Standing sentinel to the surrounding lowlands, the Pachmarhi Plateau has mesmerized travellers for eons. Millions of years of erosion have sculpted a wildly beautiful mountain landscape – a verdant home to endemic plants and birds, elusive mammals, a diverse group of butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles, the most magical scenery and clement climate. Steeped in legend and mythology, it is the sole hill station in India that remains virtually unchanged. It is, perhaps, exactly how James Forsyth saw it as a nineteen year old boy.
ORIGIN & HISTORY
‘Pachmarhi’ is derived from the words ‘Panch’ and ‘Marhi’, which means ‘Five Caves’ in Hindi. Legend has it that the five caves of Pachmarhi were once home to the five Pandava brothers and their wife Draupadi during their exile. Unfortunately for mythologists, the association with the Mahabharata is not borne out by archaeological fact. The caves belong to the Gupta Period (4th – 7th century AD) and were probably shelters for Buddhist monks. Traces of an ancient brick-built stupa have been unearthed on top of the caves. Archaeologists believe that the stupa dates back to the time of Emperor Ashoka (3rd century BC)! Circa 1857, Captain James Forsyth’s expedition for land settlements for British India led to the plateau’s discovery. Since then, Pachmarhi has served as an all-season holiday home for British governors, Maharajas, officers and now travellers around the world. It appeals to trekkers, researchers, naturalists or anyone zealous enough to explore a breathtaking mountain landscape on foot.
The plateau is peppered with British colonial bungalows that have been restored into charming hotels. Evenings are spent under the starlit sky, with calls of nightjars and owls, and the soft hum of Pachmarhi town.
At Forsyth, we create a bespoke Pachmarhi itinerary for our guests based on their length of stay. One can opt for a full day trip, an overnight stay or a 2-3 day trip.
In the forest, time stands still. Bewitched by the sylvan treasure of the Pachmarhi hills, Captain James Forsyth of the Bengal Lancer wandered along this path in the 1850s. We walk in his footsteps over 150 years later, awed by the same natural beauty that captivated him. Tread the same passage that led him through stunning landscapes and rare forest wealth on his way to the discovery of Pachmarhi – the virgin hill station of Central India.
Spanning over three days, the trek includes a night halt under stars in tents. Pachmarhi’s flora and fauna is completely different from the rest of the highlands, owing to the variation in altitude. The Forsyth Trail will give you the chance to witness the beautifully rare and endemic species of butterflies, birds and plants. You will navigate boulders and forest floors teeming with unique species of insects. As you cross rivulets and soak in the vistas, you’ll also come across ‘Bharias’ – tribes indigenous to the valleys, known for their ancient art of healing.
We leave you with the words of the man who first set foot on the Forsyth Trail:
“By-and-by, through the vistas of the trees great isolated peaks began to appear, glowing red and fiery in the setting sun against the purple background of a cloud bank. The center one of three, right ahead of us, was the peak of Mahadeo, deep in the bowels of which lies the shrine of god himself; to the left, like the bastion of some giant’s hold, rose the square and abrupt form of Chauradeo; while to the right, and further off than the others, frowned the sheer scarf of Dhopgarh, the highest point of these Central Indian highlands.” — Captain J. Forsyth
BUFFER ZONE CAMPING
Resting on the banks of the Denwa River, the JamaniDev campsite is an ideal place to tuck in after a long day of adventure. It starts with an adrenaline-pumping Dusk Safari in the buffer zone – a rare opportunity to witness creatures of the night. A local forest guide and our naturalist help you spot owls, wild cats, bears, civets, etc. If you’re lucky, you may meet the world’s smallest wildcat – the Rusty-spotted Cat.
After your evening explorations, arrive at JamaniDev to be warmly welcomed by a campfire and dinner preparations already in full swing. The camp offers large room tents with regular beds and dry toilets, shower tents alongside. Our housekeeping and kitchen teams make sure that you’re well taken care of at all times.
The amazing starlit sky blankets the earth, giving you a chance to stargaze to your heart’s content. You can try your hand at night photography, assist the chef in the wood fired kitchen, explore the jungle around for insects, scorpions, spiders and frogs or sit by the fire and share your stories of wilderness.
The next morning has you wake up to bird calls and a hot cup of tea or coffee. You could then head out to explore the surrounding area and track animal footprints or board a jeep to drive through new areas of the buffer zone for a sighting.
JR. RANGERS PROGRAMME
Good instincts aside, knowledge and experience can take you a long way as an explorer of the wild. At Forsyth, we offer an interactive course that teaches you the ways of the jungle. Conducted by our experienced naturalists, this certified course will help you learn the craft of exploration, enriching your future adventures. Spend two hours a day with our naturalists and see the wilderness come to life.
Our Jr. Rangers Programme will cover:
- Use of equipment
- Basics of ecology
- Learning to identify different species
- Using field guides, making field notes and sketches
- Identifying tracks
- Basics of nature photography
Please contact the lodge if you would like to enroll yourself or your child for this program. A minimum stay of 3 nights is required to complete the program for a certificate.
CHURNA - FULL DAY SAFARI
Churna lies at the heart of Satpura Tiger Reserve, in the depths of the wilderness. The area is more of a flatland and is home to a mix of broad leaved forest and grasslands – a great terrain for herbivores like Gaur, Chital, Nilgai and Sambar. Minimal and ascetic, Churna Guest House offers an unadulterated taste of wild India. You can choose to stop here for a lunch break between safaris or opt to stay overnight.
Spend your stay marvelling at the beautiful birdlife that abounds in the area. Explore rock paintings from thousands of years ago, telling their own stories of yore. Sleep amidst the sweet din of the forest, only to be interrupted by the loud roar of a tiger! The overnight stay at Churna has its own surprises.