Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, but proudly held were the heads that wore the Patiala Shahi turbans.
The scions of a sterling dynasty- The Phulkian rulers of Patiala who lit up Punjab and indeed the entire world in
the last century represented the best of Punjabi vitality. Noble by blood and by deeds, they upheld hallowed
Sikh traditions and blazed new paths like meteors in different arenas owing to their personal capabilities and
magnetism. Between the trio of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh (1891-1938), Maharaja Yadavindra Singh (1938-
1974) and Capt. Amarinder Singh (1974 onwards), no sphere of human endeavour remained untouched by the
vigour, innovation and enterprise of these three generations of extraordinary Renaissance men.
Staying true to the spirit, needs and unique expectations of the times in which they lived and worked, the three
evolved into exceptional leaders whose service to the Punjabi homeland is unprecedented and multifaceted.
Stepping up to face every challenge that the times and fate threw at Punjab and India with immense courage,
conviction and capacity, they time and again have proved their personal merit to proudly wear the mantle of
responsibility. Undeniably the first Political family of Punjab, they were not only the chosen of God (hereditary
kings) but also chosen and revered by the people who to this day, look to the house of Patiala to provide
visionary leadership to take Punjab forward on the path of real progress in social, cultural, economic and
Politics is only one of the extensive arenas where the Patiala patriarchs have made their immense, everlasting
and striking contributions. Always subjecting the ‘self’ to ‘service of the many’, even brief overviews of the
achievements of the three leave one awestruck at the sheer scope and scale of their truly meritorious political,
social, cultural, literally, sporting, religious and educational achievements. The word Dynasty might have
negative connotations in the present context when political dynasties rule the roost by hook or by crook in many
Indian states. However, a rare dynastic legacy of public service is epitomised by the Patiala Shahis, which is
built not on the foundation of superficial bravado and recently seized entitlement but a lasting sense of
responsibility and capable self assurance, born of years of eminence.
He was a giant among men, towering literally and figuratively over and above peers and
contemporaries…Standing an impressive 6 feet 4 inches tall, his personal charisma, capability and vision
catapulted the relatively minor (in geographical area terms) state of Patiala into international prominence. There
were several reasons he was given the epithet ‘The Magnificent’, that included his personal style, presence, his
stature among Indian princes of the time and his standing with India’s colonial masters- The British. Maharaja
Bhupinder Singh of Patiala epitomised what Louis XIV of France has stated succulently almost a century earlier
‘I am the state’. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh (his name literally translates into king of kings) straddled not only
the Indian sub continent with his colossal presence but he was on extremely cordial, even intimate terms with
many of the brightest stars on the international firmament, across continents.
Handsome beyond description, resilient, mesmerizing and multi faceted, Yadavindra Singh was a breathtaking
chip off the old block who strode effortlessly and elegantly through path breaking epochs cutting his own
distinct path. From ascending to the throne of a sensational kingdom in 1938 whose riches and extravagances
were the stuff of international headlines to becoming a legend who distinguished himself as a patriot
extraordinaire to becoming a citizen of independent India, Yadavindra Singh’s life is a study in discipline, grace
and capability. To anyone else, such shoes would be hard to fill, but he left the best of himself to India in the
form of his son and heir Amarinder Singh.
Carrying forward such a huge legacy of service is an onerous task by any account. However, to one who is to
the manner as also the manor born, it comes easily. In each sphere of human activity, Capt Amarinder Singh
(Amar literally means eternal or immortal ) has lived up to the expectations of his forefathers by meritoriously
carrying forward the legacy of centuries of public service and personal achievement. In an age when politics has
become the domain of the demagogue, his is the voice of reason and responsibility. Coming from a long line of
leaders of men, petty one upmanship, short sighted gains and financial feathering of nests is as far from his
range as winter clouds that block out the light of the sun. This worthy son of a remarkable father and
magnificent grandfather has a destiny of distinction and legacy of service that was defined for him centuries
before his birth. This is then the secret that sets him so apart from shrill contemporaries that seem like imposters
before the rightful heir to a glorious mantle of merit.
