Qila Mubarak: Patiala fort to restore lost glory with hospitality

Topics hospitality

Punjab Tourism Minister Charanjit Singh Channi said the renovation is under way in full swing
Patiala may have become a household name because of an eponymous whisky shot rather than its royalty. But the city’s landmark Qila Mubarak is now finally set to restore its glory as a seat of the royal family after lying in disrepair for long.

The Punjab government is renovating the 18th century fortress, which has hosted the likes of Prince Charles, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Queen Elizabeth, and was named as one of the world’s 100 most endangered monuments by the World Monuments Fund.

Come 2021, The Park Hotels will run a part of the fortress, Ran Baas, as a luxury boutique hotel. The chain of luxury five-star boutique hotels belonging to the Apeejay Surrendra Group in Kolkata has been awarded the contract recently.

Punjab Tourism Minister Charanjit Singh Channi said the renovation is under way in full swing. “We will complete the restoration work in a month or two and hand over Ran Baas to The Park Hotels,” he said.

Qila Mubarak, which was the residential palace of the royals, will have a 24/7 dining, restaurant-cum-bar, spa, and indoor and outdoor banqueting spaces.

Ran Baas, the guest house, will be developed into a 28-room luxury boutique hotel. Ran Baas literally means the place where the soldiers rested during battles. It was earlier called Lassi Khanna, since a part of it was a place where food and beverages were served. “Because of this history, when it came to turning a part of Qila Mubarak into a hotel, Ran Baas became an obvious choice,” said Jagjit Singh, the qiladar or curator of Qila Mubarak.

Ran Baas also has a Rang Mahal (meant for entertainment) and Sheesh Mahal (a marvel of architecture carved out of glass), says Prem Pal, the project manager appointed for the restoration. The glass has a prism-like rainbow effect, as light gets refracted into myriad colours in varied angles when passing through it, making Sheesh Mahal the main attraction of Ran Baas. “We have let it stay the way it was built,” said Pal.

In keeping with the fort’s construction, lime plaster is being used in place of cement. The plaster is first treated with curd and araish are glossy and smooth, and they remain cool in summer and warm in winter, explained Pal.

Qila Mubarak was built in 1763 as a mud fort by Baba Ala Singh, the first maharaja of the princely state of Patiala. Later, it was reconstructed using the small-sized surkhi.

The area around Qila Mubarak will also be developed as a heritage street, likely to be ready by December 2021
The entire qila has a wooden ceiling, made by raising planks with hollow spaces between them and the roof. This was done to ensure heat remained trapped inside the rooms during winter and filtered out in summer. “We are ensuring that there is no visible alteration to the structure due to electricity, so all the wires that are getting added are being cased and hidden,” said Pal.

The fort is segregated into two parts - Durbar hall or the outer hall, and Qila Androon, the inner fort. The Qila Androon has 13 royal chambers with paintings depicting mythical stories. And the Darbar hall has swords, cannons and daggers used in battles, said Jaswinder Singh, who is part of the fort’s conservation wing.

The architecture is an amalgam of Mughal and Rajasthani styles. While the hotel will be operational only in Ran Baas, other parts of the fort are being renovated to their original forms - such as Sard Khana (meant for the European women companions of the king), Dadi Khana (the place for the matriarch) and Rang Mahal. The walls at Sard Khana are being rebuilt in a manner that the climate inside remains temperate and true to its name, Singh added.

The revamp will cover old fountains, but not the fortress’s 257-year-old drainage system “that matches the best in the world”, Pal said. “We did not tamper with it, since locating various drainage outlets was difficult. But we know that even when the town gets heavily inundated, this place is nothing more than damp.”

The area around Qila Mubarak will also be developed as a heritage street, likely to be ready by December 2021. A heritage hotel offering a peek into the past of the Patiala royals is, for now, a nearer possibility.

History lodge
  • Ran Baas is the guest house at the 18th century Qila Mubarak fort
  • It will be developed into a 28-room luxury boutique hotel
  • The hotel will be run by The Park Hotels belonging to the Apeejay Surrendra Group
  • Qila Mubarak is segregated into the Durbar hall and Qila Androon
  • The fort’s walls are being done up using lime plaster treated in curd and araish
  • Ran Baas will open as a hotel early next year

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