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Panchgani, the famous hill station of Satara district in Maharashtra attracts tourists throughout the year. It is also known for its many boarding schools. Panchgani is about 108 kilometers from Pune and 250 kilometers from Mumbai. Panchgani was developed by the British as a summer resort under the supervision of Lord John Chesson in the 1860s during the British Raj. Panchgani was developed as a holiday destination as it was pleasant throughout the year. He surveyed the hills of this region with Rustamji Dubash and eventually decided on this unnamed area around five villages – Dandeghar, Godawali, Ambral, Khingar and Taighat. The place was aptly named Panchgani, which means “the land between the five villages”. The British had made Chasen the commissioner here.
To develop infrastructure, Chesson also encouraged various professionals—tailors, washermen, butchers, vegetable vendors, building contractors—to settle in Panchgani. The area below the market was allotted to them and is now known as Gauthan. He is credited with planting plant species from the Western world in Panchgani, including the silver oak and poinsettia, which have flourished in Panchgani ever since. Chesson is buried in the graveyard of St. Peter’s Church.
In the 19th century, various communities started many schools and Panchgani began to flourish as an educational town. In the 1890s, Kimmins High School for European boys and girls was started. In 1902 the boys’ section separated to become the European Boys’ High School, now known as St. Peter’s School, Panchgani, and Kimmins became an exclusive girls’ school. In 1895, a Roman Catholic order of nuns known as the “Daughters of the Cross” started St. Joseph’s Convent School, Panchgani. All three boarding schools were modeled on the English public schools of the time and were affiliated with Cambridge University.
Shortly thereafter, other communities started their own schools. These schools were affiliated to the matriculation examination of Bombay Presidency. The first of these schools became the Parsi School, later the Bilimoria School. The Muslim School became Union High School and is now known as Anjuman-e-Islam School. Both these schools were built on the lines of English public schools. Hindu High School was started, now known as Sanjeevan Vidyalaya. It was built on the lines of Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan.
There is a volcanic plateau above the five hills surrounding Panchgani. These plateaus, alternatively known as “table lands”, are a part of the Deccan Plateau, and were created by pressure between the Earth’s plates. The region has high seismic activity, with its epicenter near Koynanagar where the Koynanagar Dam and a hydroelectric power plant have been built. The temperature in Panchgani is around 12 °C during winter and sometimes reaches 34 °C during summer.
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