The capital of a princely state under the Raj, and a city with much charm and few visitors, Patiala dates back to the early eighteenth century. It was founded as the capital of a state that featured a unique power-sharing arrangement, in which the maharaja was always a Sikh and the army commander a Muslim. Buffeted by rival powers, be they Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, Patiala’s maharajas finally secured their state’s survival in 1808 by allying themselves with the British. Like India’s other princely states, Patiala was absorbed into the Republic in 1947, but the city remained capital of its own state (the Patiala and East Punjab States Union, aka PEPSU) until 1956. To this day, there’s still something special about Patiala, and even the local measure of whisky – the Patiala peg – is bigger than a standard peg that you get elsewhere. The old city is full of bazaars and temples, and still has its fort and several of its original gates, although the walls are long gone. The tourist board have designated a self-guided “heritage walk” around the city’s main sights, with signposts marking out the route, although they’re a bit patchy, and a map is more helpful.

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