Matheran (T. Karjat; 18° 55′ N, 73° 15′ E; p. 2,808; RS.) the wooded head [ According to the Matheran Dhangars the word means the Mother’s Wood. They say that the first family of Dhangars who came from the Deccan to Matheran lost their father and mother soon after they came, as the couplet says, ‘Mathe pite gamavila, Matheran nav pavala: When their parents died, Matheran got its name’.], is an even-topped line of hill, about thirty miles east of Bombay, an outstanding block of the Sahyadris, its long level back stretching in marked contrast to the sharp clear-cut scarp of its neighbour Bava Malang, or the Cathedral Rocks.
As it was never either a stronghold or a place of religious resort, Matheran is almost entirely without a history. Nothing was known of Matheran till, in 1850, Mr. H. P. Malet, Collector of Thana, while camped at Cauk, strolled one evening half way up the hill by the narrow steep bed of the Varosa stream between Great Cauk and One Tree Hill. Thinking the hill worth exploring, he came back next day, took some water from the small stream that then, even in May, ran freely through the Pisarnath valley, filled a basket with earth, struck off some pieces of stone, and went back to Cauk through the Ram Bagh between Alexander’s point and Little Cauk. He came again in November, lived about a month in a small hut, and cleared footpaths to several of the points. He came once more in February 1851, built a stone house now called the Byke [ Mr. E. G. Fawcett built the second house, the Hermitage; Captain Henry Barr the third; Captain C. Walker the fourth; and Mr. Arthur Malet the fifth, Stonehenge.], and, in 1852, obtained a grant of Rs. 500, and so improved the path from Cauk through the Ram Bagh forest that Mrs. Malet was able to come up seated in a chair fastened with ropes to bamboo poles. Shortly after this, Government ordered the Quarter Master General of the Army to have the hill surveyed with a view to make it a military sanatorium. The survey was carried out by Captain Ponsonby in 1852, who drew a map of the hill, laid out a road from the north to Neral, and marked sites for a church, a hospital, a barrack for two hundred men, a jail, and other public buildings. But idea of making Matheran a military sanatorium was given up as the medical authorities preferred Khandala. Next year (1853) Captain Peacock traced and cleared some fresh paths, and marked sites for private houses. When the survey was completed, a map of the hill was printed, and Government, after reserving certain plots, authorised Mr. Malet to allot sites to the public. By the end of May 1853 seventy sites had been applied for.
Between 1855 and 1858, Lord Elphinstone, then Governor of Bombay, did much for Matheran. At a cost of Rs. 10,000 the road from Neral, instead of climbing the steep valley, was brought up the gentle slope of the Neral spur. An embankment was thrown across the Maldunga stream below the modern Simpson reservoir, but was carried away in the first rains, and afterwards a double line of wall was built across the Pisarnath stream. Most of the rides and paths, leading to the different points, were laid out with admirable taste, under Lord Elphinstone’s direction. He chose the site of Elphinstone Lodge, built a hut on it and laid the foundation of the present house. His staff followed his example and Matheran became fashionable. Houses rapidly sprang up and building sites were in great demand. The foundation of the Church was laid in 1858, and in three years the building was completed. Several additions, especially a fine window presented by Mr. Michael Scott, were afterwards made, and it was consecrated by Bishop Harding in 1885. A Superintendent’s office, including a post and telegraph office and a small library, a new market, a sanatorium, and a rest-house for local residents had also been added, and Gymkhana, with several lawn tennis and badminton courts and a large badminton shed, added greatly to the pleasure of life on the hill.
As a crow flies Matheran is only thirty miles east of Bombay, but by railway, which sweeps south-east through Kalyan, the distance to Neral station, at the north-east foot of the hill, is about fifty-four miles, and from Neral to the centre of the hill top is seven miles by road.
Close behind the village of Neral, about half a mile to the south of the station, rises the steep bare side of Panorama Point, the northmost spur of Matheran. At its foot the plain swells into flat-topped knolls separated by the teak-clad slopes of monsoon torrents. From the lower spurs the hillside rises steep and bare with black crags and walls of rock, and, in sheltered nooks and hollows, patches of trees and brushwood. About half way up a wooded terrace runs parallel to the flat hill top. Above the terrace rises a second steep slope of grass and black rock; over this is a narrow belt of evergreen forest; and last of all a flat-topped cliff crowned with trees. From the foot of the topmost cliff a large spur stretches east towards the Sahyadris, steep and difficult where it leaves the hill, then gradually sloping, then a plateau, and finally turning to the north and sinking into the plain in a rugged knoll close to Neral.
The Way Up.
Apart from the small gauge railway Matheran can be approach- ed by two roads. The first is via Cauk on Bombay-Poona road by foot-path and another via Neral from Central Railway line by a Kutcha District Local Board road.
The State Government with the help of the Central Government had decided to lay a motorable road from Panvel to Matheran.
The road up the hill, from Neral railway station, passes south through Neral town of stone-walled and tiled houses, and runs for about a mile along the foot of the rocky spur skirting a belt of rice lands, which, divided by the Neral stream and shaded by a few clusters of Mahuva, tamarind, and mango trees, runs up the hollows to the foot of the hill. During the second mile the hillside, in places cut into the rock winds about 550 feet up the western face of the spur. To the left, during the hot months, the black and yellow of the rocky withered upper slopes are relieved by patches of bright green bushes, rows of reddish half-withered underwood, and a stunted coppice of leafless teak [The green bushes are, karvand Carissa carandas, and kuda Tabernoemontana crispa; the half-withered underwood is davti Grislea tomentosa.]. Towards the end of the second mile and during the first quarter of the third mile, till the crest of the spur is gained, the upper slopes rise rocky and bare with a scanty sprinkling of leafless or half-clothed bushes, some stunted teak, and, in a few nooks and hollows, a deep green mango or a grey-green fig [The leafless and half-clothed bushes are, papti pavetta indica, davti Grislea tomentosa, kuda Tabernoemontana crispa, and ain Terminalia glabra.].
