PAṬIĀLĀ (30º-20'N, 76º-26'E), a district town of the Punjab, 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), Paṭiālā boasts a well-marked cultural tradition. Historically, the city is not very old. It was founded only in 1752 by Bābā Ālā Siṅgh (1691-1765), the founder of the Phūlkīāṅ house of Paṭiālā. The site was the ruined mound, Paṭāṅvālā Theh, of an earlier habitation, from which the name 'Paṭiālā' is said to be derived. Ālā Siṅgh had begun to rule only over 30 villages around Barnālā 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 chaurāsī, a group of 84 villages including the Paṭāṅvālā Theh. Ālā Siṅgh at first made a kachchī gaṛhī (mud fortress) near the present Fort at the site, later known as Soḍhīāṅ dī Gaṛhī, the fortress of the Soḍhī clan. The foundation of the Fort, the present Qilā Mubārak, was laid in 1763, when Ālā Siṅgh also shifted his principal seat here. The place then became known as Paṭiālā.

         Bābā Ālā Siṅgh died in 1765 and was succeeded by his grandson, Amar Siṅgh, who received the title of Rājā-i- Rājgan from Ahmad Shāh Durrānī. Paṭiālā made steady progress under Rājā Amar Siṅgh and his successors. Rājā Karam Siṅgh (ruled 1813-45) reconstructed the Saifābād Fort, already conquered by Rājā Amar Siṅgh and renamed it Bahādurgaṛh after Gurū Tegh Bahādur, who had visited here a century earlier. The next ruler, Rājā Narinder Siṅgh (ruled1845-62) made the greatest contribution towards the development of Paṭiālā town. He built Motībāgh Palace, designed on the pattern of Shālāmār of Lahore with terraces, fountains, canals and the Shīsh Mahal (lit. glass palace). Its foundation was laid in 1847 and it was completed at a cost of five lakhs of Rupees. He also built the famous Nirmalā centre, Dhararn Dhujā, also called Nirmal Pañchāitī Akhāṛā, and the samādh of Bābā Ālā Siṅgh. The ten gates and ramparts of the city were also built by him. The name of Mahārājā Mohinder Siṅgh who ruled the state from 1862 to 1876 is celebrated by Mohindrā College established in 1870. Mahārājā Rājinder Siṅgh (ruled 1876-1900) raised the Bārādarī Palace and Garden as his residence. His successor, Mahārājā Bhūpinder Siṅgh (1891-1938), however, shifted back to Motībāgh Palace. The last ruling prince, Mahārājā Yādavinder Siṅgh built the New Motībāgh Palace near the old one, and also added many other buildings such as the Yādavindrā Stadium, State Bank of Paṭiālā, the Army Headquarters, the Soldiers' Club and the Gymkhānā Club. Paṭiālā also has a flying club.

         Two historical shrines commemorate the visit of the holy Gurū, Gurū Tegh Bahādur, Nānak IX :

        GURDWĀRĀ DŪKH NIVĀRAN SĀHIB is situated in what used to be the village of Lehal, now part of Paṭiālā city. According to local tradition, supported by an old hand written document preserved in the Gurdwārā, one Bhāg Rām, a jhivār of Lehal, waited upon Gurū Tegh Bahādur during his sojourn at Saifābād (now Bahādurgaṛh), 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 Gurū visited Lehal on Magh sudī 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 Gurū Tegh Bahādur had sat came to be known as Dūkh Nivāran, literally meaning eradicator of suffering. Devotees have faith in the healing qualities of water in the sarovar attached to the shrine known as Gurdwārā Dūkh Nivāran Sāhib.

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

         The building complex sprawls over several acres. The two-storeyed 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 Gurū Tegh Bahādur had sat under the banyan tree. The central two storeyed 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 around 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 Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated under a square canopy at the far end. The 75-metre square sarovar, since considerably extended, is on the right and Gurū kā Laṅgar on the left as one enters. The Gurdwārā is administered by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā 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 Pañchmī which marks the day of Gurū Tegh Bahādur's visit.

        GURDWĀRĀ MOTĪBĀGH is situated near the Old Motībāgh Palace, former residence of the rulers of Paṭiālā. According to Sikh tradition, Gurū Tegh Bahādur, during his journey to Delhi for his supreme sacrifice, stayed here a while, in 1675. It was then jungle country and no memorial was raised until Mahārājā Narinder Siṅgh of Paṭiālā (1823-62), who had already built the Motībāgh Palace, constructed this Gurdwārā 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 multi-coloured glass pieces. On the first floor is a square room with a pinnacled lotus dome on top. For administration, the shrine is affiliated to Gurdwārā Dūkh Nivāran Sāhib. Special religious gatherings and Gurū kā Laṅgar mark the anniversaries of the birth and martyrdom day of Gurū Tegh Bahādur. On the latter occasion, a largely attended procession is led out from here. Marching through the city street, it ends at Gurdwārā Dūkh Nivāran Sāhib. Extensive renovations have been carried out recently.

         Towards the end of the eighteenth century writers such as Kesho Dās and Bhagvān Siṅgh were attracted to Paṭiālā where they applied themselves to preparing a history of the House of Paṭiālā, composed ballads celebrating contemporary events and wrote books on the lives and philosophy of the Gurūs.

