THIS FORMER princely state owes its extraordinary architectural heritage to the eccentric Maharaja Jagatjit Singh, who created amidst the rich agricultural fields of Punjab, a corner that will be forever France. In 1906, this passionate Francophile, commissioned a French architect to build him a palace modelled on Versailles, with elements of Fontainehleu and the Louvre added on. This amazing structure, which he grandly named the Elysee Palace (now the Jagatjit Palace), sits amidst gardens embellished with stone statuary and fountains, and is surrounded by villas built for his officials, modelled on those that were in vogue in the suburbs of Paris in the late 19th century. The palace is now a school, but the building with its ornate interiors and Renaissance-style painted ceilings, is open to public.

After this palace was built, the maharaja went through a Spanish phase. This found expression in the Buena Vista Hunting Lodge. Located on the outskirts of the town, it is occupied by his descendants. Another impressive sight is the town’s Moorish Mosque. Inspired by the grand Qutubiya Mosque in Marrakesh, this was designed by yet another French architect employed by Jagatjit Singh. Its inner dome has been beautifully painted by Punjabi artists.

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