The lower slopes have patches of bright green karvand bushes and mangoes, and a thick growth of teak and other leafless or nearly leafless trees [The leafless trees are the mori Casearia loevigata, pahir Ficus cordifolia, suir Salmalia malabarica, kaundal Sterculia urens, and ranbhendi Thespesia lampas.]. About a quarter of a mile past the second mile, the road tops the crest of the spur and runs west, along the plateau that stretches to the body of the hill. This plateau, rising gently to the north-west, is rocky and bare with dry underwood, bright green karvand brakes, a sprinkling of leafless teak, and scattered mangoes, jambuls, and figs. In places there are wooded knolls and hollows, but the smooth bareness of most of the surface, and the hacked and stunted forms of the trees and bushes, show that in the past much of it was under tillage. In front rise the tree-capped crest of Garbat and the Governor’s Hill, and to the right Panorama Point, and beyond it the flat-topped bluff of Peb Fort and the rounded peak of Nakhinda. To the left Garbat stretches in a long low spur that rises in the distance into the sharp point of Sondai. From the foot of
the Garbat ridge a succession of bare flat-topped spurs, divided by deep-cut ravines, fall into the plain which stretches withered and misty towards the dimlooking Sahyadri hills.
During the third mile, with a rise of about 550 (975.38 to 1,525.07) the road leaves the plateau and climbs a rugged hill-side, strewn with boulders and with lines of coarse withered grass, dry underwood, and bare leafless trees [The chief leafless trees, besides those already noticed, are the kunak and pangara Erythrina indica.]. Close to the fourth mile, at a height of 1,525.07 feet, the road enters the sheltered belt of the Neral wood with varied tints of green and a sprinkling of leafless grey [The chief tints are, deep green mangoes and alus Vanguiera edulis, rich fresh palas Butea frondosa, bright green karvand bushes, the hirdas Terminalia chebula, yellow-green kumbas Careya arborea, brown-tipped ains Terminalia glabra, and leafless pahirs, suirs, and varas Heterophragma roxburghii.]. In a tree-fringed glade close to the fourth mile is a small shed, and a stand-pipe and trough with water that lasts for about ten months in the year. Beyond this hollow, the road winds between the upper fringe of the wood and a bare rocky scarp, till it reaches the upper wooded plateau, where, leaving the Bherli Mad or Wild-Palm grove on the right, it skirts the upper edge of the rich Bekri Wood, overlooking a sea of waving tree tops whose bright leafage, unfrayed by wind and undimmed by dust, rises from the breach-like terrace that skirts the foot of the Garbat crag. Below this belt of green stretch the grey underslopes, and beyond the slopes lies the misty plain, its baked and withered fields, relieved by groves and ponds and by the flashing links of the slow-flowing Ulhas. To the right, with sharp steep zig zags, the road mounts the bare face of the topmost scarp, reaching at the fifth mile a height of 2,138.49 feet. A little beyond the mile stands the toll, on the crest of the neck between the high headlands of Governor’s Hill to the north and Garbat Hill to south.
The Hill Top.
The hill top, which has an estimated area of 5,000 acres or about eight square miles, consists of a main central block and two smaller side ridges or wings. The central block, with an average breadth of about half a mile, stretches nearly north and south from the narrow ridge of Hart Point in the north to the rounded bluff of Cauk in the south. Parallel with the main hill, and joined to it by short necks, are two spurs, the larger, to the east, stretching about two and a half miles from Panorama Point in the north to Garbat in the south and the smaller, to the west, stretching about a mile and a half from the sharp point of Porcupine to the large bluff of Louisa Point.
The toll, at the top of the steep zig zag on the Neral road, stands about the middle of the east wing or outlying belt. From the toll the east wing runs north for about a mile and a quarter, rising into the tree-crowned crest of Governor’s Hill, and, beyond a deeply-wooded hollow, stretching into the long back of Panorama Point. South of the toll, beyond the rugged deeply-wooded Garbat Head, the spur narrows to a neck, and, again broadening to about a quarter of a mile, tapers, with a high-wooded crest, nearly a mile south to Garbat Point. West from the Neral toll, through thick woods, the ground falls, for about a quarter of a mile, to the flat neck or isthmus, which between high richly-wooded banks, joins the eastern wing to the north end of the central hill.
From this neck the central hill, wooded throughout except a few glades and rocky plateaus, swells into tree-crowned knolls, and stretches south for nearly three miles to the bluff rounded cliff of Cauk. The central hill-top may be roughly divided into three parts. A north section, that, with one or two knolls, rises from the edge of the cliff to a raised plateau of rock about 2,500 feet above the sea; a middle section, that, from both sides, slopes nearly 300 feet to the bed of the west-flowing Pisarnath stream; and a south section, that, with a rocky central plateau little lower than the north plateau, and one or two outstanding knolls, stretches from the valley of the Pisarnath to the rounded bluff of Cauk. For about a mile from Hart Point to the Church Plateau, the northern section of the hill is thinly peopled, with only a broken line of houses separated by stretches of woods. On the Church plateau the houses stand closer together, and, along the edge of the eastern cliff, groups of hut-like houses and small shops cluster round the market place. The slopes of the central hollow are the thickest peopled part of the hill, rows of close-grouped houses stretching across nearly the whole breadth of the hill-top. The southern section, includes the buildings of Olympiea Hotel and Tata Convalescent Home.
From the central hill, about a quarter of a mile west of the Church plateau, a low thickly wooded neck, about 200 yards long and half a mile broad, leads to the small western wing or hill-belt, which, with bare narrow ends and a wooded central crest, stretches about a mile and a quarter from Porcupine Point on the north to ‘ Louisa Point on the south.
