Panchgani Knowledge Guide


Scenic Panchgani was discovered by the British during the British Raj as a summer resort, and a superintendent named John Chesson was placed in charge of the hill station in the 1860s. He is credited with planting many plant species from the western world in Panchgani, including silver oak and poinsettia, which have flourished since then in Panchgani. Mahabaleshwar was the summer resort of choice for the British, but it was uninhabitable during the monsoons. Panchgani was developed as a retirement place for the British because it remained pleasant throughout the year. John Chesson was deputed to find a suitable place. He surveyed the hills in this region in the company of Rustomji Dubash, and finally decided on this nameless area in the vicinity of the five villages: Dandeghar, Godavali, Ambral, Khingar, and Taighat. The place was aptly named Panchgani, and Chesson was made Superintendent. To develop the infrastructure, Chesson encouraged various professionals - tailors, dhobis, butchers, vegetable vendors, building contractors - to also settle in Panchgani. The area below the bazaar was allotted to them, and is known as the gaothan. Chesson is buried in the graveyard of St. Peter's Church. In 1971 or '72, his death centenary was observed in a big way when for the first time, the town folk and the schools participated together in a ceremony to remember the founder of Panchgani. Panchgani was originally settled by retired Britishers, but since it was pleasant throughout the year, others also settled there. A number of attempts to start schools were made in the 19th century across different communities, and Panchgani has since flourished as an educational town. The fresh air and invigorating climate of Panchgani made it a good place for convalescence, especially for those suffering from tuberculosis. Thus Panchgani became famous as a health resort. A well known TB specialist from Bombay, Dr. Rustomji Bomanji Billimoria set up the Bel Air sanatorium, in the 1940s, also known as Dalkieth as a centre for the treatment of tuberculosis, with the help of his son, Dr. Bomy Billimoria, an eminent surgeon. Till the advent of antibiotics, Dalkieth was the premier place for the treatment of tuberculosis in the whole of the Bombay Presidency.