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According to historical records, the town of Kapurthala was established in the 11th century and owes it name to its founder Rana Kapur who was a successor of the erstwhile royal family of Jaisalmer during the tenure of Mahmood Gaznvi.  

When Ahmed Shah attacked India on the fifth occasion in his notorious career, the Sikhs suffered losses and were forced to retreat. Slowly, they gathered forces and in January 1764 they removed Zain Khan, the Afghan Governor of Sirhind. The Sikhs also fortified themselves and subsequent raids by Ahmed Shah could not trouble the Sikhs.

The Sikh icon, Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia had an important role to play in the history of Kapurthala.  After the demise of the Mughal Governor Adina Beg, Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718-1783) removed the usurper Ibrahim Khan from Kapurthala and named Kapurthala as his “capital”. In 1754 Jassa Singh, the descendant of Nawab Kapur Singh, earned the title of “Nawab” from the Sikh Confederation. Fateh Singh, a descendant of Jassa Singh, was a close friend of Maharja Ranjit Singh and in 1806 he became the first ruler of Punjab to enter into an agreement with the British East India Company. Raja Nihal Singh, Fateh Singh’s son, became the king in 1836 after Fateh Singh passed away. Nihal Singh’s soldiers were biased towards the Sikhs and as a result the British took control over the southern parts of Kapurthala. Subsequently, the kings of Kapurthala attempted to turn the place into a perfect city-state instead of focusing on the British-India warfare.

When Nihal Singh passed away in 1852, his son Raja Randhir Singh succeeded the throne. During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, Randhir Singh led a contingent to Oudh. As a token of appreciation for the good service rendered by the contingent, Randhir Singh was granted 700 km² of land in Oudh. Although he did not exercise any sovereign power on Oudh, he enjoyed the status of a “large landholder” and earned a gross rental of 89,000. He won the titles of “Raja-i-Rajagan” and “Grand Commander of the order of the star of India (GCSI)”. He was succeeded by his son Kharak Singh who was the “Maharaja” of the state from 1870 to 1877. Tikka Jagatjit Singh, Maharaja Kharak Singh’s son, was born in 1872 and became the king in 1877 when he was only five. An officer of the Punjab Commission governed the state with the help of the principal authorities of the state while Jagatjit Singh was a minor. Maharaja Jagatjit Singh occupied the throne for sixty-seven years and ruled the state till 1948. Thus, with a glorious past ruled by able, strong and shrewd kings, Kapurthala has grown to be a city with a vibrant present and a bright future.

Presently, Kapurthala is accessible by train from both Amritsar and Jalandhar and is well-known for its thriving export trade in cotton, sugar and wheat. The ethnicity of the metal-works and hand-painted cloths of Phagwara make Kapurthala a popular spot for foreign tourists. The Shalimar Gardens, the Elysee Palace, the Jagatjit Palace (now known as the Sainik School) and the Jagatjit Club must be visited in order to get a feel of the grandeur of the former royal ambience of the place. The Moorish Mosque, an imitation of the “Grand Mosque” of Morocco, displays Kapurthala’s secular tradition. The Panch Mandir, the Gurdwara Ber Sahib and the State Gurdwara are other places of religious reverence in Kapurthala.


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