In Heavens Abode — Pachmarhi……. Satpura Hills

It was the day before Vijay Dashmi (Dusherra) i along with my companion , butterflies in our stomach , an eject button that one calls ,far away from the hustle bustle of this metro polis,in order to embark on an escapade , boarded the Jabalpur bound train from Delhi in the evening of 5th October 2011 heading towards the thick meadows and lush green washed Satpura Ranges to feel the heavens abode in a  place popularly known as the “Queen of The Satpura Mountains” — Pachmarhi.
We boarded the evening Delhi – Jabalpur Superfast on 5th October 2011 to get down at Pipariya in Hoshangabad district. Pipariya is the nearest railway station to Pachmarhi which is 54 km away. Pachmarhi is nearly 200 km away from the state capital,Bhopal.
Pipariya Railway Station
The next morning at 6.00 am we reached Pipariya … yes the train was late by 45 minutes . It started staggering at a snail pace  at Jhansi till Itarsi but gained momentum steadily towards the destination.The station had only two platforms occupied by almost all locals,many squatted relaxing & staring at the  people ,hurriedly we moved out of the station to find a bunch of taxiwallas encircling us ….. I said we’ll return after visiting the town in a bid to get rid of them.
There  was a mad chaos towards the streets with cows and bulls roaming in their most  fashionable gait.One can push you very easily with an unapologetic face,throwing a sigh at you saying “bhaiya dekh ke chalo” with a dissenting and relentless  tone on all your protests.  What a place? huh  and a welcome note of street  hawkers obstructing every way of one’s exit ,thinking pointless to move forward we resorted  back towards the railway station.
These are my impromptu remarks of the town ,sorry if i offend anybody but the fact lies in perception, which is variable to the extent of experience one gets.
There was only two good thing about Piparia .. one it marks the commencement of a brief journey into the rugged mountain ranges of Satpura’s and other was “Poha Jalebi“, a  breakfast cherished by almost everybody in  the Central India.So was i ,liked it considering the hunger pangs and the voluptuous taste .
One can avail local transport i.e..,  jeeps on sharing basis who charge around Rs.50/- per passenger. But i suggest that this option is not a  viable one , due to safety issues arising out of overloading and rash driving. There is also taxi service available  one can find outside the railway station. We hired a taxi for Rs.500 after a bargain …. yes the tariff is not fixed — one can bargain and get the best deal. The motive behind taking a taxi,for me was to capture the scenic beauty on the pathways towards the destination,which otherwise was not possible in a public conveyance stuffed with local junta .
 Gyarsi ..our driver sitting inside
But what a luck …. the taxi was in such a deplorable state of affairs that even a small jolt could pull the dashboard towards the seat!!!!!! ….. Don’t take it in literal sense  it’s just a metaphor !!!  …….. The Indica car had touch screen windows …… No !!!! please don’t take it as  some value added feature of the car. The windows needed a slight push of the palm in order to put it down and even  at the time of  pulling it upwards.Very funnily it was written “Chun Mun”  at the rear end of the car. I was exasperated initially thinking that this ride is not worth the pay but i calmed myself thinking of Pachmarhi.
We started our journey overlooking  the plains which ended near a small village known as “Matkuli“, which marks the commencement of the Satpura National Park and a divergent road towards Chinddwara,  towards Nagpur in Maharashtra. Nagpur is roughly 250 km away from Pachmarhi with heavy frequency of buses and public transport .
One can get a distant glimpse of the Satpura Ranges enveloped in smog,as it appears from a distance. It is only after a few miles from there the ranges are apparently seen covered with lush green blanket. I was exhilarated by the thought of reaching on top and smelling the fresh air of the hills. Our taxi driver …  his name ummm…if i can recollect was   Gyarsi Das , on a mute button until we reached a point on the midway ,  a village known as Bari Aam near Matkuli …. The main feature of this place was a small natural pond which was surrounded by small hillocks on one side and the road on the other.