Over almost the whole hill-top there is little soil, scarcely any grass, and a thick crop of small black boulders. The topmost layer of rock is a soft porous iron-clay, through which, by the beginning of the hot season, the whole rainfall has drained, leaving in many places a leafless black underwood, glades of withered grass, and pathways deep in rusty dust. In spite of this dryness and want of soil, except some winding glades, one or two stretches of bare sheet rock, and the wind-swept shoulders of the larger spurs, the hill-top is everywhere shaded by a thick growth of brushwood, creepers, and trees. In parts, the rocky leaf-strewn ground has only a scanty undergrowth of leafless bushes, and the trees are so stunted and gnarled as to be little more than coppice. But over most of the hill top the boulders are hid by a sprinkling of seedlings and evergreen brushwood, the thicket is green with the fresh hanging boughs of well-grown trees, and, in sheltered dells and hollows, the underwood is full of leaves, long-armed climbers swathe the lower trees and bushes into masses, of green, and lofty tree-tops wave high overhead. Through all these woods and thickets narrow lanes wind up and down the uneven hill-top shaded and often overarched with trees. From outlying points, where the lane winds clear of the thicket, the wooded hill-top swells from edge of the cliff to the central ridge, a cool bank of fresh green broken by only a few of the higher house-tops. Through a screen of waving branches and tree tops, across the bay-like valleys, the hill-sides fall in steep rings of trap, each ring marked by a band of yellow grass or a belt of evergreen timber. The lower slopes are gashed with watercourses, lines of black rock dividing brown bare-topped knolls, whose sides, except some patches of evergreen brushwood, are grey with the stems and branches of teak and other leaf-shedding trees. For a mile or two further, smooth flat-topped mounds, divided by deep ravines, stretch across the brown withered plain.
Half way between Bombay and Poona rise the Matheran Hills which fulfil every need of holiday makers and of the convalescents. Situated at a height of 2,500 feet, it is a desirable health resort. Majestically situated on the outline of western ghats, Matheran commands a panoramic view of the plains which separate the mountain chains from the sea. It looks all the more beautiful on account of the permanent foliage which has earned for it the name it has today.
The travelling public of today owe their gratitude for the discovery of Neral-Matheran road to Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy. Fascinated by the charm of this hill he established a path-way connecting Neral and Matheran, so as to enable him and the public to visit this place at will. Visitors climbed the hill either on a horseback or in palanquins. To put this
on a commercial basis he appointed one agent to look after the arrangements of traffic. This being the only conveyance available at one’s disposal, people visiting Matheran solely depended on the management to arrange palanquins for them. It was Mr. Abdul Hussein, the second son of Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy, who pioneered the starting of railway on these hills.
A survey to lay the permanent way was carried out with the help of German engineers. After covering about 1½ miles of track, however, the project was abandoned due to some engineering difficulties. Later on, one Shri Rai Bahadur, an engineer from Punjab thoroughly surveyed the position of the track and met with success in diverting the track to the left side of the hill. This singular success was to scale the ascent of the 2,500 feet of the hill by a rail-track. To start with, four German experts on narrow gauge called for from Darjeeling set German made coaches on the track in 1907 thus realising the long cherished dream of the Peerbhoys.
With help of G. I. P. railway authorities who looked after the commercial department of the new venture Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy managed it so smoothly and efficiently that every season more and more passengers started visiting Matheran. After the death of Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy and his son Sir Abdul Hussein, however, the Neral-Matheran railway was not properly looked after as it used to be. This resulted in a serious downfall in the business. The management unable to maintain it, mortgaged it to the Maharaja of Gwalior for Rs. 4 lakhs, in 1927. Sir Abdul (grandson of Sir Adamjee), however, took the management of the commercial department from G. I. P.
In 1928, the Maharaja of Gwalior obtained a decree of the court to run this railway as a limited company subject to the management of shareholders. Eventually, three petrol-driven motors were engaged, two of which arc still going strong.
The Neral-Matheran railway continued to attract people from all quarters of the country and even from abroad. The number of visitors to Matheran, which is growing every year is enough to indicate how much the Neral-Matheran railway has contributed to the popularity of Matheran.
The six leading points or headlands are, Hart at the north and Cauk at the south of the central bill, Panorama at the north and Garbat at the south of the east wing, and Porcupine at the north and Louisa at the south of the west wing. Besides these, several smaller bluffs or capes break the winding lips of the bay-like valleys that separate the main arms or spurs of the hill. The seven most important of these smaller bluffs are, Alexander and Little Cauk in the south-east between Garbat and Great Cauk, One Tree Hill, Danger, Echo, and Landscape between Great Cauk and Louisa; and Monkey in the north-west between Porcupine and Hart. In addition to these smaller headlands, three spots in the central crest of the hill are known as points, Artist Point to the north of the Church Plateau, Sphinx Point above Alexander Point, and Bartle Point to the south of Cauk hotel.
There is considerable sameness in the leading features of these points. In most of the main points a wooded crest narrows into a bare boulder-strewn slope, and the slope dwindles into a smooth flat tongue or table of rock, ending in a cliff clean cut or buttressed by an outlying tower-like crag. From distant parts of the hill the points stand out, with stretches of black rock, white patches of sun-bleached grass, ragged copse, or a few stunted wind-worried trees.
Almost all of these outstanding headlands command views of the green swelling summit of the hill, of its black wall-like cliffs, evergreen plateaus, and steep under-slopes, and of the hazy smoke-dimmed plain, that, broken by isolated blocks of hill and brightened by ponds and wooded villages, stretches north beyond the Ulhas valley, east to the Sahyadris, south through a rugged land of confused spurs and peaks, and west, between the even mass of Prabal and the shivered scarp of the Cathedral Rocks, beyond the salt flats of Panvel, to the shimmering sea from which dimly rise the ships and buildings of Bombay. The distant bills of Salsette and North Thana, the bluffs and peaks of the Sahyadri range, and the flat ridges and isolated crests of Bor and Kolaba are seldom clearly seen. But to the south-west the sharp pillar of Visalgad stands out from the centre of a swelling plateau; to the west, from a belt of bright green forest, rise the steep bare sides of the flat tree-crowned crest of Prabal; and to the north, sweeping north-west from Panorama point, their lower slopes half hid by haze, stand, in mid air, the fantastic rocks and pinnacles of Canderi, Tavli, and Bava Malang, their scarps and crests clear cut as by the hand of man.
