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A Tale of Five Cities

To catalogue Punjab’s charms, one has a to traverse from forts to factories, from ancient history to the age of informatics. However, present day Punjab still boasts of many historic sites and places of cultural significance.


If there exists an ancient city with a modern face, then Jalandhar fits the description. A town of great antiquity, Jalandhar today is a highly industrialized center of commercial activity. It also claims the privilege of being the sports city of India as not only has it produced some of our finest sports people but also world class sports equipment which is produced here. In fact, 12 of India’s greatest hockey players have come from a single village, Sansarpur, in Jalandhar district.

Historical evidence suggests that in 185 B.C., Jalandhar defined the northwestern boundary of Pushyamitra Sunga’s kingdom. Jalandhar also finds mention in accounts of King Harsha’s reign which began in 606 A.D, Udita, the King of Jalandhar was a small but independent kingdom known as Trigarta.

Jalandhar continued to flourish under the Mughals and played a prominent role in the freedom struggle as many patriots were born here.

Jalandhar boasts of many historic monuments. Prominent among them are the mausoleum of Imran Nasir, the fort at Phillaur which once served as Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s line of defence against the British, a Shiv Mandir which dates back to the Lodhi era and the Gurudwara at Kartarpur. The Gurudwara at Kartapur (16 m from Jalandhar town) was built by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjun Devji in 1656 A.D. Every year, a fair is held on the birth anniversary of the Guru when a large number of devotees gather to pay homage.

Another popular annual event is the Har Ballabh Sangeet Sammelan held in the last week of December at the Devi Talab. Baba Har Ballabh, born in a Brahmin family at Bajwara, Hoshiarpur, shifted to Jalandhar and became Swami Tulja Girl’s disciple. In 1875, he began the Sangeet Mela in the memory of his Guru and the tradition continues strong even today. Prominent exponents of classical music, both vocal and instrumental gather to provide a feast of music.


The Punjabi spirit of enterprise and business savvy is best exemplified by the city of Ludhiana which is renowned the world over for its hosiery goods. It is no exaggeration to say that in Ludhiana every household is a mini hosiery unit and everybody seems to be involved in some way or the other in this lucrative business. From Moscow to Montreal, shopping malls retail both cotton and woollen products from Ludhiana. However, Ludhiana’s claim to fame is not its commercial enterprises alone. It is an important pilgrimage center as there are many historic Gurudwaras in and around Ludhiana. Ludhiana also boasts of many prestigious educational institutions. There are two Medical Colleges and the famous Punjab Agricultural University modelled on the Land Grant of America.

During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Ludhiana became an important British cantonment. Initially in 1805, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had occupied Ludhiana. However, in 1809, the British decided to curb his advance eastwards and sent troops to confront him. Ranjit Singh was forced to sign the treaty of ‘perpetual friendship’ with the British which confined his activities to the right bank of the Sutlej. British troops were permanently stationed in Ludhiana and the Cis-Sutlej states came under British Protection.

Ludhiana is initially connected with Guru Gobind Singhji. In the village Machhiwara, Ludhiana district, is the Gurudwara Charan Kanwal named after the Guru’s lotus feet. When Aurangzeb’s army attacked the fortress of Chamkaur Sahib, Guru Gobind Singhji successfully resisted their onslaught and slipped away into the forests of Machhiwara. The Mughal forces got wind of his whereabouts and Guru Gobind was saved by two of his Muslim devotees who disguised him as their Muslim prophet. The place where the Guru rested is where the Gurudwara stands today. Another famous Gurudwara Manji Sahib is at Alamgir, 10 kilometres from Ludhiana, where the two Muslim devotees placed the cot in which Guruji was being carried. There is a ten feet deep tank near the Gurudwara where, according to a legend, Guru Gobind Singhji shot an arrow into the parched land which miraculously yielded water.

During the struggle for freedom from the British, many leaders of the freedom movement came from Ludhiana. Prominent among them were Lala Lajpat Rai, Sardar Kartar Singh Saraba, Baba Santa Singh and Maulana Habibur Rehman.

A war museum is being set up in Ludhiana at the cost of Rs. 1.83 crores. The museum will have a separate weapons section, a medal section and will display photographs and paintings in various battles. Ludhiana will then truly salute the noble warrior spirit of the Punjabis.


Ferozepore is an ancient city situated close to the present day Indo-Pakistan border. It is believed to have been founded by Ferozeshah Tughluq in the 14th century. Another version claims that it was founded by a Bhatti chief Feroze Khan. However, the first version is more widely accepted as Ferozeshah Tughluq had a passion for building new cities and renaming old ones especially after his own name. He claimed, “Among the many gifts which God bestowed upon me, His humble servant, was a desire to erect public buildings. So I built many mosques, colleges and monasteries, that the learned and the elders, the devout and the holy, might worship God in these edifices and aid the kind builder with their prayers.”

