Apathy sounds death knell for Batala heritage

A view of the residence of Maharaja Sher Singh A view of the residence of Maharaja Sher Singh at Batala.

With crumbling walls and fading original designs, the palace of Maharaja Sher Singh, situated at Batala, is crying for immediate attention. The outer walls of Maharaja’s palace, which is presently under lease and control of Baring Union Christian (BUC) College, need urgent repair. The plaster from the wall has come off from a lot of places.

The interior of the palace, which houses the administrative wing of the college, is being maintained by the college authorities. However, the outer walls need repair from a number of places besides few coats of paint to preserve the walls.It is pertinent to mention here that Batala was one of the oldest towns in the province of Lahore during the mediaeval times. It was a home to nearly 14 monuments of religious and historic importance.

Of these five were ques, two temples and two Gurdwaras. Besides, three monuments were connected with the Sikh history and two with the Mughal period.

Jal Mahal and the palace were built during the reign of the Maharaja Sher Singh (AD 1780-1839). Maharaja used to hold meetings of his courtiers in Jal Mahal. The water reservoir was built by Shamsher Khan while the beautiful Baradari in the centre of the tank was constructed by Maharaja Sher Singh The tomb of Shamsher Khan, an administrator (karori) of Batala during the reign of Akbar and Jal Mahal constructed by the Maharaja, which stands in the middle of the big tank of Shamsher Khan, was taken over by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) which has started a major project of repairing the outer walls of these two monuments.

However, cracks have appeared at various places in the tomb which needs the attention. The municipal corporation has also developed a beautiful park around the tomb. Though the corporation officials have put up a notice board instructing visitors not to carry eatables into the garden but one could see students cherishing their lunch there.

The stairs leading to main entrance door of the Jal Mahal, which is about 10 feet high from the platform, are missing thus causing confusion among the visitors as to how to enter the place. Some of the senior residents said former Congress legislator Ashwani Sekhri wanted to fill the pond with the water for making it a tourist spot besides providing boating facilities at the venue. However the ASI did not approve of the suggestion and the project was shelved at the very first stage, they added.

The upper portion of Jal Mahal is in a dilapidated condition and the time is not far when this magnificent structure will pass into oblivion if that part of the building was not repaired immediately. The tank is also being used by the residents to dump their garbage as heaps of garbage could be seen in various corners of the tank.

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