The water appeared to be clear and i clicked this sun-bathed pictures of the pond , nothing was known from him about the history and eminence of the pond but this can be comprehended that its formation is only through rainwater and not as a result of the ponds formed by the Denwa river,description of which has been elaborated down in my narrative.
 From here onwards Gyarsi ,our driver started to speak about the Satpura National Park and wildlife sanctuary giving rough estimates of the flora and fauna subsiding within the periphery of the reserve.
SATPURA Mountain  ranges which separate the North India with the  Southern part,  extend from Eastern Gujarat(Rajpipla)   running east through Madhya Pradesh  till Chattisgarh (Rajmahal Hills) covering roughly around 900 km drained by Narmada in north and Tapti river in the southern belt.
Satpura Ranges
It is evident that Satpura ranges are situated between the Tapti and Narmada River basins with Vindhya Ranges running  parallel without any dissection.
The seven mountain ranges or folds of  Satpura’s are Maikal where Narmada finds it origin near Amarkantak ., then comes Mahadeo Hills near Pachmarhi., Kalibhit ,Asirgarh, Bijagarh, Barwani, Arwani which extends to Rajpipla Hills in Eastern Gujarat.
Going by  mythology it is propounded that the Satpura’s are the seven sons  of Vindhya Ranges ,their birth is not a matter of consequence ,but was to avert an overflowing angry Narmada river which in its wrath was drowning the whole earth.
Satpura Ranges as seen from Forsyth Point
This is not a populist version but only takes its refuge in myths and ancient folklore devoid of historical , geological and scientific promulgation.
Moving forward towards a stream flowing in a valley  is a point known as “Denwa Darshan“. One can overlook the Denwa river flowing down in the valley . Denwa is a tributary to the river Tawa. Tawa is the biggest tributary to the river Narmada.The Tawa river finds its origin near the rocky plateaus in  Betul district(South Madhya Pradesh),moves northwards from there and falls into Narmada before Hoshangabad. Denwa river acts as watershed for almost all gorges and valleys  of Pachmarhi surrounded by Mahadeo Hills,which is one among the seven folds of the Satpura Ranges.  It is somewhere near Matkuli , we stopped to view the valley engulfed with thick vegetation on both sides and a small stream flowing ,cutting through the rocks and pebbles of this beautiful chasm.
Denwa River Pachmarhi (Denwa Darshan)
Reaching Pachmarhi
Finally we reach the hill resort of  Pachmarhi after along  hour drive . We got down at the Central market of the town,strolled down the streets for a while, astounded with little information , no maps but with some  internet gyan about the hill resort .Pachmarhi is a walker’s paradise and a favorite destination for trekkers. Wrapped in lush green meadows and rinsed by the many streams and waterfalls,guarded by ancient temple shrines , Pachmarhi is a place to enjoy your holidays away from the concrete jungle. I scouted for some “Poha Jalebi” which we had in Pipariya but to my distress none had it in the market. With no idea about the terrain just some information ripped from the internet,we thought to interact with some locals to get an idea ….. “idea jo duniya bada de” ,,,, he he he.
Much was known about the  history of Pachmarhi owing to  the interactions we had with the gentleman at the grocery shop. Pachmarhi was discovered by Caption  James Forsyth in the year 1862 as a military sanitarium  where medical facilities were set up. Later this town at an altitude of 3550 feet above the sea level became the summer capital of the Central Province during the British Raj period. There is a famous hill peak point known as Forsyth point giving an  exemplary view of the mountain valley.This point was later renamed as “Priyadarshini point” after the name of our late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
While wandering for some time it was this kind-hearted gentlemen owning  a grocery shop  noticed us carrying the backpacks with a bewildered look on our face .. He called us  upon and suggested to us something which became the mantra for us to traverse and explore the spectacle of this hill resort. The gentleman …, i am sorry i forgot his name ,though i wanted to account him in this narrative ,suggested  we  trek by foot through the town seeing the sign boards and the directions set out by the MP Tourism Dept.
