Nagpur: We all know Darjeeling in the Himalayas is called the Queen of hill stations, and there may be valid reasons for it. We make the bold statement that Chikhaldara is the undisputed King – and these are 5 reasons why:
- Chikhaldara, though being only 250 Kms away from Nagpur, and even lesser from Amravati, was so well hidden by forests and a mountain range that seemed inaccessible, that it took the British to ‘rediscover’ it in 1800s. They found it before ‘petrol’ was available so there were no buses or motor cars to transport them there, in fact there were no roads! All this development work was done by engineers and others going on elephant backs to Chikhaldara. So enamored were the English of this place, which reminded them of Home, that they seriously contemplated moving the capital of their Indian Empire to Chikhaldara! Even today, there are ruins of British style mansions dotted here and there, replete with fire places and huge ballrooms. Among the valleys of Chikhaldaea, along with local flora you can see many conifers and exotic trees not native to Asia that were planted here by the British. Truly, it resembles England even more today than before!
- Way before the British though, it was the mythological Pandavas of the Mahabharata who fell in love with Chikhaldara. When they were sent on ‘adyatvas’ by the Kauravas, they spent a good deal of their time here. In fact Chikhaldara gets its name from a fable of those times. It is here that Bheema the mighty killed the villianous Keechka in a herculean bout and then threw him into the valley. It thus came to be known as Keechakadara—Chikhaldara is its corrupted version.
- The sole hill resort in the Vidarbha region, it is situated at an altitude of 1118 meters. Chikhaldara is not just a beautiful hill station, though it is only marginally lower than the better known and more visited Mahabaleshwar ( highest peak there is approx at 1400 m ) it has lush forests too. There isn’t too much ‘development’ and urbanization vis a vis Mahabaleshwar so Chikhaldara still retains a pristine and untouched aura. Early mornings, even in July and August are misty and dewy – you get the feeling you are in Ooty or some such place.
- Not many are aware, but Chikhaldara has the added dimension of being the only coffee-growing area in Maharashtra. Chikhaldara has an annual rainfall of 154cm. Temperature varies from 39C in summer to 5C in winter.
- But the most distinct feature of the Chikhaldara – Melghat areas is that It abounds in wildlife—Tiger, panthers, sloth bears, sambar, wild boar, and even the rarely seen wild dogs. Close by is the famous Melghat Tiger Project which has 82 tigers. Indira Gandhi, when she was Prime Minister, had chosen to come to Melghat for a ‘wild-life’ holiday and there is a charming Forest guest house, overlooking a valley, built specially for her stay.
The scenic beauty of Chikhaldara can be enjoyed from Hurricane Point, Prospect Point, and Devi Point. Other interesting excursions include Gavilgad and Narnala Fort, the Pandit Nehru Botanical Gardens, the Tribal Museum and the Semadoh Lake.