Nabha – The seat of the Phulkian Royals

Located at an equal distance of 280 km from Delhi on one side and Lahore on the other. It. is the sub-divisional headquarter of District Patiala (Punjab), located about 20 km from Patiala.

From historical evidence, Maharaja Hamir Singh founded the Phulkian state in 1755 and took over the forts at Sangrur, Bhadson (approximately 20 km north-east from the centre of Nabha town) and Amloh. The foundations of the Nabha Quila complex were laid around 1760. It was during the time of Maharaja Hamir Singh, who is said to have established his capital at Nabha in 1763 that settlements started agglomerating at the edge of the Quila complex. During Maharaja Jaswant Singh’s rule (1790-1810) the town was fortified with five gates and development activities picked up. Most of the urban cultural quarters date back to this period, principle cultural edifices like havelis, palaces, and other religious institutions forming the sub-cultural centres of the town with abaadi (settlements) around it. Bhadson fort was also reconstructed during this period. Unlike Maharaja Jaswant Singh’s rule, very few developments are recorded during the rule of Maharaja Bharpur Singh; the only significant one construction activity being the secondary fort southeast of the fortified town (circa 1860), the Garden Palace (historically known as Kesan Bagh5 and Rambagh, both laid out on the Persian Charbagh concept and the serais.

During the rule of Maharaja Hira Singh (1871-1911) the town of Nabha experienced the advent of institutionalization and significant relationships between the built and natural heritage. Several additions were made to the Nabha Quila complex in this period, and palaces were constructed on the eastern and south-eastern edges of the Quila complex (now known as Hira Mahal and Ripudaman College). The Higher Secondary School, Lansdowne Hospital and Victoria Memorial Park are a few other cultural edifices. Small commercial activities mushroomed on the north-west edge of the Quila complex (presently known as Sadar Bazaar) originating from the livelihood opportunities linked to the Quila. During this period the urban cultural quarters were re-strengthened, the employment profile of the Quila complex linked to the Munshi mohalla (east of the Quila complex), which was a neighbourhood comprising residents employed in the Quila administration and bhattanwala mohalla (west of the Quila complex) comprising residents who were skilled ironsmiths. The Lal Kothi lodge, forest rest-houses and other retreat structures located in the picturesque settings of the surrounding forests are evidence of the royalty’s commitment to the protection of forest flora and fauna, while promoting human-nature interactions.

Maharaja Ripudaman Singh of Nabha in Punjab was one of the few royal princes who were openly against the British. As a prince Ripudaman Singh, as member of the Imperial Legislative Council in 1907, worked with leaders like Dada Bhai Nauroji, Gokhale, Ras Bihari Bose and Madan Mohan Malviya. He introduced and had passed the Anand Karaj Bill to legalize the traditional Sikh marriage ceremony. The British were against the Bill because they feared this would contribute to the political influence the prince would gain amongst the Sikhs. On the death of his father, he installed himself as Maharaja of Nabha though after much protest, a modified installation was performed in the presence of a political agent. The Maharaja was unhappy that the investiture had to be performed during Muharram when most of his Muslim subjects were observing traditional mourning. He made a stinging speech on the occasion and forthrightly told the political agent that he had agreed to the installation under protest and reserved the right to appeal to the Secretary of State for India.

There were several other points of friction between the Maharaja and the British including Ripudaman’s Singh support of the Akali movement. Eventually this and some political intrigue on the part of Patiala led to an inquiry wherein he was forced to abdicate, and was not allowed to withdraw his abdication letter despite repeated requests. Shortly after, he was arrested at Allahabad station after a visit to Motilal Nehru, put in a special train and exiled to Kodaikanal.

The Indian National Congress supported his cause and there was popular demand for a full investigation of the affair. The Akali organization SGPC passed a resolution exhorting all Sikhs to observe September 9, 1923 as Nabha day and the people organised an Akhand Path in Gurdwaras in Jaito which was stopped by the local administrator. Jawaharlal Nehru, K. Santanam and A.T.Gidwani came to Nabha to express their solidarity with the movement and followed, in a country-cart, one of the Jathas. As they reached Jaito, police stopped the Jatha and an order was issued to all three banning their entry into Nabha territory. Upon their refusing compliance, they were put under arrest and marched through the streets of the town.

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