Have you ever longed to visit Paris, the city of lights, but felt disappointed because you could not afford that flight? Never worry. You can get a flavour of France right in a corner of India. All you need is to catch a train to Delhi, and then to Kapurthala, a historic city in Punjab. There you can watch in awe the many monumental buildings that replicate historic landmarks of Paris.
The French flavour of the city of Kapurthala was brough to life by Maharaja Jagatjit Singh, who had ruled the princely state Kapurthala during the pre-independence period.
He was an avid Francophile who admired everything French and used to spend a lot of time in Paris. Kapurthala also bears witness to the immense riches owned by the princely states of India. The buildings, monuments, and gardens of this city were built in the French and Indo-Sarasenic architecture styles.
Jagatjit Singh who ascended the throne in 1872, commissioned the French architect M Marcel in 1905 to build a palace for him, modelled on the Palace of Versailles and Fontainebleau, naming it 'Jagatjit Palace.'
It was built by a local builder, Allah Ditta. The palace which is spread over 200 acres was turned into the Kapurthala Sainik School by the Government of India after Independence. The palace has many wonderful architectural features including one of the most beautiful Durbar Halls in the country.
The Jagatjit Club, which resembles the Parthenon on the Acroplis of Athens, was built in Greek-Roman style of architecture. This building had gone through a number of incarnations, at first as a church during the early 19th century and later in the 1940 as a cinema hall. At present, it functions as a local club with modern amenities.
Another attraction in Kapurthala is the Moorish Mosque. Built in the design of the Grand Mosque at Marakesh, the most important city in Morocco, it was also done by a French architect. The construction lasted for 13 years. At present, the Moorish Mosque is a historical monument protected by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).
Kapurthala has not just the French vignettes. The Panch Mandir, (temple of five gods) is a place of worship that attracts a large number of visitors. Built during the reign of Maharaja Fatheh Singh Ahluwalia of Kapurthala, the Panch Mandir houses the idols of five different deities. All the five idols are visible for the visitors entering through the first entrance itself.
After visiting the palaces and temples, you can move onto the wonderful Shalimar Gardens, a niche of tranquillity within the heart of the city. The garden offers an escape from the bustle of city life.
Now, who needs to take all the trouble and fly to France to get a slice of Paris? Just go to Kapurthala and enjoy the French flavour in Indian soil.