THIS DELIGHTFUL hill station, at an altitude of 1,067 m (3,501 ft), lies in the verdant hills of the Satpura Range. Its attractions include waterfalls and pools, and caves with prehistoric art. In 1857, Captain James Forsyth of the Bengal Lancers spotted this saucer-shaped plateau, and it was quickly developed into a sanatorium and army station by the British.
The town retains a genteel, Raj-era ambience, and among its colonial relics are the Christ Church, built in 1875, with beautiful stained-glass windows, and the Army Music School which still begins the day with rousing English martial tunes such as the Colonel Bogey March. Pachmarhi means “Five Houses”, and the town takes its name from the five ancient Pandava Caves, set in a garden south of the bus stop. From the caves, paths lead to the scenic Apsara Vihar (“Fairy Pool”) and the Rajat Prapat Waterfalls.
The wooded hills around Pachmarhi, home of the Gond and Korku tribes, are dotted with cave shelters, some of them with paintings dating back 10,000 years. The most accessible of them is the Mahadco Cave, 6 km (4 miles) from the Jai Stamhh (“Victory Pillar”) in the centre of town. The Jatashankar Cave Temple, dedicated to Shiva, is a short excursion, 2 km (1.3 mile) from the main bus stop. At the Shivratri festival, a colourful gathering of pilgrims and sadhus takes place here. En route to it is the Harper’s Cave, so called because it has a painting of a man playing an instrument that looks like a harp.