To the heritage villages of Himachal Pradesh

Pragpur, a quaint little village in Himachal Pradesh’s scenic Kangra Valley, became the first village in India to be branded a heritage village. Pragpur was founded in the late 16th century by the Kuthiala Soods in memory of Princess Prag Dei of the Jaswan royal family. With its winding lanes, wooden slate-roofed houses, the village looks nothing less than a miniature painting set on an aisle. As the story goes, in the early 19th century the prosperous Kuthiala Sood community arrived and settled here. These merchants who were well exposed to architecture and arts outside the area, returned to Pragpur to build buildings, chateaus and mansions in architectural styles they observed outside. With their efforts, Pragpur gradually transformed into a grand display of immaculate beauty and spectacular architecture that evolved as a perfect blend of Portuguese, Rajput and British styles. This reminded me of the unique way in which Shekhawati architecture of the havelis, cenotaphs, and stepwells has evolved, with designs taken from different cultures the traders got exposed to.  

To experience the charm of Pragpur, take a walk through the village. The square shaped water pond, in the middle of the village, will lure you to spend some time around it. A village walk introduces you to the architectural beauty strewn across Pragpur. Built before 1868, the Taal is in the center of the village and is surrounded by several old community structures like the Nehar Bhawan, Naun, and Dhunichand Bhardial Serai. The village market by the pond is a bustling place and has an unlikely charm missing from most villages. At a stone throw away distance is the Lala Rerumal’s haveli, with elements of Mughal-styled architecture, and has a large water reservoir. Ancient temples, courtyards, even age-old windows and doors with intricate carvings, leave an everlasting impression on the travelers. Most of these houses exhibit fancy tile-work, ornamental towers, and stained glass windows. It’s like a world merged with old Himachali architecture, where you see an overuse of wood and pillars. Interestingly, the rooftops of these buildings have gables and slanted slopes, which is quite unique considering it seldom snows in the Himalayan foothills. The slanted slopes is a ubiquitous feature in the uphill Kangra and Kullu valley. The village committee is entrusted with restoring and conserving these architectural marvels.

Built before 1868, the Taal is in the center of the Pragpur village
Built before 1868, the Taal is in the center of the village
Old heritage buildings in Pragpur
Old heritage buildings in Pragpur
Heritage mansion in Pragpur
Heritage mansion in Pragpur
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Tabo: About a life untouched

An eight hour journey, on the world’s most dangerous roads, can be both tiring and exhilarating. But the views of the craggy peaks whooshing past the window, the spectacle of a turquoise ribbon of river cutting through the valley, hundreds of falls and streams merging into the river, and the bends taking you from one slice of paradise to the other, are a prize worth the madness of being on the world’s deadliest roads. And while the bus past these, nicely framed picture perfect frames, my mind weaved a story of a land of Buddhist Gompas doubling up as landmarks, prayer flags fluttering, mummies sitting still in monasteries, azure blue skies and stars dancing in galaxies at night, and above all the cultural mysteries it has held over time. I wanted to know how local people live their life here, holding natural and mystical mysteries for centuries. A land that wasn’t open for people till 1970s, a land tucked between the Himalayas and the Tibet, a land that has been called ‘world within a world’ by Mark Twain; I wondered how that land would be.

The village of Tabo as seen from the cave monastery
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