Beginning from the north and working east the points come in the following order: Hart, Panorama, Garbat, Alexander, Little Cauk, Great Cauk, One Tree Hill, Danger, Echo, Landscape, Louisa, Porcupine, and Monkey.
Hart Point, at the north end of the central block of hill, takes its name from Mr. W. Hart, of the Bombay Civil Service, who was Secretary to Government about 1858. Its native name is Kaleraika Pada or the Black Forest plateau. Near Hart Point the path runs along a wooded crest with fine views of the wild Bava Malang hills. Leaving the main body of the hill it winds down a rather steep wooded slope to the Point, which is a narrow windswept table of black rock with patches of yellow grass, a few stunted bushes to the west, and a row of trees fringing a sheltered crevice to the east. To the right, across the deeply wooded gathering ground of one of the branches of the Malduhga stream, rises a bare high bluff, and on the other side of the main valley runs the long high shoulder of Governor’s Hill and Panorama Point richly wooded in the south and stretching north barer and more weather-worn, with straggling crannies yellow with dry grass and a few hollows and narrow ledges green with bushes and trees. North-west of Panorama Point stretch the wild fantastic peaks of the Bava Malang range. To the left, beyond the wooded hollow of Malet’s spring, the bare scarps of Porcupine Point rise in a narrow flat-topped cliff. Beyond Porcupine Point are the massive isolated crag and long-wooded back of Prabal, and, in the plain, the low hills of Vanja and Morpa.
Panorama Point, the north end of the eastern wing or ridge, takes its name from its far-stretching views to the east and north. Its native name is Gadaci Sond or the Fort Head, because it overlooks Peb Fort, the most eastern peak of the Bava Malahg range. Leaving the thickly wooded neck above the Simpson Reservoir the path winds among deep woods, which every now and then open on the right and show the tree-covered slope of Governor’s Hill. From these woods the path crosses open ground with less soil and less shelter, and smaller and more stunted trees. To the right the hill-side rises bare and rocky, broken by clumps and patches of trees [The chief trees are the dark close-growing and thorny kumba Careya arborea, and the tall bare or russet-leaved varas Heterophragma roxburghii.]. To the south, looking across to the Simpson Reservoir, thick tall trees hide the site of the Elphinstone Lake, whose ruined earthen dam shows red among the trees. Further on, the windswept spur gradually narrows to a rocky neck only a few yards wide. Beyond the neck the point rises into a knoll crowned by a small dark grove, and again sinks into a bare table of rock [The trees are wild limes, makhadis Atalantia monophylla, anjanis Memecylon edule, and jambuls Syzigium Jambolanum.]. The point commands one of the widest views on the hill, both of Matheran itself and of the plain and hills to the east, north, and west. To the south-east at the foot of the bold wooded crest of Governor’s Hill stretches the rich green belt of the Bherli Mad or Wild-Palm forest, and, beyond are the lower slopes brown and grey with teak and other leaf-shedding trees. Across the plain, beyon
d some isolated flat-topped blocks of hill, looms the massive wall of the Sahyadris, many of whose bluffs and fortified peaks can be recognised when the air is clear. In the foreground, northwest from the end of the point, stretches the great Bava Malahg range, beginning in Peb or Pebak whose bare flat-topped head is circled with the remains of Moghal and Maratha fortifications. Behind Peb, rising, with a rather gentle slope into a rounded point and then falling in a narrow ridge, is Nakhind. Beyond Nakhind bare steep spurs rise to the foot of the massive tower-like crest of Canderi. Further off are the jagged peaks of Mhas-Mal and Navara-Navari, or the husband and wife, said to be so called because the hillside once opened and swallowed a marriage party crossing from Badlapur to Panvel. In the extreme west the range ends in a pair of great hills, to the right the long rugged outline of Tavli and to the left the sharp clear-cut pinnacles of Bava Malang or the Cathedral Rocks. To the left, with Prabal as back ground, is a fine view of the wooded ravines and bare cliffs of Hart, Monkey, and Porcupine Points.
In [The details of the distant view were contributed by Mr. F. B. Maclaran, C. E. The more distant hills can be seen only in very clear weather.] the distance, to the west or south-west, just clear of Prabal, are Great and Little Karanja (1,000). North of these lies Bombay harbour with Elephanta (568) in the centre and the long level line of Bombay in the distance. Further north, the first high land is Trombay, or the Neat’s tongue (1,000). Still further north, beyond the long stretch of the Kurla marshes and rice-lands, rise the Salsette hills in three waves, each wave marking the site of one of the Bombay reservoirs, Vihar to the left, Tulsi in the centre, and the Yeur to the right. In front of the Yeur hill lies Parsik Point, pierced by the Central Railway, and, beyond Parsik, winds the Kalyan creek or estuary of the Ulhas. Over the creek to the north, between Bava Malang and Tavli, rise the peak of Kamandurg (2,160) and the table land of Tungar (2,195). Clear of Tavli, to the right, stands the high cone of Dugad, and, beyond it, Takmak, (2,616), overlooking the Vaitarna valley. North of Takmak, the Surya range, visible only on very clear days, ends in the far north in the jagged-top of the great fort of Aseri (1,689). Eastward there is little to attract the eye in the Vada hills, but, on the north horizon, over the point of Peb, may be seen the sacred peak of Mahalaksmi [ Details of Mahalakshmi are given above.]. Still further east, from the middle distance, rises the deeply-cleft ridge of Mahuli (2,815), guarded on the west by a tower-like column of basalt. Close behind the chief hill, and apparently adjoining it, is Chota or Little Mahuli. The bold distant headland, east of Mahuli, is Vatvad, the farthest visible point of the Sahyadri range. Behind Vatvad, to the east, is the famous hill of Trimbak (4,254), the sacred source of the Godavari. Still further east, and a little to the south, is Anjaneri (4,384) the hot-weather hill of Nasik, which lies fourteen miles to the east. Southward, as far as the range that separates Nasik from Ahmadnagar, the line of the Sahyadris has no striking hills. On the range that separates Nasik from Ahmadnagar are the forts of Alang and Kulang, and, among the broken tops of the neighbouring hills, can be made out the conical peak of Kalsubai (5,427), the highest point of the Sahyadris. Further south Ghatghar and other peaks form a rugged and broken range, whose most interesting feature, Hariscandragad (4,562), is hid behind the crest of the Sahyadris which here turn west to Sidgad, whose sugar-loaf peak (3,236) stands out from the main line. The twin detached hills to the north of Sidgad are Gorakh-gad and Machindragad. Further south, on the line of the Sahyadri crest, is Bhimasankar (3,434), and, in front of Bhimasankar, the detached hill-fort of Tungi (2,019), and still further south on another detached hill the fort of Peth.
