PLACES

CHIKHALDARA

Cikhaldara situated in latitude 21 29' N. and longitude 77 22' E is a fine hill station in Amravati district. The plateau occupied by the civil station is about 1.2075 km. (three quarters of a mile) broad and about 1.60 km. (a mile) in length, but it has easy access to spacious table land surrounding it and to many picturesque valleys  and there is ample scope for expansion. About 2.415 km. (mile  and a half) to the south-west lies the fortress of Gavilgad and  Paratvada or'Acalpur camp, the nearest town of any importance is reached by a variety of roads and footpaths, the best of which winds up through Ghatang and Silona with a fascinating scenery for a distance of 48.28 km. (30 miles). Now buses ply on this route all the year round making travel more convenient and speedy. The rest house at Ghatang was built in the days gone by to serve as a convenient half way halting place as only horse-carts or tongas could have access to the hill station. They however, travelled at a very slow speed. The thirty-four kilometres (twenty-one miles) surface road via Dhamanganv and Mota which marks the track followed by Wellesley's force in 1803 has since been converted into a thoroughfare. Cikhaldara is about 100 km. (62 miles) distant from Amravati. the district headquarters and is accessible by a fine motorable road.

Apart from the fort of which it commands several splendid views, Cikhaldara has little or no history. It has now been turned into a hill station and is the prominent summer health resort of the Vidarbha region. It was discovered according to Nurul-Berar by Captain Robinson of the Hyderabad Contingent Battery in A.D. 1823 the very year in which regular troops were first stationed at Acalpur. but bunga'ows were not built there, it seems, till 1839. The height of the Cikhaldara hill station above sea level is 118.130 metres (3.666 feet). Its average mean maximum and minimum temperature is 40.6C (105 f.) and 1.7C (35 f.) respectively. But even in the hottest month of the season a crisp and cool breeze almost always blows and except for a short period at noon during day. heat is never oppressive. The climate is pleasant during September and October. The average annual rainfall is 1905.60 m.m. (75") almost all of which is received between June and September. Cikhaldara seems to have derived its present name from a valley to the east of Cavilgad fort, known as Kicaklara. It is believed that Kicaka was killed here by Bhima during the Adnyata Vas (living incognito) of the Pandavas. It is often, called as Cikhaldara also. The village variously known as Bairat or Vairat lying 9.66 km. (six miles) to the west of Cikhaldara is taken as synonymous with Viratanagari where Pandavas had sojourned in disguise for one year during the period of their exile.

The popularity of the hill station was very soon established and Meadows Taylor mentions its delights as early as 1840 when he was here with the troops. He visited Acalpur again as the Deputy Commissioner on 9th December 1857 and notes "how welcome were the large baskets of delicious peaches from Captain Hamilton's garden at Cikhalda and I wished I could go up there again and revisit the old scenes". Peach is still cultivated in Amzari garden and the Company Bagica, now popularly known as the Forest Garden, as it is under the management of the Forest Department, though it has degenerated considerably since Meadows Taylor's time. Coffee of the finest quality is grown in the public garden formerly under the municipality, but now taken over by the Forest department and in good many private gardens and especially on the land belonging to the Roman Catholic Mission. At one time a great future was anticipated from coffee and tea plantations at Cikhaldara. But the tea plantation has. now entirely disappeared. Coffee plantation occupies an area of over 97.200 hectares (240 acres) and the Government are soon going to open a coffee plantation research centre. Besides peach cultivation the Forest Garden contains various European and Tropical trees and shrubs, fruits and flowers. In a wild state roses, clematis, orchids, ferns and balsams, zinnias and ginger abound. On the upper plateau is situated the Cikhaldara Public Carden or Cikhaldara Bagica covering an area of 5.260 hectares (13 acres). It is noted for very beautiful flowers and is the loveliest of the gardens at Cikhaldara. Good variety of mangoes, plums and peaches are grown in this garden. Among the trees the prominent are pine, cypress, silver-oak, eucalyptus, etc. At a distance of nearly 6.43 km. (four miles) from Cikhaldara along the Cikhaldara-Paratvada road there is another garden known as Amzari garden, supplying vegetables and fruits to the town of Cikhaldara. The principal difficulty in extending the plantation here is that of scarcity of water, though it has been considerably alleviated by pumping water into reservoirs from the Bir tank, which is the major source of water-supply.

Cikhaldara plateau is surrounded by many deep valley glades. The scenery is magnificent and the points of the station command in turn distant views of the Nimar and Mahadeva hills to the west and north and wooded valleys lying closer at hand to the Balaghat beyond. Footpaths cut in the hillsides afford pleasant walks on the lower ridges, such as that which leads to the Devil's Punch Bowl or Andhera Khora (the Valley of Darkness), a splendid deep chasm walled in by a circle of cliffs 60 to 90 metres high, down one side of which in the rains, tumbles a waterfall running up to the Bir tank. Close by is a fine triple echo. Mountaineers exert themselves on many precipitous pathways and can even climb miniature Matheran, though one has to go more down than uphill to reach it. Three kilometres (two miles) away at the bottom of a secluded valley lies the village of Mariampur.

Points.

Besides the above noted point i.e. Devil's Punch Bowl the points enumerated below are of interest to the visitor.

Hurricane point, overlooking the valleys below, commands a fine view of the Gavilgad fort, the extensive plains below and the serpentine course of the river Candrabhaga.

The Monkey Point affords a picturesque view of the deep and dark valley glades with dense forests.

The Long point is about 2.415 km. (one and a half miles) from Cikhaldara and is accessible by a winding road cut through the rocky hills. It commands a view of the rich and widely spread forests of the Melghat tahsil and the river Sipna.

Ravi point is near Sakkar tank, one of the two tanks, which  supply water to Cikhaldara. Nearby in a cave there is a temple of  Goddess, revered and honoured by the people of Melghat tahsil.

Vairat point is at a distance of about ten kilometres (six miles)  and is the highest of all the points of Cikhaldara. The place is associated with Ancient Indian history for it is considered to be the ruling seat of King Virat with whom the Pandavas are supposed to have resided during the period of their exile. It commands a grand view of the entire Satpuda range in Melghat tahsil Candrabhaga river rises just below the Vairat plateau.

Besides the ones noted above there are a good many other points which have not yet been developed. Plans are afoot to develop and give them suitable names.

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