         The renowned historian, Bhāī Santokh Siṅgh, too, had come to settle at Paṭiālā in 1823, though Bhāī Udai Siṅgh of Kaithal "borrowed" his services from Rājā Karam Siṅgh. One Bhāī Nihāl wrote the story of the lives and exploits of the House of Phūl. The famous Nirmalā scholar Paṇḍit Tārā Siṅgh Narotam, who, besides writing several books on religious philosophy, compiled a catalogue of historical Sikh shrines, enjoyed the respects and patronage of the Paṭiālā rulers. Giānī Giān Siṅgh wrote his book on Sikh history while in residence at Gurdwārā Motībāgh here. Mahārājā Bhūpinder Siṅgh established a regular historical research department under Sardār Karam Siṅgh. He also made Punjabi the court language in his state. Bhāī Kāhn Siṅgh's voluminous Gurushabad Ratanākar Mahān Kosh (an encyclopaedia of Sikh literature) was published by the Paṭiālā Darbār in 1950. At partition some celebrated Sikh scholars and savants such as Bābā Prem Siṅgh Hotī and Sant Saṅgat Siṅgh of Kamāliā chose to come to Patiālā and make it their permanent home. Also settled here was Dr Gaṇḍā Siṅgh. He was Director of Archives in Paṭiālā government. Much of Professor Sāhib Siṅgh's scholarly work was accomplished here, too.

         Consequent upon 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 Bārādarī Palace and Reference Section of the Central Public Library at Paṭiālā. They constitute a mine of information regarding Khālsā Darbār, Lahore, Mughal Sūbah of Delhi and Divisional administration of Ambālā, Hissār and Old Delhi. It contains records of the Paṭiālā 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.

         Among the educational establishments in Paṭiālā may be counted the Punjabi University and Thāpar 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. Mohindrā College, established in 1870, was for long the only University college west of Calcutta. Paṭiālā was also the only city between Delhi and Lahore where the first printing press, Munshī Nawal Kishore Printing Press, was established during the 1870's. Paṭiālā's contribution to the promotion of Punjabi language is noteworthy. Paṭiālā 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 Paṭiālā state.

         With the establishment of the National Institute of Sports at Paṭiālā 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. Paṭiālā even among the Indian princely states was a leading centre of sports in the country. Paṭiālā rulers were famous for their love of sports. Among the traditional Indian sports wrestling used to be the most popular. The Paṭiālā court patronized many who distinguished themselves in this field. Most famous of them was Ghulām Muhammad, popularly known as Gāmāṅ Pahalvān, who for many years held titles of Rustam-i-Hind (champion wrestler of India) and even Rustam-i-Zamāṅ (world champion). Later, Gāmāṅ's younger brother, lmām Bakhsh, also joined the Paṭiālā state and won many laurels. Another Paṭiālā wrestler was Kesar Siṅgh who also won the title of Rustam-i-Hind 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. Bakhshīsh Siṅgh of Paṭiālā also represented India in wrestling in the Melbourne Olympics of 1956.

         It was during the reign of Mahārājā Rājinder Siṅgh that Paṭiālā started its great tradition in modern sports, particularly cricket. He invited some professional cricketers from Britain to Paṭiālā to coach young Indians in the game. Mahārājā Bhūpinder Siṅgh and his son Yādavinder Siṅgh 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 in that office by his younger brother, Rājā Bhālendra Siṅgh. A young Paṭiālā army officer, Dalīp Siṅgh, 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. Mahārājā Yādavinder Siṅgh had the Yādavindra 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 Paṭiālā by Mahārājā Rājinder Siṅgh in 1890. Soon, Paṭiālā became internationally known for excellence in this sport. Paṭiālā produced many famous players of whom General Chandā Siṅgh-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 Paṭiālā team won the Ratlām Cup in 1923. It went to England the following year where it won the famous Coronation Cup.

         Paṭiālā state also made itself famous in music. A school of music known as Paṭiālā gharānā 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 Mahārājā Narinder Siṅgh of Paṭiālā, who was a great lover of classical music, was the famous musician of the Mughal court, Ustād Tān-Ras Khān "Qawāl Bachchā". His pupils at Paṭiālā included Bhāī Kallū Rabābī of the Anandpur Rabābī family, 'Alī Bakhsh and Fateh 'Alī. The most famous singer of this gharānā was Gokī Bāī, who flourished during the reign of Mahārājā Rājinder Siṅgh (1876-1900). Ustad 'Alī Bakhsh's son, Baṛe Ghulām 'Alī Khān, continued the tradition of the Paṭiālā gharānā even after the decline of the Paṭiālā court following the upheaval of 1947. Other well known performers of Paṭiālā gharānā were Ustād Munawwar Khān Saraṅgī Niwāz and his two sons, Chānd Khān and Ramzān Khān of Delhi. The famous performers of kīrtan, the Sikh devotional music, Bhāī Chānd and Bhāī Lāl also belonged to Paṭiālā. One of the Paṭiālā princes, Kaṅvar Mrigendra Siṅgh, 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 Paṭiālā gharānā."

         The cultural pattern introduced by Paṭiālā 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 Paṭiālvī developed, like the Lakhnavīs, greater consciousness of his personal bearing than any other people in the region. For example, the Paṭiālā 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 Paṭiālā remains intact. A migrant to Pakistan, Fazl-i-Hamīd, 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."


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  2. Phulkian States Gazetteers
  3. Kāhn Siṅgh, Gurushabad Ratanākar Mahān Kosh. Patiala, 1981
  4. Giān Siṅgh, Giānī, Twārikh Gurduāriāṅ. Amritsar, n.d.
  5. Narotam, Tārā Siṅgh, Srī Guru Tīrath Saṅgrahi. Kankhal,1975
  6. Sahi, J.S., Sikh Shrines in India and Abroad. Faridabad, 1978
  7. Mehar Singh, Sikh Shrines in India. Delhi, 1975

Sardār Siṅgh Bhāṭīā