Courage and martial traditions
Exemplifying the Sikh martial traditions of courage in combat, valour and fearlessness, Bhupinder the
Magnificent cut a dash on the battlefields of France, Italy, Palestine and Belgium during World War 1. Made an Honorary Major General in 1918 and Honorary Lieutenant General in 1931, he established the strong link which
his son and grandson would have with the Indian army. Maharaja Yadavindra Singh imbibed discipline and
arms training at Punjab Police School, Phillaur, to which he was attached after completing his education. In
1931, he was made Superintendent of Police for Patiala district, and attained the rank of Inspector General after
two years. Seconded in 1935 to a crack Sikh unit of the Indian army, he did valuable work helping in
reconstruction after the terrible Quetta earthquake that earned glowing tribute from the military authorities. Even
the usually reticent Lord Wavell, the COC of the Indian army described Yadavinder Singh as "one of the best of
the princes, really interested in managing his state on progressive lines". Yadavindra Singh was appointed an
aide-de- camp to the British King and elected Grand Commander of the Indian Empire as well as appointed a
Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian army in 1944 as he had served in Malaya, Middle East and Italy during World
War 2. Yadavindra Singh contributed greatly to the war effort by founding the Khalsa Defence of India League
in 1938 as this league accelerated the enlistment of sikh soldiers in the army. Amarinder Singh continued the
tradition of valour by joining the Indian Army in June 1963 after graduating from the National Defence
Academy and Indian Military Academy. Although he resigned in 1965, his patriotism made him rejoin the
Army when hostilities broke out with Pakistan and served as Captain in the 1965 Indo-Pak War, earning the
right to be hailed as ‘Captain’ for a lifetime.
Panthic Affairs and Sikh Rights
Maharaja of Patiala was considered as leader of the Sikhs and masses of Punjab since ages. Bhupinder Singh
introduced many social reforms in Patiala, establishing many modern institutions that ushered in the age of
progress in Punjab, including the State Bank of Patiala which he founded in 1917.
From offering jewellery such as naths and kangans to flooding rivers to protect the people, to guiding the panth
in times of troubles and peace, his stature as the preeminent prince was carried forward into post independant
times by his son and grandson. Yadavidra Singh intervened with Lord Mountbatten to fix boundary of Punjab
on the basis of landed and religious property, there by preserving the central Punjab as a Sikh homeland.
Although many Sikhs and Sikh shrines were left in Pakistan, Yadavinder Singh worked tirelessly to ensure that
Sikh refuges became a priority. He himself took up their case with Sardar Patel and were compensated for their
losses, and Sikhs as a community were assured of its rightful place in the Polity of India through the
incorporation of suitable provisions in the new constitutions. Maharaja maintained his direct Links with the
Panth through the patronization of schools and charities. Even in 1969, his role as intermediary with the Centre
was notable. He presided over the Panthic Darbar, a quasi-political organizations and was an active intervener
and leader who provided mature and analytical direction to the panth in its most severe times of need. He was
chosen president of the Guru Gobind foundation and Guru Nanak Foundation. Capt Amarinder Singh is an
eminent Sikh scholar who continues to advocate panthic and sikh rights and is president of the All
India Jat Maha Sabha. Amongst his sterling achievements is the elevation of the road to Sri Harminder Sahib,
Amritsar that has decongested traffic and contributed to the beautification and easy access to the Holiest of sikh
shrines. The people of Amritsar proved their faith in his leadership when they returned him to parliament with a
thumping majority in 2014.