The Panorama Point view of the Sahyadris ends with Peth. But the top of Panorama hill, or better still Garbat Point, commands a magnificent view of the southern Sahyadris and the Kolaba hills. Following the line south from Peth are the detached tableland of Dhak (2,808), then the famous hill fort of Rajmaci (2,710) with its wall and gateways, and still further south the Nagphani or Cobra’s Hood commonly known as the Duke’s Nose. East of the Nagphani are the hill-forts of Lohogad (3,415) and Visapur in Poona district, and, to the south, are Tel Bela, Dhondsa, Bhorap, and Pall. Of the South the most striking is Manikgad (1,878), like a smaller Vatvad, a few miles south of Cauk village. West of Manikgad is the well-known funnel of Karnala (1,840), a land-mark for ships entering Bombay harbour. Between Manikgad and Karnala, beyond the silver line of the Dharamtar creek, the Alibag hills complete the circle with the fortified head of Sagargad (1,164), and the sacred top of Kanakesvar (1,000).
Garbat Point, the south end of the eastern wing takes its name from the quartz crystals or gars found on the spur that runs east towards Karjat. Crossing the shoulder of Garbat hill the path sinks and runs along the eastern face of the point, forty or fifty feet below the crest of Garbat hill. The bank on the right is well-wooded and below lie the varied tints of the evergreen Bekri forest [ The deep greens are anjanis Memecylon. edule, phansis Caralli integerrima, kumblas Sapota tomentosa, and mangoes; the blue greens are pisas Actinodaphne lanceolata, and jambuls; the yellow greens arc chandaras Mecaranga roxburghii and kumbas Careya arborea; the greys are asans Uriedclia retusa, and umbars, or bare pahirs and nanas Lagerstroemia parviflora,” and the browns are ruddy-tipped hirdas and helas Garcinia cambogea.]. Beyond the belt of bright-green forest, the hillsides, grey with leafless trees, fall to bare flat-topped spurs with Dhangar huts and patches of tillage. From the east side of Garbat hill, with many ups and downs, the path crosses a bare rocky hillside under a tree-crowned hill-top. A little further the point shrinks into a narrow open neck with clusters of bushes and trees. Beyond the neck it again broadens, and, for about a mile, runs round a rising slope thick strewn with small black boulders, with patches of underwood and well-grown jumbuls and russet varus trees. From a bank crowned with bushes and large weather-beaten trees, the point slopes to the south bare and boulder-strewn, narrowing to a smooth ledge of hare gravel. To the east the point falls in a steep cliff, below which the hillside, scarred with ravines and treeless except in a few hollows, stretches in long flat-topped spurs far across the plain. To the south, some hundred feet below the level of the point, a narrow flat tongue of rock runs south rising into the peak of Sondai. On the west of Garbat point this ledge or plateau runs for some distance slightly wooded and with patches of tillage. Beyond the plateau the hill-side falls into the Khatvan ravine, and again rises in the bare steep slopes and cliffs of Alexander Point and Little Cauk, to the hill-top whose thick woods are broken by a few house roofs and lines of thatched huts. The exposed western crest of Garbat Point is at first rocky and bare. Then the path passes, across wind-swept glades and through sheltered dells, to the narrow neck that leads to the inner point, where it turns sharply down a steep slope, between beautifully wooded hanks, that rise, to the right in Garbat hill, and, to the left in the swelling crest of the main hill-top.
Alexander Point, a small cape or headland standing out from the eastern face of the main hill about half way between the top of the Khatvan ravine and Little Cauk Point takes its name from Captain Alexander who married a niece of Mr. Malet’s, the founder of Matheran as a hill station. Leaving the main road about the seventh mile from Neral, the path sweeps south through a deep wooded dell to a bare flat bluff which commands a fi
ne easterly view of Garbat Point and Sondai peak, and a westerly view of the cliffs that run south to Little Cauk, and at their feet the deep green of Ram Bagh or Ram’s Garden.
Little Cauk, the bluff or bastion at the south-east end of the main hill, takes its name from the country town of Cauk, about five miles to the south. The road south to the Little Cauk, sheltered from south-west gales, is richly wooded with a deep dell on the left and a tree-covered crest on the right. The broad level path winds through smooth open glades fringed by clusters of well-grown trees and by large black boulders. Near the point the hill top flattens, the trees dwindle into bushes, and the ground is bare and covered with black rock. Like Great Cauk it commands a wide view of the rugged south.
Great Cauk the central of the three great bluffs that form the southern face of Matheran, takes its name from overlooking the country town of Cauk. From Little Cauk the path crosses a wooded hollow, and from this the broad rounded point of Great Cauk stretches south, at first wooded though flat, then bare, thick-strewn with small black boulders with one or two stunted mango trees and many dry leafless bushes. The point commands a wide view across the plain. Under the cliff stretches the deep green of the eastern Varosa forest. Beyond the forest, on a bare flat spur, cluster the thatched roof of Varosa, and about five miles across the plain, close to the deep green line of the Panvel high road, lies the country town of Cauk. Beyond Cauk the plain is broken by many ranges and spurs. To the right, beside the pinnacle of Visalgad and the more distant funnel rock of Karnala, are many ranges of flat-wooded hills, among them Mirya Dongar above Pen, and, further to the west, the Sagargad range in Alibag.
