I spent a few days at Pashangarh, a Taj Safaris lodge at Panna in Madhya Pradesh. One often hears about “getting away from it all” but Pashangarh truly embodies that travel principle. The closest airport is at Khajuraho, over an hour’s drive away and the property itself is five kilometres from Panna town. There is no internet, no television and barely any mobile signal – “Airtel? If you stand on those two stones, you will catch an signal,” says the manager cheerfully, pointing to a square inside the dining area.
Pashangarh is spread over 190 acres, in which just five acres have been built upon. And that’s just to house 12 cottages and a smattering of spaces that serve as lounge, shop, dining area and so on. The rest of it is just wilderness, mildly tamed in some places for guest comfort but otherwise left untouched.
Everyone working at the lodge has spotted leopards wandering around the property, while other fauna like sambar and wild boar very common. Since Panna was not known for tigers in the recent past – more on that coming up soon – Pashangarh adopted the crocodile motif in honour of those found at Ken river that flows through the region.
From the main area, I get down these steps, past the swimming pool and walk through this to get to my cottage, which is hidden almost completely from view.
There is also a clear nod to neighbouring Khajuraho – the original ‘Sex and the City’ town – in the form of canoodling (and more) couples etched on a stone panel in the outdoor pavilion on the verandah adjoining every cottage. This, incidentally, was my favourite space and I found it perfect for relaxing with a book, or even over a leisurely breakfast.
I liked the unexpected, quirky touches I came across – like these bottle stoppers in the bathroom, or that monkey sitting atop the ceiling fan. The only thing lacking, I thought, was a splash of colour – everything is in shades of cream, brown and grey. Given that these are stone cottages set in the middle of a brown forested area, it does get a bit oppressive and a few oranges or reds would not be amiss.
The final word? Nothing can beat the warmth of the staff, from their hands-raised greeting when you arrive at Pashangarh, to the cold drink and cold towel waiting for you (along with whichever members of the team happen to be around, from chefs to naturalists) when you come back from your safari, to the solicitous butler service that ensures that your stay is comfortable to the last.