Saturday, 15 January 2011

Patiala Durbar Hall: Tale of a forgotten era


POOR REFLECTION: Punjab tourism board fails to maintain edifice built in 1845, at museum.

Once resplendent with burnished arms and armours, shimmering chandeliers and life-sized portraits of maharajas, the darbar hall at Quila Mubarak is now but a poor reflection of its glorious days.

The historical edifice, dating back to 1845, was built by Maharaja Karam Singh of Patiala in his heydays. Quila Mubarak comprises Quila Androoni and darbar hall, the arms gallery that was thrown open to the public after being converted into a heritage museum. But, the upkeep of this heritage is not what the Punjab government seems to be losing its sleep over.

The sword of Nadir Shah, known as Shikar Gah and the sword of Shah Abbas of Persia lie tarnished. The rare chandeliers, made of Bohemian cutglass, are on display, but large parts of it are broken. The walls, ceiling and rooftop have their own sorry tale to tell ­ that of apathy and ignorance.

The two vintage cars, vintage Car Itala (1903) from Bleriot, London, and rear vintage car, Fiat (1911), of Patiala state, have a history of their own, but now, they stand damaged in a dark corridor of the hall.

The chariot, crafted out of pure silver in 1909 (Kolkata), was driven by six horses and mostly used during ceremonial processions of maharajas of Patiala. But, without proper maintenance and upkeep by the Punjab heritage and tourism board, it is partially damaged. The officials have simply turned away from these historic pieces.

An official said the board has send regular reminders for renovation but nothing has come of it. “In a written communiqué last month, the board had demanded its renovation, as the ceiling had started falling apart. The monsoon had played havoc, causing moisture that ruins the portraits and wooden pieces mounted on walls,“ he said.

“The process to begin conservation and renovation of artifacts at the Patiala museum is on. The renovation will soon begin, said Husan Lal, member secretary, Punjab heritage and tourism promotion board.


Hindustan Times, January 11th 2011.

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