Destination of the Month

Pragpur, Himachal Pradesh

One least expects to find houses in such varied architectural styles — Kangra, Rajput, colonial and even Portuguese — in this part of Himachal Pradesh. So, who built these? Interesting question isn't it? Not able to hold back my inquisitiveness, I asked a group of locals enjoying a game of cards and sipping tea on a nice windy yet sunny day. The mystery thus unfolded - it was in the early 19th century that the prosperous Kuthiala Sood community arrived and settled here. These merchants travelled abroad and returned home to build magnificent mansions, schools and hospitals in an architectural style that matched what they observed during their visits far and wide. Over the time some of these beautiful houses were abandoned as their owners moved away, swayed by the more promising city life.

Pragpur, a quaint little village in Himachal Pradesh's ultra-scenic Kangra Valley, drew attention when the state government, in 1997, certified it as a Heritage Village, possibly the first such village in India. The recognition not only brought it on the international tourist map, but also more state resources for better telephone connectivity and regular power supply. The Heritage Village sobriquet is well-deserved. Pragpur is a charming hamlet of architecturally fascinating buildings that line its cobbled lanes. Many of the ancestral dilapidated houses have now been restored, while a few still lie derelict and abandoned waiting to see the light of a new day.

Being situated at an altitude of around 1800 ft. above sea level, Pragpur is one of the prominent tourist destinations of Himachal Pradesh. Besides, this destination was declared a heritage village in 1997 by the government of Himachal Pradesh. Soon the twin villages of Garli-Pragpur were later declared heritage regions in the year 2002. This was done considering the fact that Pragpur is blessed with several places of both historical and religious significance. Prag is a Sanskrit translation for pollen and aptly describes the first notified heritage village in India which during spring season is beaming with colorful blossoms. Pragpur is naturally blessed with several streams that converge at river Beas. Dating before 1868, the Taal or pond here forms the core of Pragpur village and serves as a recreational space for both the young and not so young crowd. This Taal is surrounded by several heritage structures. The magnificent buildings - some decaying and crumbling -have largely remained unspoiled, giving Garli-Pragpur a medieval and culturally rich ambience.

A short walk from the Taal takes you to The Judge's Court which was completed in 1918, and is renowned as a splendid country manor now run as a heritage hotel. Butail Niwas, a centurion in itself, originally was owned by Lala Buta Mal of the Sood clan. Lala Buta Mal had six sons; hence the building was designed to accommodate six families with rooms constructed around a common courtyard. This concept was scientifically designed as during warm weather this sunken central courtyard is filled with water to provide a natural cooling system to the entire manor. Old temples, courtyards of the Sood clan; and attiyalas or public platforms are other places of interest in Pragpur. Another of the magnificent buildings is a Haveli called Lala Rerumal Haveli, named after the owner who built it in 1931. This haveli has a Mughal style garden, a pleasure terrace and a large water reservoir.

Within a radius of 20 to 70 km from Pragpur, there are innumerable excursion options available offering Explorations of ruins of the medieval Kangra Fort and visiting the wetlands of the Maharana Pratap Sagar bird sanctuary are among the many sight-seeing options near Pragpur.

Dharamshala, a hill resort famed for its huge Tibetan population is merely 60 Km from here hence a day trip can easily be planned. Some other hot favourites include Mcleodganj, the residence of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama located at 68 Km. and Palampur (95 Km) which offers a refreshing sight of the wide green tea estates and the artists' complex of Andretta. The museum at Andretta also displays beautiful paintings of an artist of International repute, Shobha Singh. The house of famous writer Nora Richards is nearby. There are some temples of great heritage importance like the Chamunda Temple Complex, Chintpurni and Nainadevi.

The Judge's Court is the overtly popular hotel in Pragpur which offers grand and enjoyable meals. There are other varieties of accommodation with rates to suit all pockets. Garli has few old properties gearing to receive guests. A number of local dhabas in the vicinity too serve fresh meals which are relished by one and all.

The residents of Garli-Pragpur are hospitable and exhibit warm welcome to all the visitors in their hamlet. This ancestral land of rural beauty provides a safe passage and can be visited any time of the year. The two major airports that connect travelers are Chandigarh Airport (175 km) and Amritsar International airport (170 km).