A diplomat extraordinaire at a time when Indian politics was still at a definitive stage of evolution, Bhupinder
Singh represented India at the League of Nations in 1925, served as chancellor of the Indian Chamber of
Princes for 10 years between 1926 -1938 and was a representative at the Round Table Conference in London to
which his son accompanied him. The son outstripped even his illustrious father in diplomatic service to the
nation upon his majority. In 1942, operating under the nationalistic flag, he led a prince’s delegation to the
Cabinet Mission and was elected a member of the negotiations committee of the princes. He was elected as pro-
chancellor of the Chamber of Princes in March 1946. The first Raj Pramukh of the PEPSU, he was appointed
Indian Ambassador to Rome in 1965. Jawaharlal Nehru sent him to New York as a member of the Indian
delegation to the 11th session of the United Nations General Assembly. and he represented India in Paris at the
10th annual conference of UNESCO. Yadavindra Singh took up his second and last permanent diplomatic
postings at The Hague in the Netherlands where he passed away in harness in 1971. Amarinder Singh has
resolved many a political tangle with his adroit intervention and his finesse and adept assessment has benefitted
Punjab in many a dispute or fallout with other Indian states, across the border and internationally.
Sports- Tall, athletic and lithe of limb, Patiala rulers almost single handedly brought India to the sporting stage
where guts win eternal glory. Indian Olympic movement was started by Bhupinder the Magnificent. A cricket
pioneer, he captained the Indian Cricket Team on its tour of England in 1911 and played in 27 first class
matches till 1937. He donated the Ranji Trophy in honour of Jam Sahib of Nawanagar and set the ball of India’s
domestic cricket rolling. The Patiala XI (cricket) and Patiala Tigers (polo) were amongst the best in the world.
Taking the sporting tradition forward came naturally to the 6'5" tall and athletic Maharaja Yadavindra Singh. He
was North Indian Tennis Champion, Captain of the Patiala Polo Team, hockey star and able successor to the
mantle of the Indian Olympic Association. He even played a cricket test match for India in 1934. In 1928,
Bhupinder Singh had been elected founder-president of Indian Olympic Association and in 1938, members of
the Association put their faith in the son when he was elected President. He discharged this responsibility till
1960, when he stepped down in favour of his brother, Bhalendra Singh. Yadavindra Singh was entrusted with
the task of overseeing the Indian sporting sphere when he was made chairman of the newly created Indian
Council of Sports in 1960. A distinguished contribution by all accounts, his son Amarinder Singh continues to
encourage Punjabi sportsmen to this date. He is credited with the revival of interest in hockey in rural Punjab
and allocated ample funds for sports during his first term as Chief Minister Punjab.
Most of the buildings of Chail Military School were donated by Maharaja of Patiala to the Government of India.
Educational Institutes have always had the interested and active patronage of the Patiala scions and himself an
alumnus of Aitchison, Maharaja Yadavindra Singh bestowed a great legacy when he replicated the foremost
educational traditions of his alma mater in East Punjab in 1947 by founding, funding and endowing the
Yadavindra Public School (YPS) at Patiala. YPS Mohali and Patiala are among the top schools in India
currently. YPS is the culmination of a long educational affiliation as Yadavindra Singh was appointed the
Chancellor of Khalsa College, Amritsar in 1938 and held this position for many years. Yadavindra Singh was
the natural choice to preside over the Sikh Educational Conference annual sessions held at Patiala (1949), Delhi
(1952) and Indore (1961). He was also chairman of the Punjabi University Commission which preceded the
establishment in 1962 of Punjabi University at Patiala. In addition to being the foremost patron and trustee of
YPS, Amarinder Singh is a educationist par excellence who established the International Centre at Punjabi
University. Extending his patronage to other Indian languages, this eminent author also established the Urdu
Academy at Malerkotla in Punjab. He has authored several books on Indian army, Sikhs and Sikh kingdoms
such as the highly acclaimed A Ridge Too Far, Lest We Forget, The Last Sunset: Rise and Fall of Lahore
Durbar and The Sikhs in Britain: 150 years of Photographs. Honour and Fidelity: India's Military Contribution
to the Great War 1914 to 1918 is an important factual research based treatise and The Monsoon War: Young
Officers Reminisce – 1965 India-Pakistan War includes his personal memoirs of the 1965 Indo-Pak war in
which he saw active service.