One Tree Hill, the most westerly of the three bluffs that form the south face of Matheran, takes its name from a large battered jdmbul tree that grows on its hollow top. West from Great Cauk the road runs close to the edge of the hill side, and the hill top to the right has much stunted brushwood and trees. The western crest of the hill, open to the south-west gales, is bare except a few weather-beaten bushes. From the crest a footpath leads down a steep slope to two large rounded masses of rock, the upper rock joined to the hill by a narrow neck, the lower separated by a deep-cut cleft. It is this lower rock which, from a large but lop-sided and wind-battered jdmbul, takes its English name of the OneTree Hill and its Marathi name of Jambul Point [ The people also call it the Stream-bed Kock, Nalichi Tekdi.]. The top of the rock, rising in a steep slope to its southwest edge, yields during the rains a crop of grass rich enough to tempt grass-cutters to climb its steep sides. From the upper rock are seen, close at hand, two of the western bastions of Cauk Point, and beyond them the flat massive rock of Louisa Point. Some hundred feet below stretches a wooded plateau, part of the Varosa forest, and, to the left, rises the great flat range of Prabal. Between Prabal and Louisa Point, close at hand, are the Vanja and Morpa hills, and in the distance the rugged crags of Tavli and Bava Malang.
Danger Point, along the crest of the western Cauk cliff, gradually passing into deeper wood, a footpath strikes off the main road, and, keeping to the left, winds down a steep slope, across a rocky and bare hillside, with a few thickly-wooded dells. The open parts along the crest of the Cauk cliff command a view of the pillar of Visalgad to the south-west, and, to the west, of the steep bare sides of Prabal, with its flat tree-crowned top, ending in the north in a massive crag. In front is the small flat head of Danger Point, and, rising behind it, are the wooded crest and clean-cut cliffs of Louisa Point and the deep-wooded hollow of the hill-top above. From this the path winds through a sheltered wooded hollow and out along the edge of the cliff, with a backward view of the high scarp that runs south to One-Tree Hill overhanging the green belt of the west Varosa forest. After some sharp descents the path reaches Danger Point, a small bare terrace shaded by a few well-grown trees. To the north, Danger Point commands a fine view of the rocky scarp of Echo Point and of the green hill-top behind. Further to the west, stand the wooded crest, high cliff, and buttress-like rock of Louisa Point, and, between the point and Prabal, the valley of the Panvel river stretches to Bombay harbour. Beyond Danger Point the path sinks into the Pisarnath valley, passing on the right a deeply wooded bank in whose shade lies the shrine of Pisarnath, the guardian of Matheran.
Echo Point. Crossing the Pisarnath valley the path winds through a thickly wooded hollow, to Echo point, a bare flat terrace with one or two stunted trees and dry leafless bushes [The trees are anjanis pisar and black-leaved makudis or wild limes; the bushes arc paptis]. On the right a black cliff rises to the richly wooded hill-top.
Beyond Echo Point the path winds through sheltered copse, and again strikes the lip of the scarp at Landscape Point a flat terrace, furnished with a seat, and commanding a fine view of Louisa Point and Prabal.
From Landscape Point the path winds through a richly wooded hollow up to the tree-crowned crest of Louisa point. This, the southern end of the smaller or western wing, takes its English name from the wife of Mr. Fawcett, of the Bombay Civil Service, who was Revenue Commissioner between 1855 and 1859. Its local name is Tapurici Sond or the Pillar Head from the short isolated buttress-like crag at its point. From the crest of Louisa Point the path stretches south-west, at first under a well-wooded knoll, and then along a plateau with fewer and more stunted trees to a bare smooth table of rock. To the left is the scarp of Echo Point, and, in front, Cauk cliff stretches as One Tree Hill. To the south-west stands the solitary peak of Visalgad, and on the west, lies the straight flat mass of Prabal with its broken northern crag. Joined to Louisa Point by a short neck is a large rock or crag with a fine northerly view over the parttilled plateau of Hasa and the lower peaks of Vanja and Morpa across the plain to the Bava Malang range, the slopes of Nakhind to the right, the comb-like crest of Canderi and the rocky pinnacles of Mhas-Mal and Navara-Navari in the centre, and to the left the wild outlines of Tavli and the Cathedral Rocks.
Porcupine Point, the north end of the western wing or hill ridge, probably takes its name because it was formely a resort of porcupines; though, according to one account, its long thick snout and ragged bushes, like the quills of the fretful porcupine, suggested the name. The people call it Palki Point, mistaking its English name, or Maldungaci Sond that is Maldunga Point. After leaving the richly wooded hollow at the top of Louisa Point, the path skirts the western face of the hill, across glades and through belts of evergreen trees and brushwood [Chiefly jambuls, karvands, Bombas, kumblas, pisas, and mangoes.]. To the left a bare hillside, with an undergrowth of leafless bushes, falls some hundred feet to an evergreen terrace, part of the Maldunga forest. From a group of large anjani and varas trees the point slopes north in a long narrow ledge. To the west, over the cliff, is a fine view of the Maldunga forest deep-green or opening into withered glades. To the right is the richly wooded ravine of Maldunga, in which is hidden Malet’s Spring or Tipaci Pani. Above the ravine the hill-top is nearly flat and deeply wooded. To the east stretches the Governor’s Hill, the long crest of Panorama Point, and the tops of the Bava Malahg range, the flat rock of Peb, the gentle slopes of Nakhind, the sharp crest of Canderi, the small pinnacles of Mhas-Mal and ‘Navara-Navari, and the rugged forms of Tavli and Bava Malang. Beyond the poin
t after crossing some bare ground, the path leads along a hollow hillside through deep evergreen groves thick with fresh underwood and climbing trees [ The chief trees are kumbas, chandaleshvars, hirdas, bombas, phansis, and kumblas; the underwood chiefly vaitis; the climbers vatolis.], to the wooded neck that joins the western spur to the main hill, through a damp dell known as the Randaca Tal or Buffalo’s Hollow, adorned by some large straight-stemmed jambuls and mangoes. Further on, to the left, paths lead to Malet’s and Ponsonby’s Springs, while the main road passes the Gymkhana to Monkey Point, a small ledge of rock above Hart Point, with a fine view of the long cliff of Porcupine, Prabal, the Bava Malang range, the Panorama spur, and the wooded slopes about Hart Point.
