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PATIALA (30°20'N, 76° 26'E) is a district and a town in the state of Punjab in north India. It was formerly the capital of a princely Sikh state until it lapsed in 1948. Though only the fourth largest town of the Punjab with a modest population, 268,521 (1991), Patiala boasts a well marked cultural tradition. Historically, the city is not very old.

It was founded only in 1752 by Baba Ala Singh (1691-1765), the founder of the Phulkian house of Patiala. The site was the ruined mound, Patanvala Theh, of an earlier habitation, from which the name 'Patiala' is said to be derived. Ala Singh had begun to rule only over 30 villages around Barnala but had become, by the middle of the eighteenth century, undisputed master of considerable territory to the east of that town. In 1753 he forced the Khokhar chief of the parganah of Sanaur to cede to him the chaurdsi, a group of 84 villages including the Patanvala Theh.

Ala Singh at first made a kachchi garhi (mud fortress) near the present Fort at the site, later known as Sodhldn dl Garhi, the fortress of the Sodhi clan. The foundation of the Fort, the present Qila Mubarak, was laid in 1763, when Ala Singh also shifted his principal seat here. The place then became known as Patiala. Baba Ala Singh died in 1765 and was succeeded by his grandson, Amar Singh.

Amar Singh received the title of Rajai Rajgan from Ahmad Shah Durrani. Patiala made steady progress under Raja Amar Singh and his successors. Raja Karam Singh (ruled 1813-45) reconstructed the Saifabad Fort, already conquered by Raja Amar Singh and renamed it Bahadurgarh after Guru Tegh Bahadur, who had visited here a century earlier. The next ruler, Raja Narinder Singh (ruled 1845-62) made the greatest contribution towards the development of Patiala town.

He built Motibagh Palace, designed on the pattern of the Shalamar Palace of Lahore with terraces, fountains, canals and the Shish Mahal (mirrored palace). Its foundation was laid in 1847 and it was completed at a cost of five lakhs of rupees. He also built the famous Nirmala centre, Dharam Dhuja, also called Nirmal Panchaiti Akhara, and the samddh of Baba Ala Singh. The ten gates and ramparts of the city were also built by him.

The name of Maharaja Mohinder Singh who ruled the state from 1862 to 1876 is celebrated by Mohindra College established in 1870. Maharaja Rajinder Singh (ruled 1876-1900) raised the Baradari Palace and Garden as his residence. His successor, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh (1891-1938), however, shifted back to Motibagh Palace. The last ruling prince, Maharaja Yadavinder Singh built the New Motibagh Palace near the old one, and also added many other buildings such as the Yadavindra Stadium, State Bank of Patiala, the Army Headquarters, the Soldiers' Club and the Gymkhana Club. Patiala also has a flying club.


Two historical shrines commemorate the visit of the holy Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Nanak:

Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib

This shrine is situated in what used to be the village of Lehal, now part of Patiala city. According to local tradition, supported by an old handwritten document preserved in the Gurdwara, one Bhag Ram, a jhivar of Lehal, waited upon Guru Tegh Bahadur during his sojourn at Saifabad (now Bahadurgarh), and made the request that he might be pleased to visit and bless his village so that its inhabitants could be rid of a serious and mysterious sickness which had been their bane for a long time.

The Guru visited Lehal on Magh sudi 5, 1728 Bk/24 January 1672 and stayed under a banyan tree by the side of a pond. The sickness in the village subsided. The site where Guru Tegh Bahadur had sat came to be known as Dukh Nivaran, literally meaning eradicator of suffering. Devotees have faith in the healing qualities of water in the sarovar attached to the shrine.

Raja Amar Singh of Patiala (1748-82) had a garden laid out on the site as a memorial which he entrusted to Nihang Sikhs. Records of a court case in 1870 mention a Guru's garden and a Nihangs' well being in existence here. In 1920, during a survey for the proposed construction of Sirhind-Patiala-Jakhal railway line, it appeared that the banyan tree under which had sat Guru Tegh Bahadur would have to be removed. But men charged with felling it refused to touch it. Ultimately, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh ordered cancellation of the entire project. No gurudwara building had, however, been raised. It was only in 1930 that a committee was formed to collect funds and commence construction. The Gurdwara when completed passed under the administrative control of the Patiala state government. It was later transferred to the Dharam Arth Board of the Patiala and East Punjab States Union and eventually to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

The building complex sprawls over several acres. The two storey gateway has a collapsible iron gate and black and white marble floor. On the left of the pathway leading to the principal building is a small marble shrine marking the site where Guru Tegh Bahadur had sat under the banyan tree. The central two storey building, with a domed pavilion on top, is on a raised base having an octagonal domed chamber at each corner. The pinnacled lotus dome on top has a round sun-window on each side with a curved coping, projected horizontally at the ends. There are decorative domed pavilions at the corners and lotus blossoms in leaf in the middle on top of the walls.