Given below is the description of the trek which we had on the first day ,included a Rock Cave , picturesque  waterfalls and streams coupled with prehistoric rock art
1st Trek (6th October 2011)  —-> Pandav Caves—-> Rajat Prapat—-> Apsara Falls—-> Panchali Kund—-> Rock Paintings.
We started walking carrying our backpacks to our first destination .. towards Pandav Caves .
Streets of Pachmarhi with signboards
While walking through the city , which is mainly an Army Cantonment area housing many servicemen, we happened to see a church names “Protestant Church” it was bolted and locked with some buffaloes grazing in the area enclosed within the walls of the church. Probably the church only opened on Sundays for public prayers,sermons and religious meetings.
Protestant Church built in the year 1875
 This magnificent structure reminds one of the British annexation of this region and making it a summer hill resort.By looking at the church  its medieval architecture and   grandeur can easily be apprehended.
A few minutes walk ahead lead us towards the Pachmarhi lake towards the south surrounded by the Golf Course with local habitation around its pockets.
Pachmarhi Jheel (Lake)
Few kilometers ahead following the directions we reached Pandav Caves  around 8.30 am in the morning. There are five caves carved out of hillock and a vast garden housed in a single complex. Pachmarhi derived its name after these five caves historically known to be built by the Buddhist missionaries.Factually these caves date back the Gupta period of ancient India. But in populist view it is widely accepted that the Pandavas took refuge here in the 13th year of their exile incognito.
Sun-bathed Pandav Caves (Frontal View)
Me sitting on a rock at Pandav Caves
On the top of the cave one can find brick structures which might be a Buddhist Stupa.
Pandav Cave (Top)
There were also some paintings in these caves but were hardly visibly washed away by the passage of centuries.
Our next destination was Rajat Prapat or Silver Fall which was slated to be the next point in our escapade.
We started walking towards Rajat prapat from the Pandav Caves site.We came near the forest entry from where everybody has to stroll down the jungle with prohibition on vehicle entry thereon.
Towards Rajat Prapat
Lonely Road towards Rajat Prapat
Stranded ……..
We were sitting at the forest entry to sip a cup of tea and this tribal man named Shanoo came towards us saying “guide chahiye kya saab,  neeche raasta kharab hai
Waiting at the Forest Entry at a small dhaba nested within the hills.This place is very deserted and only inundated by tourist inflow .
He decided to wait until we consume our snacks  .I was initially apprehensive because he was not even carrying his pass or Identity card . We ordered some maggie and pakoras at this local dhaba ,waiting, we were hearing from the owner of the dhaba ,a young boy barely in his mid twenties ,saying “aage paani nahin milega,paani le lo” i.e.., purchase water from here as you will not get it during the trek towards the waterfalls which emerges after a long jungle walk. Hearing this we got our supplies correct by placing an additional bottle in my pouch. Many tourists shunned him saying “hum jharne ka paani pe lenge” thus sharing such jocular pleasantries.  Till then we both reconciled to take Shanoo along to avert any more complications during the passage in the jungle.
Shanoo giving a presentation on Sal Tree
Pachmarhi is covered with Sal trees with a thick vegetation down the gorges and along the meadows. Shanoo talked a lot about the Sal trees and its utility . Sal is very useful in the treatment of many chronic diseases. He was talking about the vegetation and culture of Pachmarhi dating back to the times when Gond Aadivasi ruled this place till the advent of the British.
It was a  thick jungle  , realising it was a wise decision to take a guide along.Moving forward in less than a kilometer from this signboard was the mighty Rajat Prapat view.This is truly a nature’s marvel dripping down from a height of 350 feet from the cliff. The fall is not a stream but a horsetail waterfall with a single drop flowing from the above. Excitedly, i was rushing towards the fences   to catch its ambient sound scape created by  water which kept gushing downwards.  The waterfall is known as Rajat Prapat or Silver Falls because the sunshine on the stream makes it look like a silver strip from a distance.The same can be viewed from the picture posted below. Rajat is the hindi name for silver.
