Heritage monuments, heritage sites, heritage palaces…. Heritage INDIA! If you heard the word ‘Heritage’ enough number of times, be prepared to dredge a bit more! A tiny hamlet with mud-plastered houses, wood-carved window borders, balconies with pillars and arches made of wood, floral patterns in red, blue and yellow and cobble-stoned narrow winding alleys. No, I am not about to delve into European countryside…. this is Pragpur, and streamed as India’s first heritage village.
Prag- The Royalty
Lying in the shadows of Dhauladhar range, and developed about 3 centuries ago, the village of Pragpur along with the nearby village of Garli, is notified as a “Heritage Village” by a State Government notification dated 9 December 1997. The title is attributed to Pragpur being…. not a typical Indian village, rather an Anglicised Indian village straight out of Victorian days.
Pragpur was founded in the late 16th century by the Patials in memory of Princess Prag Dei of the Jaswan Royal family. The area of Pragpur was part of the principality of Jaswan whose chief, in the late 16th or early 17th century, charged a band of learned men, led by a Kuthiala Sood, to find a suitable place to commemorate Princess ‘Prag’ of his royal lineage.
The Prague Of India….
Most houses are either a hundred years old or 300 years old. The brickworks are typical five inches by nine, standardised by the British in 1847. With its equitable climate, easy access, safe passage and rich flora and fauna, Pragpur and its surroundings made it an ideal tourist destination.
Pragpur remains an ornamental village with unchanged shops, cobblestone streets, old water tanks, mud-plastered walls and slate-roofed houses. The narrow streets, lined with fort-like houses, havelis and villas, are indicative of the area’s aged charisma. Due to its unique architecture and pristine beauty, Pragpur is a heritage Himalayan tryst.
The Heritage Walk Through
The places of interest within the Heritage Village Pragpur are the Lala Rerumal Haveli built in 1931 by a Rais of Pragpur, which has a Mughal style garden, pleasure terrace and a large water reservoir.
‘Judge Sahib ki Kothi’ or The Judge’s Court, is a country manor, stands out as a landmark in Pragpur. It was built between 1914 and 1918, by Bhandari Ram for his son Sir Jai Lal, a famous advocate and Judge of the Punjab High Court at Lahore.
Butail Mandir, Chaujjar Mansion, courtyards of the Sood Clans, an ancient Shakti Mandir and atiyalas or public platforms are the pride of this heritage village.
There are many silversmiths in the market selling traditional trinkets and curios. The village is known for it’s cottage industry. The inhabitants in the area are mostly craftspeople, weavers, basket makers, silversmiths, painters, musicians and tailors. One can purchase hand-woven blankets, shawls and hand-block printed clothes.
The Taal, a pond located in the heart of the village, is a major attraction of the place as the entire village seems to be constructed around it. The heritage structures situated in the vicinity of the Taal include the Radha Krishna Mandir, Nehar Bhawan and Naun.
Butail Niwas is a unique structure. Built by Lala Buta Mal, over 100 years ago, it has six identical apartments built for his six sons. These lie around a sunken courtyard.
The City Court Hotel is history wrapped in luxury… The place is a laid back traveller’s haven spread across 12 acres with 30 tastefully done-up rooms that stand testament to the bygone era.
Take In The Essence
Besides, heritage and craft, Pragpur is also a base point for a variety of activities bound to lure outdoor enthusiasts. They include fishing, water and river sports at the Maharana Pratap Sagar reservoir (within 20 km), bird-watching atthe Pong Dam Wetland Sanctuary (40 kms) which is listed as a wetland of international ecological importance by the Ramsar Foundation and satisfying village walks spent exploring the virgin landscape and unique architecture.
Cycling and trekking along meandering country paths through rolling hills and valleys with gurgling brooks and a meadow where mint grows wild can be enchanting. Tourists can also time their visit with various festivals and fairs celebrated in Pragpur throughout the year.
Where to Stay:
Pragpur has many budget options to stay as Naurang Yatri Niwas and Hotel Country Lodge. For a luxury stay, you can opt for Chateau Garli or Judge’s Court.
How to Reach:
The nearest Airport is Shimla, from where a cab can be easily hailed to bring you to Pragpur, whilst you gawk at the Himalayan beauty!
Buses plying from Chandigarh and Delhi to Dharamsala pass through Pragpur. The nearest railhead Amb is 28 km.
Pragpur does not have a train station, and the nearest station is Una, at a distance of 40 kms from Pragpur. The train journey is mesmerizing!
An Epilogue To The Quaint Mystery
Prag means “pollen” in Sanskrit and pur means “full of”, so Prag-pur means “full of pollen”, which rightly describes the area when it is ablaze with blossoms in spring.
The village is a beautiful reminder of our past, exuding the sheer awe of historic charm and history, the delight of hospitality, the bliss of natural beauty with the Dhauladhar range rising as a backdrop to this quaint village.