another peg for Patiala

Despite nearly three years of planning, work on the conservation of the Quila Mubarak is still to be initiated. The restoration of the Quila Mubarak is the cornerstone of all heritage plans drawn up for the city. Alongwith this fort complex, the revival of the traditional ‘bazaars’ selling juttis, parandis and nalas besides embroidered phulkari and traditional wedding finery were expected to give a fillip to not only tourism activity but also ensure the advantages of the entire exercise reached the target group.

It is apparently too early to even talk about the benefit percolating to the common man, be a taxi driver, rickshaw puller or an STD operator because Patiala has failed to come up as even a regional tourist site what to talk about it being noted at the national level.

No effort has been made to get visitors to see the Quila or the old city despite the "inauguration’ of a Heritage Walk initiated by an expert last year. It was to be continued after training postgraduate students as part-time guides. This scheme remained on paper only with not even a single walk being conducted after the last Heritage Festival. Another earmarked walk from the ‘Shahi Samadan’ (royal cremation ground) to Mohindra College, Old Moti Bagh Palace and Sheesh Mahal has also been a non-starter.

Traders and artisans were invited for a workshop during the Heritage Festival last year with the aim of bringing back purity to the old designs and incorporating the same in league with modern demands. Even this initiative was not followed up and the local artisans are still none the wiser about the gains of these extravaganzas.

Still not a happening haveli

The Rajindra Kothi was to do for Patiala what a host of havelis have done for Rajasthan. The marketing of the kothi of Maharaja Rajindra Singh’who established it amidst a beautiful garden in the 1860s after shifting out of the Quila Mubarak’was to herald the advent of heritage tourism in Punjab. This dream has also not been realised even though the ‘kothi’ was cleared in a tearing hurry more than two years back by shifting the archival records of the former princely states stored in it to other buildings. Transferred to the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) since then, it could not be leased out to a private party despite advertisements inviting expressions of interest in the property. The Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, summed up the state of affairs at a meeting of the Patiala Development Authority (PDA) recently by asking officials to stop planning and ensure implementation of the proposals in hand. Conversion of the Rajindra Kothi into a heritage hotel tops the list.
Constructed during the post -mutiny period when the royals of Patiala were in the process of moving out of their constricted residences in the Quila Mubarak, it has neither the beauty of architecture of say the Rajasthani style’on which other monuments in the city are based’nor the grandeur and space of European buildings. However, it has one of the t beautiful gardens surrounding it which when restored to their original condition under an ongoing project, will make the site breathtaking. The government will have to take a decision on it soon as earlier too the Neemrana group had asked for garden land adjoining the Kothi, which makes many locals uncomfortable.

The Baradari success
"The festivals are important because hey have generated awareness amongst the people about their heritage, says Vishal Chopra, a chest specialist whose family lived in the oldest part of the city, Chopra Mohalla, before shifting out. The festivals have also managed to improve the living conditions in the city with successive facelifts adding the much-needed infrastructure. There is also awareness about the need to tackle heritage buildings. For instance, when the massive wooden gate of the Samania Gate in the old city came apart, a few months back, the PDA stepped in not only to reinstall it but also give a facelift to the entire structure. The effort may be small but it signals a shift in focus from earlier times when historic gates were left to crumble down.

The t spectacular success story is that of the Baradari gardens. These gardens have been rescued by the PDA. The PDA has been helped by the State Bank of Patiala which has matched the government grant of Rs 1crore for the reorientation work. The work, started more than six months back, first saw the creation of footpaths along the roads criss-crossing the gardens. After this came aesthetic lighting. The central garden were then provided with a ‘heritage’ wall and also grills. The gates are also being refurbished following which the old water channels would be revived. There is a proposal to install a musical fountain in the gardens. Deputy Commissioner Tejveer Singh, who is also Secretary of the PDA, says tourism development is a gradual process. "Things are looking up with more budget hotels coming up in the city." Some institutions have even committed an annual grant for the Heritage Festival which could make it self-sustaining in the long run..

A view of the painted chamber in the Quila Mubarak, which is yet to be restored

The new grills of the Baradari evokes memories of a bygone era ‘ Photos by Rajesh Sachar

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