Pachmarhi, popularly known as ‘Satpura ki Rani’ is a pristine hill station nestled in the Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh. It sits beautifully, bedecked by nature and history, amidst the Satpura Range. The most popular and only hill station of the state, situated at an altitude of 1067 meters,it is a treasure trove with ancient caves of the Buddhist era residing in harmony with serene waterfalls. Also called the ‘Verdant Jewel of the Hills’, its all-pervading beauty strikes every eye- tranquil emerald pools, different hues of green dominating the landscape, and lush green, dense forests that dominate the region.
The name ‘Pachmarhi’ is believed to have been derived from the Hindi words ‘panch’ and ‘marhi’ which mean five and caves respectively. Legend says that five caves were built by the Pandava brothers from the epic Mahabharata during their exile period of 13 years. These caves exist till date and are situated on a hilltop.
For many years, Pachmarhi was a town, both undiscovered and lowly populated. It was in 1857 that Captain James Forsyth of the British Army spotted the plateau in the region while leading his troops to Jhansi. It was soon developed into a hill station and a sanatorium. It also served as the summer capital for the Central Provinces.
UNESCO added Pachmarhi to its list of Biosphere Reserves in 2009. Sprawling in an area of around 5000-kilometer squares, it encompasses the Bori and Pachmarhi Sanctuary as the buffer zones and the Satpura National Park as the core zone. The three collectively are home to a profusion of species from the lower Western Ghats and Himalayan peaks. Its forests are dominated by teak, sal, and oak. These forests are known for their medicinal plants and herbs. Its list of endemic species includes creatures like chinkara, nilgai, Indian giant, and flying squirrels and bison. It also hosts more than seventy species of butterflies and many birds, offering lucrative options for bird watching.
Pachmarhi is most known for its waterfalls- water flowing in silvery streaks from rocks surrounded by frondescence. The most popular one is the ‘Bee Falls’. It has been named so because from a distance it sounds like a bee’s buzz. One can take a walk of around one and a half kilometers to view the fall in its entirety or rent a four-wheeler as well. Other popular waterfalls include the Dutchess falls, by far the steepest and remote one in the town; Silver Falls, also called the Rajat Prapat or Big Falls, known for its 2800+ feet of silver splotches running down a gorge, and the Little Falls. Other pacific and prominent water bodies in the place include the Apsara Vihar and Panar Pani. Facilities like boating, paragliding, and adventure camps are available here.
Pachmarhi is interspersed with places of religious and historical importance. The three cave temples dedicated to Lord Shiva called the Chota or Gupt Mahadev, Bada Mahadev and Jatashankar hold high religious significance. The Gupt Mahadev is a narrow point in the hills, so much that you need to walk sideways at times in order to access the place. Adjacent to it is the Bada Mahadev, a giant rock formation where Lord Vishnu tricked Bhasmasura into killing himself. The sacred Jatashankar shrine is where Lord Shiva supposedly concealed himself.
Apart from these, Handi Khoh is known for its legend associated with Lord Shiva. It is believed that in the lake that existed earlier in the place, Lord Shiva destroyed an evil serpent. In the process, the water dried up and gave the place a shape that till today looks like a pot or handi. Chauragarh, the third highest peak of Pachmarhi is a pilgrimage site dedicated to Lord Shiva. Around two lakh Trishuls are offered here during the annual festival of Mahashivratri.
As the highest point of the Satpura Range, Dhoopgarh, true to its name is where the Sun is visible throughout on cloudless days with sunshine dancing off the surrounding peaks. Sangam or the confluence of mountain streams behind Dhupgarh offers a lovely view. Along with this, the Chauragarh Fort also offers spots for sunrise viewing and picture clicking.
Other worth mentioning places to visit in Pachmarhi include the Priyadarshini Point, earlier known as the Forsyth Point is from where Captain Forsyth viewed Pachmarhi for the first time; the Patalkot Valley, a four hour drive from Pachmarhi; the beautiful viewpoint of Rajendragiri, a garden named after our first President and cave paintings that are more than ten thousand years old.
As such the place doesn’t have its own specialties in terms of food but offers umpteen options available to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Places like the China Bowl and the Jalaram Bhojnalaya are must-visits. Pachmarhi is popular for its ayurvedic products, bamboo items, metal statues, and paintings. It’s Prakrit Silk sarees are especially famous and can be purchased from the Prakrit Silk Emporium.
The climate in Pachmarhi is generally mild, balmy, and temperate. As compared to the winters, summers experience more rainfall. The winter season is the optimum time to visit Pachmarhi and the peak season as well. The slightly chilly breeze and the cold weather offer a great time to relish sightseeing. Tourists mostly pour in due to the confluence of Christmas, New Year, and the Pachmarhi Utsava organized by the state tourism from December 25 to 31.
All major cities of Madhya Pradesh like Bhopal, Indore, and Jabalpur are connected to Pachmarhi via roads. The nearest railway station available is Pipariya and Bhopal and Jabalpur serve as the nearest airports. The last leg of the journey to reach Pachmarhi needs to be undertaken by roads only.
Every inch of Pachmarhi is a treat to the human eye. A visit to Pachmarhi is sure to make you feel calm; instill tranquillity into every iota of your body. It returns the feeling of putting your bare feet on grass for the very first time as a child to your heart and mind.