This 18th century qila (fort) was built by Baba Ala Singh who established an independent Sikh principality at Patiala. It reportedly took many years to complete but continued to expand well into the 19th century for as long as the royal family resided here. Qila Mubarak remained the official residence of the Maharajas till 1862. The township of Patiala grew and flourished around Qila Mubarak, and today, this majestic fort proudly marks the heart of the city. The sprawling complex comprising inner and outer precincts, each with its own set of buildings, is an outstanding example of Mughal and Rajasthani architectural styles.
The fort is a must-see for visitors to Patiala and continues to be a huge draw. As many as 13 painted chambers and mirrored halls comprise the private residential area, called Qila Androon, where the Maharaja and the ladies of the royal household resided. The Sheesh Mahal is most remarkable in its elaborate decorations. The walls are intricately inlaid with mirror and gilt, and covered with exquisite frescoes that depict traditional Hindu themes and scenes from celebrated Punjabi folklore. Delicately painted birds, animals and geometrical designs by skilled artists from Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh are a part of the embellishments. A sacred flame brought by Baba Ala Singh from the Jwalamukhi Temple in Kangra is also housed within this section and has been kept alive since. Another section of the inner grounds comprises the Cannon Park with a gleaming array of large guns and cannons on display.
Notable buildings in the outer perimeter of the fort include the Raan Baas or ladies apartment; the Darbar Hall built by Maharaja Karam Singh; the Jalau Khana, a hall meant for exhibitions; and the Sarad Khana, intended to house European guests. The fort’s Lassi Khana, or kitchen, is said to have served nearly 35,000 people every day. Qila Mubarak remained the official residence of the Maharajas till 1862, while the Durbar Hall continued to function as their court until 1947. Today, as a museum, this hall’s splendid display includes a silver chariot, Bohemian cut-glass chandeliers, a beautiful jade dagger carried by Guru Gobind Singh and a sword that belonged to Nadir Shah.