The Mighty Rajat Prapat or Silver Falls
Next we moved towards Apsara Vihar or Apsara falls which is a kilometer away from Silver Falls. It is said that during the British dominion the white females used to take bath in the pool area of the fall .The white complexion of these females made the  tribals believe them to be angels coming from heaven to take bath. One trivia –  - – - –  Kareena Kapoor and Sharukh Khan once shot their song “San San Sana na” from the movie “Ashoka” in Apsara Falls as per the account given by Shanoo.
Apsara Falls and its pond area
Apsara Vihar
Adjacent to the Apsara Falls is the “Panchali Kund” a cascading waterfall with 5 big rocks over which the water is descending downwards.
Panchali Kund
The serene ambiance of the landscape  is such that one can attain instant solitude . I was leaning over every cavity of the fall and the water body to get a glimpse of any scenic image. The tourists started to move towards the forest entry while  we thought of an adventurous escapade through the thick woods  of the dense forests to catch “Rock Paintings” which date back many centuries … probably pre historic times. Disagreeably we gave our consent to Shanoo who was supposedly very excited to show us the ancient relic which is well placed in the womb of the forest.
We started to move  with herds of tourists getting  sparse until it disappeared completely.
Moving in the woods where no one ventures .On the way towards Rock Paintings
We came across a dead snake-skin apparently of a big venomous serpent  … and to my surprise i was able to locate  a Bison’s skull  lying away from the “pagdandi“(walking path) . The forest has a wide range of wild life including a both herbivores and carnivores like deer,black buck,Bengal Tiger,Leopard ,Wild Dogs (known as Son Kutte in vernacular language) ,Wild Boar,Bison etc…..
Climbing up as Roack Paintings are seen above
We were expecting  wild intervention any time in the course of our movement into the deep gorge. It was a topsy-turvy ride with points where we were clinging to branches of the trees growing over the cliffs . With two halts in the midway and a  profuse precipitation we were approaching the rock paintings . The rock paintings of this region belong to pre historic periods. The ancient paintings clearly depict a society of hunters and gatherers. Mainly they portray man and his relationship with animals. The region was occupied by the Korku and Gond tribes who perform various customary rituals in front of these rock-cut monuments to please their ancestors by giving animal sacrifices and offerings. Also to avert any unforeseen misery or danger these customs were performed. These rock paintings clearly depict the rudiments of an art which would eventually flourish into a discipline in the near future,less was known by our pre historic caveman while creating this raw form of story telling.
Shanoo took a stick in his hand and was pointing towards the pictures trying to tell the significance of this art. He was  looking like a chieftain of a tribe  standing on the altar to give some offerings to their gods.
We rested there for a while to move again towards the woods .Shanoo had an alternative path walking through the dense jungle to reach the Forest Entry gate . Shanoo arranged for our  conveyance and we reached the town within 20 minutes.
Rock Paintings with Shanoo standing with his stick like a chieftain of a tribe .
Hotel Satpura Safari,Pachmarhi
Tired with fatigued we booked a room in the  hotel “Satpura Safari”.
We rested there in our room for a while then ventured out in the town at the time of evening.
It was Vijay Dashmi that day and the whole city was buzzing with the festive season.
Procession celebrating Dusherra Festival,Pachmarhi
We set out in the streets where we could see processions moving with Goddess Durga’s idols singing and dancing over the streets.People getting involved in the customary ritual of  burning the effigy of Ravana as an emblem of victory of Truth over Evil .
Girls dressed up  as  Goddess  Durga ,Pachmarhi,   MP
It was a treat to see the energy of the locals and their amicable behavior towards the tourists. With such a big procession moving through the city no signs of derangement was visible. It was quite conspicuous that people had devotion and festivity in their minds unlike what we see in big cities.
Little pretty girls dressed up like Goddess Durga , in their charismatic aura , posing for pictures ,calling each other by names of the goddesses ,with sheer innocence . This girl in the red dress proclaimed that she is goddess Sita. She truly is, i believe.
