Not to be confused with the Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors) in the Qila Mubarak, this sprawling three-storied building, part-European and part-Mughal in appearance, was built by Maharaja Narendra Singh a short distance from the Old Moti Bagh Palace, to provide a space for expression for the many artists, poets and scholars who thronged his court. In its current role as a museum, this palace houses an impressive assortment of art and sculpture. It has a remarkable collection of miniature paintings, as well as carved metal and ivory artefacts from across Punjab, Kashmir, Burma and Tibet, including a gruesome albeit fascinating apron of human bones! A separate wing of the museum hosts a taxidermy gallery, displaying a large selection of mounted birds and animals.
Among the manuscripts in the museum’s possession is a copy of the greatest Sufi classic, the Gulistan Bostan, once owned by the emperor Shah Jahan, its pages illustrated in gold. An interesting collection of coins housed here traces the history of international trade in the 19th century. The feted medal gallery has on display the largest number of medals and decorations in the world, numbering 3,200. Among the most extraordinary are The Order of the Garter (England) of 1348, The Order of the Golden Fleece (Austria) of 1430, and The Order of St. Andrews (Russia) founded in 1688 by Peter the Great. The Most Noble Order of The Garter, the highest civilian decoration bestowed upon British citizens, can also be viewed here. One of only 25 ever in existence, it was accidently discovered by a visiting High Commissioner! The collection also contains medals from Belgium, Denmark, Finland and a host of countries of Africa and Asia; along side those instituted by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh himself. The latter are embellished with precious stones, and carry beautiful miniature images of Hindu gods and Sikh gurus. The grounds of the Sheesh Mahal are dotted with several statues, including one of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh highlighting his legendary sartorial taste, and an imposing statue of Queen Victoria. Slung across a (now dry) lake is a magnificent suspension bridge linking the Sheesh Mahal with the Banasar Ghar, an exhibition hall. The Sheesh Mahal is also the site for some of the events of the annual Patiala Heritage Festival.