Patiala, Aug.13 : The land of five rivers Punjab is also known for its grand history existing in its centuries-old forts, fortresses and Serais or, traditional lodgings created by the erstwhile rulers of Punjab. It's been always felt that these historical buildings hold a huge tourist potential, provided they are properly maintained.
The Punjab Government, in collaboration with the United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), has taken up the task of restoring heritage buildings for the promotion of tourism in the State. The restoration is being done by the UNWTO giving utmost attention to keep the original beauty of the heritage buildings intact.
For this mega restoration project, UNWTO has prepared a Master Plan and the Punjab and Central government are providing the resources including skilled artisans.
The 'Shahi Samadhian' or the royal cremation ground is one of the many historical places in Punjab that are presently undergoing a makeover.
Restoration work is also being done at the memorial or Samadhi of Baba Alla Singh, the founder of Patiala city.
D.P. Reddy, Director for Tourism in Punjab, says the restoration work will highlight the lifestyle of that period like what sort of dresses and jewellery people used to wear.
The Punjab government wants to promote Amritsar, Kapurthala and Patiala as tourist destinations.
The State government had earlier tied up with the UN World Tourism Organization to jointly promote Punjab as a global destination for religio-heritage tourism.
A 10-member UNWTO team recently visited the State and saw some of the potential sites for tourism, heritage and cultural sites.
Richard Batchelor, the team leader, UNWTO, said: "We want to see the various heritage sites (in Punjab) to be linked together in groups so that the visitors can be led from one site to other to enable them to see all the heritage sites at once rather restricting them to only one or two of the sites."
"The Golden temple is not the only Sikh heritage site in Punjab. There are lots of other places, which are overlooked. Lots of pilgrims go to Anandpur Sahib, which is wonderful. But just down the road is Kiratpur, which is very important from the point of view of Sikh heritage. It's a lovely little town having lots of lovely Gurudwaras, heritage gardens and so on. These places are missed since they are not publicized well enough. We want to emphasise those," Batchelor observed.
If the princely state of Patiala boasts of the Sheesh Mehal and Bahadurgarh Fort, Kapurthala city is proud of its Jalaukhand fort.
Besides majestic forts and palaces, there are historical Sikh shrines and edifices that attract tourists.
The Punjab government has listed 65 heritage sites to refurbish, out of which 12 are to be restored by the end of this year. By Sunil Sharma