Jadi Buti Bhandaar
We ventured out in the market to find a 30 kilogram onion used for medicinal purpose of healing certain ailments— couldn’t believe my eyes but we happened to see it at an Ayurvedic shop.
It was 10.30 pm till then so, we moved to our hotel room ,fatigued with day one of  the excursion.
The owner of the shop carrying the 30 kilogram onion

Day 2 of the Trek – - -> Jata Shankar —>Begum Palace—-> Handi Khoh —> Priyadarshini Point —> Gupt Mahadev —-> Bada Mahadev —-> Pachmarhi
The next day we woke up early in the morning,finished the daily routine chores and then checked out of the hotel. The points in this trek mostly included temple caves and shrines. I was greatly exhilarated because i will be surrounded by mysticism and divinity of Mahadev Shiva for the whole day. Mahadev is a great source of inspiration ,he is a yogi and a warrior bestowed with great powers.
Stairways going downwards towards the Jata Shankar Cave
Jatashankar  is a cave temple.One has go deep into the ravine about 200-400 meters with the help of  narrow stairways laid down supported by enormous rocks on both sides.These are sedimentary rocks mainly sandstone thus having loose gravel.In simpler words if one throws a sandstone it breaks.
It is said that Lord Shiva ,after seeing the intense penance of Demon Bhasmasura ,granted him a boon of burning down anybody whose head he touches.
JataShankar Cave
Going downwards a cave appears where Lord Shiva has foregone his long  (hair),called “jata” in hindi to get a disguise  so that Demon Bhasmasura who, in his false vanity thought of putting down Lord Shiva to ashes by touching his head, would not find him hiding here.
The entrance of the cave with Sheshnag snake-like rock structure
The entrance of the cave and overhead appears like a snake etched above ,many say it is depiction of “Sheshnaga”, a large snake which is also considered as a deity by the Hindus.
There is a natural Shiv Linga inside the cave .
Trident (Trishul) implanted by the devotees
The Linga is natural stalagmite stone which normally appears in limestone caves …In simpler words it happens at places submerged in water at some point of time and emerges out as soon as the water starts to  recede. The whole cave gets submerged during heaving monsoon periods in the month of  July and August every year.
Next we moved towards Begum Palace which is on the road connecting Piparia before entering Pachmarhi. Not much was known of this palace but i assume that Hoshangabad was once under the rule of Sultans of Malwa and Begum Palace must date back to their ages. It was an old palace almost rusted in time,broken and wailing in its ruins.
Interiors of Begum Palace
Begum Palace Ruins
Next our taxi walla took us to Handi Khoh ,a 300 feet gorge ,which looks most impressive when one hears the sound of
Handi Khoh in its 300 feet gorge glory
water flowing downwards ,although i was unable to see any stream of water below. The point gives some breathtaking scenery standing as a testimony to the ethereal beauty of Pachmarhi. We stayed here for almost 20 minutes bending down the fence,trying to measure its depth with insatiable curiosity.
Next was Priyadarshini Point some kilometers away from Handi Khoh.
Priyadarshini Point ….. valley and hills around
James Forsyth had his first glance of Pachmarhi from this point thus making the point named Forsyth Point until it was renamed as Priyadarshini point after the name of Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi after her visit in the year 1964.
Priyadarshini Point
It was already 2.00 pm and we had to rush towards our next point safely placed within the Mahadeo Hills – - the other two Mahadev shrines (Gupt Mahadev and Bada Mahadev) . I was thinking about the relevance of Lord Shiva in almost so many places of the country majorly in the mountainous terrain ,where one can encounter various ancient shrines and caves dedicated to Shiva …Mahadev.
The road leading towards the Mahadev shrine and caves had more spiral curves and altitude towering its scales .
Spirals overlooking the hills .... on the way towards Mahadev Temple
Road leading to Mahadev Caves and shrine with a milestone showing the distance remaining.
It is almost 10-12 km from main Pachmarhi Town ,gets barely inaccessible without a vehicle.
