After my midday class, Dr. Shveta, Aarza, Seerat, and I went off to the Quila [Fort] Mubarak. We could not park near the Fort so we took bicycle rickshaws to the entry. That alone was an interesting adventure– through the potholed and curvy alleys of the old market. I rode with Aarza and Shveta and Seerat took another rickshaw.
In the middle of the chaos stands the 300-year-old residential palace of the royal family of Patiala. The now serene grounds of the Quila Mubarak cover 10 acres inside a walled fortress and include a guest house and a number of other buildings.
The scale of palace life was impressive. Through some windows we could see remnants of painted ceilings. We also saw patterned brick ceilings. There was even an underground sewerage system in the Quila.
The contrast between the noisy, cramped and chaotic streets outside and this quiet, deserted fortress was striking.
You can imagine the former splendor of the courtyards and lawns behind.
Birds, including brilliant green parrots, and chipmunks nest in the facades and scamper across the lawns and dry brick debris.
Unfortunately, the museum was closed so all we could do was tour the grounds….
Until we negotiated our way (okay, Dr. Shveta did the negotiating!) into a couple of rooms, beginning with the Queen’s bathing rooms.
Shveta told me that the Kings of Patiala were [in]famous for their opulent and promiscuous lifestyles. The number of baths and fountains got me thinking about the parties they must have enjoyed!
In 2004, the World Monuments Fund placed Quila Mubarak on the list of world’s 100 “most endangered monuments.” We saw slow progress being made toward renovation while we were there. Unfortunately, progress was so slow, I fear that the monument will be irreparable before long.
Women carry the bricks and fallen plaster and stones on their heads to clear an area. Two young men pushed a cart lined with plastic and filled with red clay to reinforce brick where mortar is eroding.
The workers live on the Quila Mubarak grounds. Aarza manned the cannon in front of the dwelling of a worker family.
Contrast, the chaos of Patiala and the tranquility of this deserted fort. My existence versus that of kings versus that of the workers who would restore the splendor of the kings. I felt mildly embarrassed posing for this picture in front of the closed museum.