Pachmarhi: If you are an environment buff with an unquenchable desire to connect with Mother Nature or a beleaguered city-dweller seeking a desperate escape from the sweltering summer then you should be making a beeline for Madhya Pradesh’s sole hill station – the ‘Queen of Satpura,’ nestled 1,067 m above sea level – where the very air is charged with fragrances and the climate mellow round the year.
This serene plateau within Hoshangabad District derives its name from five rock-cut caves, under Archaeological Survey of India protection, where the Pandavas are believed to have spent a considerable period of time during their exile.
The paths through the pristine wooded landscape, breathtaking views from the edges of the saucer-shaped plateau, ethereal panoramic scenes, spectacular waterfalls, intriguing gorges and rock formations, ravines, vantage points, rock art, flora, fauna, colonial heritage and numerous other aspects are the major attractions.
Pachmarhi is one of two biospheres in this State, the other being Amarkantak, official sources said.
It was a tribal village prior to being chanced upon by Captain James Forsyth of the Bengal Lancers in 1857.
He suggested the setting up of a sanatorium for British forces. It also served as summer capital of the Central Provinces.
The ferns, orchids, algae, etc possess immense medicinal value. Lord Shiva is the region’s presiding deity and temples dedicated to Him include the Jata Shankar and Mahadeo cave shrines besides the Chauragarh hill-top temple.
Jata Shankar gets its name owing to a rock formation resembling His matted locks. The shivling is situated 200 feet below in a gorge.
Paintings on the walls of the Mahadeo cave date back to the Mesolithic Period.
Nearby Dhoopgarh is a vantage point more than 5,000 feet above mean sea level.
A bungalow built on Capt Forsyth’s orders has been converted into a museum displaying panoramic photographs and information panels.
A place of incredible beauty is Apsara Vihar – a densely-wooded valley with a perennial stream flowing through.
It has a picturesque waterfall and a pool. Dhuandhar Cave boasts many paintings most of which are well-preserved.
Bison Lodge was also erected on Capt Forsyth’s orders. In his book ‘The Highlands of Central India’ he provides an immensely interesting account of the difficulties faced during construction due to bizarre behaviour of tribal folk.
It was renovated and converted into a museum. The prominent waterfalls include Rajat Prapat, Jamuna Prapat and Jalwataran.