The interior is paved with marble slabs in white and grey against black and white of the outer platform. The walls and pillars are also panelled with white marble slabs. The ceiling is decorated with stucco work in floral design. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated under a square canopy at the far end. The 75metre square sarovar, since considerably extended, is on the right and Guru ka Langar on the left as one enters. The Gurdwara is administered by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. A big gathering is held on the fifth day of the light half of each lunar month. The festival of the year is Basant Panchmi which marks the day of Guru Tegh Bahadur's visit.

Gurdwara Motibagh

This shrine is situated near the Old Motibagh Palace, former residence of the rulers of Patiala. According to Sikh tradition, Guru Tegh Bahadur, during his journey to Delhi for his supreme sacrifice, stayed here for a while, in 1675. It was then jungle country and no memorial was raised until Maharaja Narinder Singh of Patiala (1823-62), who had already built the Motibagh Palace, constructed this Gurdwara in 1852.

The building stands on a high plinth and is approached by a flight of marble-topped steps leading to a porch on top of the base. The sanctum is a square room with a verandah around it. It has four doors, one on each side, but three of them are closed with screens of perforated red-stone slabs. The one open door has a white marble frame and wooden leaves covered with beautifully carved brass sheets.

The interior walls and the ceiling are richly decorated with filigree work and inset multicoloured glass pieces. On the first floor is a square room with a pinnacled lotus dome on top. For administration, the shrine is affiliated to Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib. Special religious gatherings and Guru ka Langar mark the anniversaries of the birth and martyrdom day of Guru Tegh Bahadur. On the latter occasion, a largely attended procession is led out from here. Marching through the city streets, it ends at Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib. Extensive renovations have been carried out recently.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century writers such as Kesho Das and Bhagvan Singh Banuri were attracted to Patiala where they applied themselves to preparing a history of the House of Patiala, composed ballads celebrating contemporary events and wrote books on the lives and philosophy of the Gurus. The renowned historian, Bhai Santokh Singh, too, had come to settle at Patiala in 1823, though Bhai Udai Singh of Kaithal "borrowed" his services from Raja Karam Singh. One Bhai Nihal wrote the story of the lives and exploits of the House of Phul. The famous Nirmala scholar Pandit Tara Singh Narotam, who, besides writing several books on religious philosophy, compiled a catalogue of historical Sikh shrines, enjoyed the respect and patronage of the Patiala rulers. Giani Gian Singh wrote his book on Sikh history while in residence at Gurdwara Motibagh.

Centre of Excellence

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh established a regular historical research department under Sardar Karam Singh. He also made Punjabi the court language in his state. Bhai Kahn Singh's voluminous Gurushabad Ratandkar Mahdn Kosh (an encyclopaedia of Sikh literature) was published by the Patiala Darbar in 1930. At Partition some celebrated Sikh scholars and savants such as Baba Prem Singh Hoti and Sant Sarigat Singh of Kamalia chose to come to Patiala and make it their permanent home. Also settled here was Dr Ganda Singh. He was Director of Archives in the Patiala government. Much of Professor Sahib Singh's scholarly work was accomplished here, as well.

With the partition of the country in 1947, the Government of India's share of the Punjab Civil Secretariat Record Office, Lahore, became part of the East Punjab's Archives. These together with the records of PEPSU are now housed in Baradari Palace and Reference Section of the Central Public Library at Patiala. They constitute a gold mine of information regarding Khalsa Darbar, Lahore, Mughal Subah of Delhi and Divisional administration of Ambala, Hissar and Old Delhi. It contains records of the Patiala and East Punjab States Union which formed Part B state of the Union of India in 1948 until its amalgamation with the Punjab in 1956.

Educational Centre

Among the educational establishments in Patiala may be counted the Punjabi University and Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, besides several degree and post degree colleges including medical colleges of different systems of medicine and a college for women. Mohindra College, established in 1870, was for long the only University college west of Calcutta. Patiala was also the first city, between Delhi and Lahore, with a printing press. The Munshi Nawal Kishore Printing Press, was established during the 1870's. Patiala's contribution to the promotion of Punjabi language is noteworthy. Patiala took the lead in adopting Punjabi as the official language. This meant an immense boost for Punjabi language and literature.

The first Punjabi typewriter was also manufactured under the patronage provided by Patiala state. With the establishment of the National Institute of Sports at Patiala the town could legitimately claim to have become the sports capital of India. But its contribution to sports in the past, too, has been noteworthy. Patiala even among the Indian princely states was a leading centre of sports in the country. Patiala rulers were famous for their love of sports. Among the traditional Indian sports wrestling used to be the most popular. The Patiala court patronized many who distinguished themselves in this field. Most famous of them was Ghulam Muhammad, popularly known as Gamari Pahalvan, who for many years held titles of RustamiHind (champion wrestler of India) and even RustamiZamari (world champion). Later, Gamari's younger brother, Imam Bakhsh, also joined the Patiala state and won many laurels. Another Patiala wrestler was Kesar Singh who also won the title of RustamiHind and won a bronze medal in Olympic Games in 1952, the first ever and till 1996 the only individual Olympic medal won by an Indian. Bakhshish Singh of Patiala also represented India in wrestling in the Melbourne Olympics of 1956.