Matheran is a mass of even trap-flows capped by a layer of laterite or iron clay. Most geologists hold that it was once an island in the sea that cleared the wall of the Sahyadris and washed away the Konkan lowlands. The crabs and shells that are still found on the hill-top support this view, and, in the beginning of the rains, when the valleys are full of mist, the white wool-like clouds, passing into the roots of the hill, leave the points standing like wave worn capes, and the valleys rounded in the sickle sweep of a sea beach. But in cloudless weather the stream-worn ravines, the torrent-seamed hill-sides, the points washed into narrow necks and pillar-like crags, the plateaus crowded with masses of fallen rock, and, after heavy rain, the thundering roar of landslips, seem to show that the worn and ragged form of the hill is chiefly due to the fierce buffeting of the blasts and torrents of the south-west monsoon.
The capping of highly porous and absorbent laterite or iron clay lies like a huge sponge on the top of the trap. The laterite rock occurs in many forms. Fresh cut, as in sinking a well, it is soft and yielding, with layers of bright magnetic iron ore still unmixed with clay. When the iron is being oxydized, the structure is tubular [Mr. Foote gives the following detailed description of a bed of tubular ironclay found on the top of Valabgad fort in west Belgaum. Instead of showing the ordinary horizontal or nearly horizontal vesicular cavities the summit bed is permeated by vertical tubuli running nearly through it. The upper ends of these tubuli are empty for a little distance, giving the surface a pitted appearance, but the tubes are generally filled with litho-margic clay, and have their walls lined with a glaze very like that so frequently met with in the vermicular hollows of ordinary laterites. The tubuli vary in diameter from ¼ to ¾ of an inch, but are generally less than half an inch across. Their height depends upon the thickness of the bed and the glazed sides show much statactitoid waviness of surface. In the lower parts of the bed the tubuli are less distinct. There can be little doubt that the formation of these tubes is due to the action of percolating water. This structure is not so commonly met with as the rudely-bedded quasi-stratified forms in which the vesicular and vermicular cavities are rather horizontally disposed. Mem. Geol. Survey, XII.pt. 1, 207.], and, when chemical action has ceased, the boulders have a hard polished surface and flinty texture [ The latrine or iron-clay that is found overlying the traps in Ratnagiri, Thana and the Deccan, is of two kinds, a sedimentary rock formed either in lakes or under the sea, and a rock that appears as the summit bed of trap hills, itself a trap, changed and decomposed by the action of the air. To distinguish between these two classes of rock, Mr. Foote has proposed that the sedimentary rock should be called laterite and the upper decomposed trap iron-clay. The laterite, or pluviatile rock is much less common and less widespread. It is found only in some lowlying tracts in Ratnagiri and in places in the Deccan which probably were once the bottoms of lakes. The rock that caps the Ratnagiri hills, and forms the summit bed of Matheran and of the Sahyadri and other Deccan hills, is iron-clay formed from trap by the action of the air. Mr Foote gives the following details of sections in the roads through the Amboli and Phonda passes in Ratnagiri. The basaltic rocks graduate into a moderately hard yellowish brown or brown earthy mass which closes many nuclei of the original rocks in various stages of decomposition. The upper parts of the decomposed mass, from which the nuclei have disappeared, have undergone a process of concretional solidifications from the infiltration of surface waters holding iron in solution and are assuming the ordinary lateritoid appearance and reddish colour Mem. Geol. Survey, XII. pt. I, 202.]. The terraces below the scarp are strewn with red laterite boulders, some with sharp clear-cut corners, others weathered, and rounded. The debris is in places over sixty feet deep, and, among it, are blocks of columnar basalt with corners as sharp and faces as smooth as when they took form. The laterite seems formerly to have been worked for iron, and so strongly is the rock charged with iron that a few chips of jambul wood turn the water of some of the springs black as ink. Under the capping of iron clay the hill is a mass of flows of trap, laid layer upon layer, some layers only a few feet thick, others forming high cliffs, all of them flat and even, not only in the different parts of Matheran, but with the sides of Prabal and other more distant hills. The trap though in places columnar is usually plain. Its structure is more or less amygdaloidal and in the hollows are minerals of the zoolite family. Of these apophyllite, which is perhaps the most common, when exposed by blasting, shows crystals of great beauty. Heulandite, mesotype, stilite, and natrolite as well as the crystals of quartz from which Garbat takes its name, are common. The trap weathers into soil that gathers at the foot of the different layers, sometimes in narrow ledges fit only for the growth of grass, in other places in rich plateaus bearing the largest trees.
Besides the beauty of the hill-top and of its views, a great charm in Matheran is the plateau or terrace that almost encircles the hill from two to three hundred feet below its crest. This belt has a rich soil yearly freshened by mould swept from the hill-top. In parts it lies broad and open, dotted with mango and jambul trees, and with some fields of rice or nagli round a hamlet of Thakur or Dhangar huts. Again it shrinks to a rocky path, or, at open wind-swept corners, yields only thickets of rough brambles or ragged buffeted fig bushes. But in many coves of the baylike valleys, sheltered by cliffs, from the blasts of the north-east and south-west gales, are groves of ancient evergreen trees whose stems rise straight and high, and whose small-leaved distant shade, letting in air and light, fosters the growth of evergreen brushwood and, near springs and in damp dingles, nourishes patches of grass and tufts of fern.
