This hill station fell off Colonial India's map
From vibrant foliage to scenic lakes and a thriving tribal culture, Saputara isn't your typical hill station with a British Raj hangover. Drop by for a slice of serenity, oodles of traditional warmth and artsy handmade souvenirs
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the British scanned India's topography, they didn't miss an inch. To escape the unforgiving Indian summer, they converted scenic locations, atop majestic mountains, into hill stations.
Saputara is perfect for a weekend escape with its lush foliage, less crowds and a rustic vibe. Pics/C Gangadharan Menon
They named vantage points in these hill stations after British aristocracy, its officers and surveyors of senior rank: Lodwick Point, Wilson Point, Arthur's Seat, Babington Point, Kate's Point are a few that come to mind.
During their surveys, they seem to have missed out on Saputara. Little wonder then, Saputara comes across as a hill-station sans the signature Raj-inspired touch no colonial mansions and tiled bungalows with patio furniture and huge verandahs, and no points and alleys that carry an English flavour.
Small and loving it
Though it's the only hill-station in Gujarat, it's less hyped when compared to Lonavala, Matheran and Mahabaleshwar. It covers such a small area that you can walk into yourself at the next turn!
Waterfalls are a common sight
At 3,000 feet above sea level, it's the second highest plateau in the Sahydari stretch of the Western Ghats. It has many points that have simple names: Sunset Point, Sunrise Point, Echo Point and Town-view Point. In fact, one of the points has a patriotic feel too, Gandhi Shikhar!
In Saputara, most attractions centre on the lake. It offers an innocuous pleasure: boating. But the ripples of excitement that your paddle creates spread around the lake and engulf the entire plateau.
Nearby, there are vast forests to explore. It's rumoured that Ram spent 11 out of his 14 years of exile in these parts. As you scour these roads and forests, you will agree that it might not be such a bad place to be exiled to!
Flower beds like these add to Saputara's visual appeal
After your fill of the wild, one's attention veers to places where nature has been tamed. Flora that would have grown wild has been pruned and shaped into submission.
Honestly, we are of the belief that manicuring a garden is in fact a kind of cruelty to plants. On a brighter note, birds and butterflies, unaware of the tragedy befallen their green brethren, abound in large numbers here: Lake Garden, Step Garden, Rose Garden and the Millennium Garden.
The Snake Connect
Saputara earned its name from the tribals who live nearby: Warlis, Bhils and Gamits.
Every year on Nagpanchami, they make their way towards the Sarpaganga River to worship the snakes here; hence the name 'Saputara'.
Till this story was revealed, I believed that Saputara earned its name for the serpentine roads one had to negotiate to reach this paradise!
The Tribal Museum offers a glimpse into their lives and showcases their amazing artistry: ornaments, paintings, masks, wood carvings, musical instruments and exquisite bamboo handicrafts.
In winter, Saputara looks like a secret wrapped in mystery. Curtains of mist reveal and hide lakes, streams, mountains, woodlands and waterfalls.
The most beautiful of these waterfalls is the one on the Gira River. As you near this cascading waterfall you realise that no two moments appear the same.
The water that falls every moment, like time, will never come back. It flows forward to meet the sea, eventually. Reason enough for that much-needed weekend retreat?
The height in feet above sea level at which Saputara is located. It
is the second highest plateau in the Sahyadris, the northern section of the Western Ghats.
How to get there
If you are coming from the Western side, take the Western Express Highway up to Chikhli that's a little beyond Valsad.
Turn right and drive to Saputara via Vansda and Waghai.
If you are driving from the Central Suburbs, take the road to Nashik; just before you hit Nashik, turn left and take the road to Saputara via Vani.
Where to stay
For bookings, log on to www.gujarattourism.com
When to go
Throughout the year, though winter is most magical.