A high flier in the real sense, Bhupinder Singh was the first man in India to own an aircraft and build the highest
cricket pitch in the world at Chail at 2443 metres in 1893. Raising the bar in so many senses, he also elevated
the level of a peg of whisky to that of a Patiala peg and was a global trendsetter with the superlative distinctions
of owning everything from the most expensive silver and gold dinner service (Faberge`) to the largest fleet of
Rolls Royces. Yadavindra Singh was a cultural icon who epitomised royal charm and style and Amarinder
Singh’s signature style of Patiala Shahi turbans and immaculately tailored Churidars keeps alive the highest
traditions of grandeur- a la` Patiala Shahi mode.
Bhupinder Singh’s endowments were never restricted by religion and he got constructed the famous Kali Temple,
Patiala. A well known connoisseur of buildings, he constructed the Chail View Palace at Kandaghat, Chail Palace at
Chail and Oak Over and Cedar Lodge in Simla that now house the CM residence and Punjab State Guest House
respectively. The Patiala House Courts at Delhi were the erstwhile town houses of the Patiala royals. Yadavindra
Singh constructed the new Moti Bagh Palace at Patiala in 1962. However, his patriotism made him willingly donate
several of the most beautiful and ornate buildings to the Indian Union in the form of Old Moti Bagh Palace building
that has now become the National Institute of Sports. The timeless mughal gardens at Pinjore, half of the properties at
Chail, and the Yadavindra summer residence were also given by Yadavindra to the Indian Government.
Patiala was also one of the first princely states to decide on 13 March 1947 to participate in the Constituent Assembly.
Maharaja Yadavinder Singh was one of the first in India to agree voluntarily to accede to the India Union, defying
Jinnah’s entreaties to retract. His lead inspired and motivated numerous other princes to join India and he took a giant
stride when he agreed to merge Patiala with seven other states into Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU),
thus forming the kernel of modern Punjab. He presided over the PEPSU as Raj Pramukh and his legacy was realised
splendidly when his son became Chief Minister of Punjab in 2002-2007. In February 1967 elections were held for the
Punjab legislature and Yadavinder Singh was voted in by a handsome majority. Amarinder Singh’s eminence as an
Indian political icon needs no description and his latest elevation to the post of Punjab Pradesh Congress Chief is a
precursor to another electoral triumph in Punjab polls in 2017.
Agriculture and horticulture
Maharaja Yadavindra Singh had great knowledge of agriculture and horticulture and was selected to lead the
Indian delegation to the meetings of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation in Rome. In 1970, he took on a
new role as chairman of the Indian horticulture development council. He was also invited to be a member of the
Indian delegation to several sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations and UN Food and
Agricultural Organization (FAO). Amarinder Singh is the messiah of Punjabi farmers and strongly advocates the
interests of Indian farmers and workers. Amongst the most notable measures that have positively and lastingly
impacted farmers, he set up the Farmers Commission and decreased loan interest rate from 14 to 7%. He
initiated the computerisation of Revenue department during his first term as CM.
Unrelenting belief in the ideals of loyalty, honesty, discipline, and unstinting service and personal qualities of
quick uptake, decisive and incisive thinking and visionary outlooks ensured that the three ably shepherded the
concurrent generation of Punjabi people. All of them were able to see much beyond the apparent and immediate
and step outside the narrow perimeter of personal interest into the space of unselfish patriotism. Bhupinder,
Yadavindra and Amarinder identified the demands of the greatest possible majority and then decided and
accomplished what needed to be done, regardless of how they themselves would be impacted. Amarinder Singh
continues the work with determination and distinction, as he leads Punjab into the new century with the vision
to make the land of five rivers endure and thrive for many centuries more…