Forgotten Colonies #5: Pachmarhi
THE PEACEFUL AURA OF PACHMARHI
In the mid-1800s, a British captain, James Forsyth, did a Columbus and chanced upon Pachmarhi. The English Empire soon set up a sanatorium for their troops there, and today, this former military centre, that doubled as a holiday home, remains the only hill station in Madhya Pradesh that was a British summer retreat.
Your sweaters come out of the closet as you enjoy windy days in the small mountain town. Away from the concrete jungles and grime of the city, you’ll feel nature’s effect on your freshly-glowing skin. Walk around to explore the flora and fauna of the Satpuras (and if luck is on your side, you may even be able to spot a deer or two). Bison Lodge, the first building constructed in Pachmarhi, that’s now a museum, offers doses of history. Ditch your iPod and tune in to the sound of waterfalls lashing against rocks, as you explore the bamboo thickets and groves of jamun. Or if you’re feeling slightly adventurous, trek to the Mahadeo Hills, where the cave shelters charm with their ancient rock paintings in reds, yellows and shades of grey.
For a trip to India’s Victorian past, peek into the quaint heritage cottages, stroll through the large gardens, or spend a few moments of peace at the town’s churches — many of which are still maintained by army personnel. And on the way, you’ll discover the wonders of the hilly town to know why it was so precious to the European nation — whose people made sure it was only the British (and later the Indian royals) who were allowed a visit to the ‘Queen of the Satpura’.
While there are no large hotels and malls in Pachmarhi, one can take home a few local treasures. Marble figurines, jute keepsakes and wooden gift items, each a token of the hill station’s colonial antiquity, are available at the heritage hotels or the tiny shops that dot the mountainous region.
Stay: at the cosy six-room Rock End Manor, a heritage bungalow from British times that is perched prettily on a hill overlooking the golf course. Shah Rukh Khan stayed here when he was masquerading as Asoka. Gush: at the cascading water of Bee Falls, Rajat Falls, Fairy Falls and the sparkling Irene Pool. Encounter: the sun god in Shiva’s own country at Dhoopgarh and sigh over the amazing sunrises and sunsets. Visit: all through the year. Nearest airport: Bhopal’s Raja Bhoj Airport, 195 kilometres away, a four-hour drive.