If you were born in a small village, then go to Pragpur and Garli. The narrow lanes of these villages may bring your childhood memories back to you. If you were born in a town, even then you should go there. The old houses made of bricks in these villages will remind you of the days when you used to scratch mud plasters from the wall of your neighbour’s house. In those days it was easy for you to climb the walls of the courtyards and jump. The lanes of your town provided much space to hide while playing hide & seek. You could enter anyone’s open door and request the lady of the house not to tell your mother where you are. And if you were born in a Metro city, still then you must go there as you will experience some lifestyles of Indian hill life.

Paragpur Bazar during the 7 Day Walks in Foothills is very interesting.

Location of Pragpur and Garli

Pragpur and Garli are located in the lower hills of the district of Kangra in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Adjoining Punjab these villages are in the shadow of the high rising ranges of Dhauladhar mountains. Leave the main road and enter the narrow lanes of any of these two villages Pragpur and Garli. These villages are situated at a distance of three kilometres from each other in the foothills of the southwestern part of Himachal Pradesh. They are known for their age-old houses built by the people from the Sood community. The blend of Anglo-Islamic architecture of the houses makes them different from the rest of the state and this feature has won them the trophy of Heritage Villages.

The Sood Community

To quote from the famous book, ‘Origin and History of Soods’ by Mr. M. M Sood, ‘As a result of the Yagya performed near Mount Abu, four Kashatriyas were born, one of them being Parmar. They had come into being, in order to establish on the ancient pedestal of glory, Hindu Dharam, and these four branches spread all over the country. The second son born to Parmar was named Sood and our community consequently bears that name’. Basically, they area called ‘Agnikul Rajpoots’. Later when Sirhind, in Punjab, was their capital, Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded India, several times. Because Sirhind was on the trade route with central Asia, every time his target was Sirhind. At that time many Sood families rushed to the hills and adopted different professions. Some got into trading, some became money lenders, some became shopkeepers and some even got into agriculture.

Pragpur is a crown and Garli is a Jewel in the Crown

During their migration from Punjab, a few Sood families moved up to Garli and began trading in timber. Some of their family members also moved to the high hills from where they would through the Cedar logs into the river Beas and here at Garli at the river bank of river Beas, it was easy to pick them up and sell.

Architecture of Pragpur and Garli

Soods were always rich and successful and their money made them educated as well. Their sense of business never let them fail in life. The boys in their community never inherited the father’s wealth. It was a tradition that every Sood would contribute Rs. ten and ten bricks to the couple, getting married. They had always lived in brick-built houses, therefore in Garli also they continued with the tradition. To build their houses, along with bricks, a huge amount of timber was also used. The Anglo-Islamic architecture of the mansions built by the Soods is the basic attraction for the visitor. It brings such a visual delight to the eyes that one cannot hold himself watching them for a long time. Most of them, now are either abandoned or occupied by the tenants and divided into many families and their upkeep is almost nil.

Pragpur – The Heritage Village

Named after Princess Prag, the village of Pragpur is settled in the shadow of the Dhauladhar ranges of the Himalayas. A Walk through the lanes of the village of Pragpur is an experience in itself. The square-shaped water pond, in the middle of the village, might lure you to spend some time around it. Stand at any corner of the pond and just notice the reflection of the houses in the water. Although it does not snow in this area to add a feature to the building the rooftops always had gables and slanted slopes that add a unique feature to the houses built in the Himalayan foothills. The outer shells of the structures have the capacity to fascinate anyone. The upper turrets rising high, in some of the areas dominate the whole region and reflect on the entire village.

How to reach Pragpur

Garli & and Pragpur are well connected by roads from Chandigarh, Pathankot, and Delhi. There are regular buses from Chandigarh and Delhi, going to Dharamsal and passing through Pragpur. The nearest railhead Amb is nearly 28 kilometers that gets trains from Delhi. The airport that serves Pragpur and Garli is at Gaggal – 53 kilometers away.

Where to stay in Pragpur and Garli

Judge’s Court, a big size mansion built nearly 300 years ago by Mr. Bhadari Lal for his son, Judge Sir Jiya Lal Sood. Being the biggest house in the area, the property earned a name that became popular as Judge Sahib ki Kothi – Judge Sahib’s Bungalow. The mansion has been converted into a Heritage Hotel by his great-grandson. Decorated with antique furniture and extensive lawns around it the hotel offers a certain class of rooms tastefully decorated with antique furniture. In Garli a, Chateau Garli is the best option for staying. The owners converted their old mansion into a Heritage Hotel. This hotel has a swimming pool, a restaurant, bar and well decorated rooms in an ethnic style.

Chateau Garli, a hotel in Garli

What to Do in Pragpur and Garli

Walk through the village and around. The landscape of the area is dominated by Dhauladhar ranges to the north. Vast fields welcome you with their different colors in different parts of the year, depending upon the weather. Visit to Masroor Temple. To know more about it read our article on Masroor Temples here. Visit Dada Siba, the headquarters of the old dynasty ruled by the Sibai clan of the Katoch Rajpoot family. It is always good to visit a village in the hills as it gives you a real glimpse of hills life but a walk through the villages of Pragpur and Garli is a different experience altogether.

By . . . . . . . . . Sumit Raj

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