They may be busy in their professional lives but five sisters, popularly known as the ‘Sangha sisters’, are passionate about maintaining their two ancestral houses at the Nawanpind Sardaran village here. Their hard work in preserving the two houses — ‘Kothi’ and ‘Pipal Haveli’ — paid off when their village recently bagged the Best Tourism Village of India 2023 from the Union Ministry of Tourism. The Nawanpind Sardaran village in Gurdaspur was selected for this coveted award for preserving and promoting Punjab’s cultural heritage and sustainable development through tourism, officials said.
A total of 750 villages from 31 states and union territories had applied for the best tourism village award 2023 and Nawanpind Sardaran got amongst the 35 selected ones. ‘Kothi’ and ‘Pipal Haveli’, built nearly 140 years ago and renovated a few years ago, have been converted into homestays and attract domestic and foreign tourists, officials said. Five sisters who are taking care of these two houses are: Gursimran Kaur Sangha, Gurmeet Rai Sangha, Manpreet Kaur Sangha, Gita Sangha and Noor Sangha.
“We are elated over getting the award,” said their mother Satwant Kaur Sangha. Nawanpind Sardaran was founded by Narain Singh in the late 19th century. He built a ‘Haveli’ for residing, storing produce, agricultural implements and interacting with farm workers. In 1886, his son Beant Singh built a house which is now called ‘Kothi’ “We are emotionally connected to our village,” said Gursimran Sangha.
Her mother Satwant Kaur Sangha said she shifted to this village in Gurdaspur after her husband Captain Gurpreet Singh Sangha died in 1982. “I was into farming at that time in Gurdaspur.” She said her daughter Gurmeet Rai, who is a well-known conservation architect, suggested the renovation of the ancestral house around 15 years back. “That is how the journey began.”
Not only promoting rural tourism, the family with the support of the Gurdaspur district administration has also involved the local community and offering employment opportunities. Gursimran, who is based in Delhi, says she runs a goat farming business in the village and has involved local youths in it. She said she has plans to scale the goat farming.
Gursimran visits the village every weekend to take care of their ancestral houses. Gita Sangha is also involved with women elf-help groups in the village for craft production. A brand called ‘Bari collective’ was created for craft production, said Gurmeet. Around 60 women in villages are into craft production. Besides, village women also get employment at –’Kothi’ and ‘Pipal Haveli’, said Gurmeet.
Manpreet Kaur Sangha, who lives in the USA, looks after the online booking of homestays in their houses, said her mother Satwant Kaur Sangha. Manpreet, who is also a yoga instructor, provides yoga training to village schoolchildren whenever she visits the village. Noor Sangha, the youngest among the five who is based in Mumbai, is a lawyer by profession, said Satwant Sangha.
Conservation architect Gurmeet Rai said there are a lot of possibilities in promoting this area in terms of cultural heritage. There are many cultural heritage sites in Gurdaspur, she added. From the point of view of tourism, Gurdaspur is strategically located en route from Amritsar to Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Nawanpind Sardaran is located five kilometers south of the National Highway-54, connecting Amritsar with important tourist destinations of the Mata Vaishno Devi temple, Kangra, Dharamsala, Dalhousie and others.
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