Encouragement for sports

It was during the reign of Maharaja Rajinder Singh that Patiala started its great tradition in modern sports, particularly cricket. He invited some professional cricketers from Britain to Patiala to coach young Indians in the game. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh and his son Yadavinder Singh themselves were keen cricketers. The young prince led an Indian team to England when he was barely 19. He captained an Indian XI in 1935. He became president of the Indian Olympic Association in 1939 and continued in that office till 1960, when he was succeeded by his younger brother. Raja Bhalendra Singh. A young Patiala army officer, Dalip Singh, who later became a brigadier in the Indian army, was the first Indian athlete to represent India in Olympic games. That was in Paris in 1924.

Maharaja Yadavinder Singh had the Yadavindra Stadium constructed in 1941. This was the first cinder track stadium in India. Another more modern stadium came up in the Punjabi University campus during the early 1970's. Polo was introduced in Patiala by Maharaja Rajinder Singh in 1890. Soon, Patiala became internationally known for excellence in this sport. Patiala produced many famous players of whom General Chanda Singh was the most renowned. He distinguished himself in India as well as abroad. In 1909 he won championships in England and France. Spain specially invited him to play for their team. The Patiala team won the Ratlam Cup in 1923. It went to England the following year where it won the famous Coronation Cup.

Music was promoted

Patiala state also made itself famous in music. A school of music known as Patiala ghardnd became very popular. Although times have changed, it still holds sway in this part of the world. After the disintegration of the Mughal court in Delhi in the wake of the 1857 uprising, many old artists had to seek employment elsewhere. Among those who were attracted to the court of Maharaja Narinder Singh of Patiala, who was a great lover of classical music, was the famous musician of the Mughal court, Ustad TanRas Khan "Qawal Bachcha". His pupils at Patiala included Bhai Kallu Rababi of the Anandpur Rababi family, 'All Bakhsh and Fateh 'All. The most famous singer of this ghardnd was Goki Bai, who flourished during the reign of Maharaja Rajinder Singh (18761900). Ustad 'All Bakhsh's son, Bare Ghulam 'Ali Khan, continued the tradition of the Patiala ghardnd even after the decline of the Patiala court following the upheaval of 1947.

Other well known performers of Patiala ghardnd were Ustad Munawwar Khan Sararigi Niwaz and his two sons, Chand Khan and Ramzan Khan of Delhi. The famous performers of kirtan, the Sikh devotional music, Bhai Chand and Bhai Lal also belonged to Patiala. One of the Patiala princes, Karivar Mrigendra Singh, was himself a noted musician. According to him "it will be no exaggeration to say that today the whole of the West Pakistan classical music is mainly based on Patiala ghardnd."

Distinct cultural twist

The cultural pattern introduced by Patiala state carried its own flavour. This culture was not confined to the elite of the court but also percolated to the common people.

The average Patialvi developed, like the Lakhnavis, greater consciousness of his personal bearing than any other people in the region. For example, the Patiala Sikhs have a particular style of rolling their beards and tying their turbans. Things have changed after the migrations of 1947, but the cultural stamp of Patiala remains intact. A migrant to Pakistan, FazliHamid, Deputy Director, Bureau of Reconstruction, Government of Pakistan, in his letter dated Lahore, 30 January 1965, provides interesting testimony. He writes: "In the Patiala State over the centuries, we Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus had lived happily together and developed traditions, cultural outlook and a way of life of our own which had the unmistakable stamp of Patiala. The Patiala tradition was based on tolerance, fellow feeling, gentlemanliness and catholicity. I hope we Patialvis will dedicate ourselves to the ideals of peace and humanity wherever we happen to be."


  • 1. Punjabi University, Patiala and Its Historical Surroundings. Patiala, 1969
  • 2. Phulkian States Gazetteers
  • 3. Kahn Singh, Gurushabad Ratandkar Mahdn Kosh. Patiala, 1981
  • 4. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Gurduarian. Amritsar, n.d.
  • 5. Narotam, Tara Singh, Sri Guru Tirath Sangrahi. Kankhal, 1975
  • 6. Sahi,J.S., Sikh Shrines in India and Abroad. Faridabad, 1978
  • 7. Mehar Singh, Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1975
Districts of Punjab

Amritsar (District)BarnalaBathindaFirozpurFaridkotFatehgarhGurdaspurHoshiarpurJalandharKapurthalaLudhianaMansaMogaMuktsarNawanshahrPatialaRupnagarMohaliSangrur (District)Tarn Taran

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