art-gallery-at-sheesh-mahal

Known as the `City of Gardens and Palaces’, Patiala doesn’t quite make it to the top of Punjab’s high-profile tourist destinations, but it’s worth a visit nevertheless – if only to have a look at the sumptuous Sheesh Mahal in the Qila Mubarak. A telling tribute to the days of the flamboyant Maharajas of Patiala, the Sheesh Mahal is part of the Qila Mubarak.

The then Maharaja of Patiala, Narendra Singh, built the Sheesh Mahal (in Patiala’s Old Moti Bagh) in 1847, and his much-admired aesthetic sense governed the design and decoration of this stunning palace to a substantial extent.Maharaja Narendra Singh was widely acknowledged as a patron of the arts, and the Sheesh Mahal is definitely a tribute to his taste. It’s a sprawling three-storied building, part-European and part-Mughal in appearance, set amidst landscaped gardens supposedly modeled on Lahore’s Shalimar Bagh. Fountains, terraces and an artificial lake (near which is the Banasar Ghar, a repository for stuffed animals), verdant lawns and flowerbeds form the backdrop for the Mahal, with its two watchtowers at both end and a suspension bridge, modeled after the Laxman Jhoola at Rishikesh.

The Sheesh Mahal is decorated throughout with everything from murals and exquisite mirror-work to lovely floral designs on the walls which are reminiscent of Mughal pietra dura. Most of the murals at the Sheesh Mahal portray themes from mythology and religion, along with depictions of some of northern India’s best classical poetry, especially that of masters such as Surdas, Keshav Das and Bihari Lal. The decoration of the Sheesh Mahal was entrusted to an army of skilled artisans from both Rajasthan and Kangra, and the typical art styles of both regions are apparent in the exquisite work on display. Amongst the Sheesh Mahal’s most highly recommended displays is a series of Kangra-style miniatures depicting the Geet Govind, the epic poem by Jaidev. Other than that, an entire section of the palace- the section, in fact, from which the Sheesh Mahal draws its name- is decorated with exquisitely designed glass and mirror work.

What is perhaps the Sheesh Mahal’s greatest draw is its excellent museum, a fine collection of antiques which give you a fabulous insight into the life and times of Maharajas of Patiala. The vast range of artifacts on display run the gamut from costumes and jewellery to portraits, Chinese mirrors, statues, engravings, utensils, weaponry and more. Besides artifacts pertaining to Patiala itself, there are objets d’art from the rest of India as well.

Foremost among the galleries of the museum is the Medal Gallery, an awesome collection of more than 3,000 medals and coins from across the world, dating from the 12th to the 20th centuries.

The palace is open to visitors from sunrise to sunset.