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Ornamental Tal (tank) at Heritage Village Pragpur. When the Tiger Mouth Spout was built the wage of the Master Mason was 4 annas a day plus half a cup of milk for tea.

 


A typical street of Heritage Village Pragpur paved with dressed cobbled stones

 


A Pragpur Haveli with a stone pave courtyard

 


A scene from Guler Railway Station,
30 Kms from Pragpur on the narrow gauge Kangra Valley Train System. At dusk, the lamp lighter still illuminates the signal with
an oil lamp to guide the train home.

 


A Kangra Valley landscape

 


A view of The Judge's Court,a Heritage Country Manor at Pragpur

 


Another view of the
Village Ornamental Tank

 





 

 

        

Heritage Village Pragpur

Indians live largely in villages where this country’s Heritage, Culture Environment and Ambience are still alive. Therefore to enjoy India, tourists should be encouraged to go to Indian Villages. This in effect means Rural/Village Tourism should be encouraged. If this is done not only employment and economic growth will come to our villages but it will become a tool for the creation of wealth and reduce the exodus to towns and cities..

Important aspects for promotion of Rural Tourism are:

-  Infrastructure
-  Accessibility
-  Telephones
-  Banking
-  Medical Facilities
-  Electricity
-  Security
-  Environment
-  Cleanliness, and last but not the least
-  Involvement of villagers

It is our experience that if the village population realizes the benefits that could accrue from Rural Tourism then with the development of tourism the infrastructure as above will surely fall into place. An example of how Rural Tourism can change the attitude of the village is Pragpur, a small hamlet in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Until tourism took root it was not even mentioned on the road maps of the District.

Pragpur was founded about 350 years ago and is located at an elevation of 2000 feet. This gives it moderate climate throughout the year. It is 60 K.Ms. from Dharamsala beyond which His Holiness the Dalai Lama lives at Mcleodganj ie.his home in exile.

The occupation of Pragpurians was shop keeping, a small wholesale trade, and marginal agriculture/horticulture. The area is entirely dependent on rain and no one has large land holdings. However its situation is ideal to explore the Kangra Valley and it lies on the shortest route by road from Chandigarh to Dharamsala.

Whilst Pragpur has good schools and nearby colleges, it offers little possibility for suitable occupation for able and educated young people. They therefore migrate to larger cities for livelihood leaving behind at Pragpur aged and retired parents or small children.

Vijai Lal, an entrepreneur based at Delhi has roots at Pragpur where his family has been since the village was founded about 350 years ago. He and his wife Rani decided to restore their ancestral property and convert into a Heritage Hotel with the hope that it would attract enough custom to keep it open. However as time went by tourists realized the special medieval ambience of the village which has beautiful mansions, Italianate villas, dressed cobbled stone streets, mud plastered and slate roofed houses. It's neighboring villages like Garli,Rakkar and Pir Siluie also have lovely but crumbling villas and mansions.

Rani and Vijai Lal felt that if they could develop Tourism at Pragpur and interest the local population in serving the Tourism Industry then considerable benefit would accrue to the village. It would also provides employment to the village educated youth and thus in a small way help in reducing exodus to cities.

With the help of the State Government the core of Pragpur was notified as Heritage Village. To involve the local people, the support of the Panchayat was enlisted and with the help of the Panchayat and the blessings of the local Government a Heritage Committee was founded. The State Government assisted it with small grants to improve and preserve the village. The Heritage status enabled the Village to attract attention and garner some funds for development of tourist related facilities. With the help of small grants and the involvement of the villagers in the Heritage Committee small basic improvements began to take shape eg.

-  Improvement in the augmentation of the drinking water system
-  Repairs to the dressed cobbled stone streets
-  Uplifting and improving the façade of buildings
-  Installation of solar street lights etc. etc
-  Benches at strategic important places
-  Garbage collection bins.

Local crafts were also encouraged and tourists began to purchase local handicrafts thus giving employment to people. Some also got training, others obtained licenses to become tourist guides, taxi facilities increased from 4 to 15.

Appreciating the local village efforts:

-  the PWD improved the approach roads
-  the Telephone Department installed a new model telephone exchange
-  the Internet has come to the village
-  the local Government hospital has been upgraded and a private
    Charity fund founded by a Pragpurian family has this month donated a
   large sum of money to repair and upgrade the buildings
-  instead of one Bank village now boasts of 3 Banks
-  the stocks in the local village shops have increased in variety and
   improved in quality
-  villagers donated land and a new 33 KV Sub Station has been built
-  likewise villagers donated land and PWD Rest House and a Block
   Development Office were constructed.
-  to encourage the people in their efforts the Government of India,
   Department ofTourism has sanctioned a project costing Rs. 25 Lakhs
   for the construction of a Crafts Museum.
-  The State Government has sanctioned an exemplary Panchayat Ghar
   and Gramin Dukan for sale of crafts products.

In the initial phase the village took the assistance of the Chandigarh College of Architecture (CCA) for guidance on its preservation. Now, however Intach has consented to guide the village and a unique Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between:

-  Indian Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)
-  Government of Himachal Pradesh
-  Heritage Village Pragpur to develop Pragpur as an exemplary place for
   Village Tourism.

The village now boasts of not only of one Heritage Hotel i.e. “The Judge’s Court” but three more facilities: -

-  Kamal Guest House     - a four room facility
-  Megha’s Heritage Inn    - a two room facility
-  Nearby on the banks of the River Beas a new facility with about 10
   rooms

Environment is an important aspect. With the benefits of tourism reaching the people at the grassroots level these tend to create there own pressure groups. This has happened in Pragpur. Some local shop keepers, crafts people, guides, taxi drivers and guest house owners with the help of the Panchayat have taken steps to protect their environment. The village looks cleaner, within 4 years the landscape is more lush and green, and emphasis is on protection of wildlife. A National Wetland, Pong Dam starts 8 K.Ms. from Pragpur.

Villagers have on their own have begun to plant special flowering shrubs and with each passing year these will increase in numbers. In course of time these shrubs will create their own unique signature for Heritage Village Pragpur.

The Government of Himachal Pradesh has been responsible to provide the basic ingredients and has acted as a catalyst to give impetus to Village Tourism and the District Administration has understood the concept and is more than sympathetic to the cause of promoting Rural Tourism.