We reach Gupt Mahadev temple another hiding place for Lord Shiva from the demon Bhasmasura .
Gupt Mahadev Temple
It is a narrow cave ,sitting inside is a priest who performs the religious puja for the devotees. I saw one devotee coming out of the cave panting and gasping for air. We didn’t venture inside the cave as there were many people lined up in a queue.
Me standing near Gupt Mahadev
Let me elaborate about the natural beauty of the area surrounding these caves which was so  enigmatic to the extent that i can write a whole book on it…….. ha ha again a metaphor –..
A little stream of water, a rivulet was flowing ,seemingly estranged trying to find a way to meet with its alma mater —- Denwa River
A rivulet flowing beside the Mahadev Shrines
A tribal lady selling eatables near Mahadev
Tribal’s were sighted selling ber … or bore as we call in hindi ,salted cucumber and other eatables at …  oh my
god!!!!!!! in dirt cheap rates … This is a picture of a very hospitable tribal woman . I clicked her picture and started to move . She beckoned me from back saying “photo le liya to kuch kharid ke bhi jao” I tried to move forward unashamedly but later thought unwise to pass off like this — moved towards here and bought  handful of ber salted with masala for only Rs.5/- . It was such a generous pack that we were unable to eat the whole packet owing to its abundance.
Signboard showing the directions
The Bada Mahadev shrine is at a walking distance from the Gupt Mahadev. We along with all other revelers started to walk towards the Bada Mahadev Shrine which is housed inside a big cave. The cave is so dark and water drips inside the cave making it very dark and moist. It is believed that Lord Vishnu killed Demon Bhasmashura by tricking him looking like a beautiful women  by attaining his Mohini Avatar here .
Bada Mahadev Cave
Near Bada Mahadev
After visiting the shrine we sat relaxing ,discussing about the grandeur and majesty of this massive rock-cut caves ,at local dhaba sipping a cup of coffee.Look at this guy getting samosa for us.I exchanged words with the locals trying to get their version of the story about the cave. It was almost 4.30 pm and we decided to move towards the parking to get  into our taxi .
I was thinking about Dhoopgarh which was missing from my schedule owing to the fact that we had to catch the train back to Delhi the same evening. I kept Dhoopgarh as a reason for my subsequent visit to Pachmarhi which will surely happen one day. Dhoopgarh is the highest point in the Satpura Hills scaling an altitude of 4000 feet above the sea level. It gives a panoramic view of all of the  Mahadeo Hills. It is a very good sunset and sunrise point .
Not my click …….. i regard  the original uploader …. 
Though i have not visited the point but for the readers i would like to share a picture of Dhoopgarh.
Dhoopgarh ,gigantic in stature stands tall acting as a vantage point for viewing all the peaks,cliffs and hills surrounding Pachmarhi till some parts of Chinddwara.
Returning back to Pachmarhi we were unable to stop at  multiple spots to click pictures ,reason being irresistible sightings ……… with abundance of natural spectacles.
Returning to Pachmarhi from Mahadev
Green Valley
Another point was known as Green Valley where one can view a lush green valley with a large expanse of thick vegetation of Sal and Bamboo forest.
While returning traversing from the same path ….. I was thinking of inventing a time machine. Pachmarhi is in itself a great subterfuge skillfully nested within the Satpura Ranges.
It was evening and the sun was seen swallowed by the horizon, inviting  dusk aboard to  spell darkness putting the whole valley to sleep.
Returning back to the concrete jungle was seemingly tough for me …. I was going through a “chemical locha”  fondly remembering Billy Ocean’s  song “When the going get’s tough,The tough get’s the going“.
Reaching Piparia by 7.30 pm …………….. reaching Delhi the next day in the morning.
Hope this narrative acts as a utility to all the revelers ,backpackers, wanderers and nature lovers. This narrative is dedicated to all the knight errant like us.
Looking forward for your feedback ….. till then happy reading .
Piparia Station 7th October 2011