Ferozepore’s strategic position in the northwest of the country has resulted in its being part of many military expeditions in the area. During the first Anglo-Sikh war in 1845, it was due to the negligence of the British commander at Ferozepore that the Khalsa was able to cross the Sutlej unopposed. When Lord Hardinge declared war on the Sikhs, the first battle was fought at Mudki, 20 miles south-east of Ferozepore. In 1838, Ferozepore was the centre from where British troops advanced to Kabul during the first Anglo-Afghan war.

Three heroic martyrs of India’s freedom struggle – Bhagat Singh and his associates Rajgurur and Sukhdev – have their final resting place on the banks of the river Sutlej in Ferozepore. On March 23, 1931, despite popular protest, these three heroes were executed in Lahore and were stealthily cremated in the dead of night near Ferozepore. They were killed for raising the flag of revolutionary terrorism against the British, displaying their deep patriotism and defiance for the foreign rulers till the very end.

Today, a Shaheed Bhagat Singh Memorial marks the spot and every year on March 23, thousands of people gather to pay homage to these noble heroes.

Ferozepore has another historical memorial, the Saragarhi Gurdwara, commemorating the sacrifice of 21 Sikh soldiers who perished at Saragarhi in Baluchistan. On 12 September, every year, people gather here to pay tribute to the heroic soldiers and celebrate Saragarhi Day. The memorial service also provides an occasion for ex-servicemen to have a reunion.


Sirhind is a city where the Mughals still live on in the magnificent architectural legacy they have left for the future generations. The origin of the city is not known but probably dates back to the 10th century. In 1360, Ferozeshah Tughluq used Sirhind as his regional headquarters and built many edifices including the Ferozeshah fort. However, Sirhind achieved it zenith under the Mughals as it received the personal attention of emperors like Akbar and Jahangir. Many Afghan rulers over the ages claimed Sirhind as their territory and there are many monuments in the city which illustrate the Afghan links of this city.

A prominent Mughal monument is the Aam Khas Bagh which was built by Akbar and later developed by Jahangir and Shahjahan. As the name denotes, the garden was meant both for the public and royalty. The royal part includes a large water tank, a palace with beautiful walls ZNd elaborate fountains. Another monument is the Rauza Sharif of Hazrat Mujadid-Alaf-Saani, Sheikh Ahmed Farooqi of Sirhind, a contemporary of Akbar and Jahangir. His mausoleum is regarded as the second Mecca by Sunni Muslims all over the world as the Sheikh is considered second to the prophet, Hazrat Mohammed. The annual Urs is celebrated with zest by Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs who gather here in large numbers. Next in the mausoleum is the cenotaph of shah Zaman, the Afghan ruler.

Sirhind has also witnessed many important events in the evolution of the Sikh faith. It was here in the ancient fort of Sirhind built by Ferozeshah Tughlaq that the two young sons of Guru Gobind Singhji were bricked in by walls and suffocated to death for refusing to embrace Islam. The Gurudwara Fatehgarh Sahib built on the spot commemorates the victory or ‘fateh’ or the two noble souls who refused to abandon there faith under severed duress. Near the Gurudwara is the Burj of Mata Gurji in the memory of the sorrowful grandmother who died of shock seeing the martyrdom of her minor grandsons. The Gurudwara Jyoti Swarup marks the spot where all these were cremated. Every December, thousands gather here during the Jor Mela to pay homage and express their devotion.


Kapurthala is a city with a colourful past. The capital of the erstwhile Kapurthala State, the city is the headquarter of the district by the same name and is located nine kilometres away from Jalandhar city. The Maharajas of Kapurthala were renowned for their tastes and many of them were influenced by western fashions and trends. Perhaps the most colourful of them was Maharaja Jagat Singh who is believed to have been ‘one of the most enlightened of the Hindu princes’ in pre-independent India.

Many of Kapurthala’s striking buildings owe their existence to Maharaja Jagat Singh. He was a great admirer of French architecture and has a Louis the XVI palace built for himself by a French architect. The famous French architect M. Manteaux designed the Moorish Mosque, a unqiue building in India because of the Moorish style of architecture. The mosque has a large compound paved with pure Indian marble and the inner dome has been decorated by artists from the Lahore School of Art. Maharaja Jagatjit Singh’s palace today houses the Sainik School and epitomizes the perfect blend of French architecture and oriental surroundings.

Kapurthala has many other buildings associated with its erstwhile rulers. A few miles from Kapurthala on the banks of the rivulet Bein is the Villa Buona Vista, the residence of the Maharajas of Kapurthala. This area is well suited for picnics and boating and fishing expeditions. The Shalimar Garden in Kapurthala contains the samadhis (memorials) of the former rulers, some of them embellished with exquisite filigree work.

In the heart of Kapurthala town is the Panch Mandir built by Sardar Fateh Singh which houses many deities in a series of small temples built around a central dome. Thirty kilometres south of Kapurthala is the town of Sultanpur Lodhi where there is Gurudwara Ber Sahib, a renowned center of pilgrimage for Sikhs. The Gurudwara is named after the Ber tree under which Guru Nanak Devji meditated. There are many other Gurudwaras here as Guru Nanak Devji spent many years of his early life in and around Sultanpur Lodhi.