Because of over-tourism, Shimla, Manali, Kullu, and a couple of other popular hill stations in Himachal Pradesh have become so polluted, that some compare the air quality to that of Delhi. In the current scenario, as water shortage grips Shimla due to lack of rainfall, we explore an alternative, a much unexplored little town of Pragpur. Explore a heritage village, get inspired by a 300-year-old haveli, and stay in a country manor. Text and Photographs by Syeda Farida
Pragpur is one of the few villages in India to be awarded the ‘heritage’ tag. Away from the bustling Dharmshala-Mcleodganj tourist circuit in Himachal Pradesh, about two hours drive from Dharamshala, Pragpur is a destination for avid travellers who love history and architecture.
Find cobbled streets and ‘havelis’ built with Lahori bricks; mansions with Kangra, Rajput, Portuguese, Italian, and British architecture dating back three centuries and boasting lattice screens, painted tiles, weather vanes, courtyards, ‘jharokas’ and vintage lamps.
‘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. A major attraction, the Judge’s Court has hosted Dom Moraes, William Dalrymple, Chetan Bhagat, Maharaja Sahib of Jodhpur, Earl of Plymouth (ancestor of Robert Clive), actors such as Rishi Kapoor, industrialists such as the Modis and Khatains among others. The 300-year-old Courtyard with Museum Mews building was built with rammed mud, and later modified and embellished with Lahori bricks.
A little distance from the Judge’s Court is the marketplace where you can watch the locals go about their daily business in the morning; there’s Lala Rerumal’s haveli, which has a Mughal-style garden, a pleasure terrace, and a large water reservoir evoking stories of the British era; there’s the Chaujjar mansion to take a walk around, old temples with untold stories, courtyards of the Sood clan, and attiyalas or public platforms, that you can travel to in two square days.