The chief forests in the main terrace are, in the north-east below Panorama Point and the Governor’s hill, the wild-Palm Grove or Mad Rai ; further south below Garbat hill the Bekri Forest; to the east of Little Cauk, Ram Bagh or Ram’s Garden, also known as the Primeval Forest; to the south of Great Cauk, the east Varosa Forest, and to the west of One-Tree Hill the west Varosa Forest; to the west of Porcupine Point the Maldunga Forest; and between Porcupine and Hart point the Black or Kala Forest; all these woods are evergreen. The varied tints of dark, bluish, bright, and yellow green are softened, during the dry months, by a grey mist of leafless or russet tree-tops, and brightened, towards the close of the hot-weather, by brown, pink, and golden tips that are ready to burst into leaf at the first fall of rain [ The dark greens are chiefly mangoes, kumbals, anjanis, and some jambul the bluish greens chiefly pisas, aptas, and some jambuls; the light greens chiefly suirs; the green-greys, asars and umbars; the leafless greys, nanas,
pahirs, and some varas; the russet or withered browns chiefly varus; the brown, pink and yellow tips chiefly helas, koshims and pahirs.].
The general features of most of these groves resemble those of the Mad Rai, or Wild-Palm Grove, which covers the plateau that stretches, from one of the zigzags on the main road about four and a half miles from Neral, northwards under the steep wooded crest of Governor’s Hill and Panorama Point. From the road the path enters the forest near its eastern limit, and passing north for some hundred yards, climbs a steep thick-wooded bank to an upper terrace which stretches to the end of Panorama Point. The ground is rocky, bare of grass, and thickly strewn with leaves. There is much underwood, some fresh and green hut most either leafless or withered into yellow or brown. In the outskirts, the trees though close together, are small and stunted. Deeper in rise some straight unbroken jambul and mango stems, and one huge fig tree about fifty-two feet in girth. In another dell, where the ground is thick with green underwood, is a grove of large jambul and fig trees, interlaced by festoons of the great climbing kandvel, whose trunks, twisted like the coils of a huge serpent, are drawn to the tree tops and fall in straight heavy sprays with scattered deep-green leaves. Beyond this dell the wood is again thinner, with open plots and glades fringed by thickets of bright-green brushwood, overtopped by dark-green, blue-green, and grey-green trees, and a sprinkling of bare leafless branches [The bright green-bushes are bokhadas, gelas and karands. The dark-green trees are alus, mangoes, and jambuls; the bluish-green are pisas, aptas, and climbing vatolis ; the greyish-green are umbars and asans; and the leafless branches belong to varas, pahirs, and nanas.]. To the right the deep fringe of the wood hides the hill slopes, and, on the left, a steep wooded bank rises to the overhanging tree-crowned crest of Governor’s Hill. The path, climbing the steep wooded bank, leads to an upper plateau, where, in rocky deep-soiled ground with thick green underwood, among large mangoes, jambuls, and umbars, rise the slender ringed stems of the wild palm with its long hanging seed tassels, and its leaves standing in long spikes or falling in large black ribbon-like tatters. Beyond this the grove narrows and dwindles till it ends under Panorama Point.
The hillsides of Matheran are scarred by small streams which, though dry during most of the year, bear in their clean-swept rocky channels traces of the strength of their monsoon floods. The west-marked Pisarnath drains the central section of the hill along a well-marked cup-shaped valley, which slopes about 400 feet from the church plateau on the north and the Cauk plateau on the south. To a less extent the hill-top is hollowed by the gathering ground of the Dhodambydce pani, or Waterfall Stream, between Panorama Point and the main hill; by the drainage that centres in the Malet Springs east of Porcupine Point; and by the Varosa Streams that run between Louisa and Landscape points. With these exceptions none of the streams drain any considerable section of the hill-top. The course of all is much alike. Gathering the drainage of a small section of the hill-top they either fall with one or two clear leaps, or by a long rapid rush force their way through boulders and shingle from the edge of the cliff to the lower slopes, and, winding among the spurs at the hill-foot, find their way into one of the main lines of drainage east to the Ulhas, south to the Patalganga, or west to the Panvel river.
Starting from the north and working eastwards, the chief of these streams are the Neral Water, Neralace Pani, which rises below the Governor’s Hill and passing east and then north along the ravine between Panorama Point and the Neral spur, falls into the Ulhas a little to the west of Neral. The Bekri Stream, Bekrica odha, from below Garbat hill, passes east through the Bekri forest, and, entering the plain to the south of the Neral spur, flows east to the Ulhas. The Sondai or Khatvan Stream, Sondai Odha or Khatvan Odha, between Garbat and Alexander points, fed by a large share of the hill drainage, flows south along the chief of the Matheran valleys, past the town of Cauk into the Patalganga. The Little Khatvan between Alexander point and Little Cauk, after a steep south-easterly course, joins the main Khatvan under Garbat point. The Borganv Stream, Borgdnv-Odha, between Little and Big Cauk, meeting the Khatvan water, flows by Cauk town south into the Patalganga. A little to the west, between Great Cauk and the One-Tree Hill, the Varosa Stream, up whose narrow rocky bed the Cauk path struggles, runs south adjoining the Borganv and Khatvan waters, passes Cauk and falls into the Patalganga. Between Danger and Echo Points, draining the thickly wooded central hollow of the hill-top between the Church plateau on the north and Cauk plateau on the south, the Pisarnath or Bunk Stream flows west over the cliff into the Varosa river which runs south to Cauk and the Patalganga. In 1850 the Pisarnath flowed throughout the year with a considerable stream; but. for some years past, apparently from the increase of trees and brushwood on its gathering ground, it has almost ceased to flow before the beginning of the hot weather. In the corner between Echo and Louisa points, two nameless streams drain the sloping hill-top and fall over the cliff, passing west to the main stream that, draining the valley between Matheran and Prabal, flows south by Cauk to the Patalganga. Between Porcupine and Hart Point, a large area of the western hill-top and of the low neck between the central and western hill belts, drains into the stream, known either as Pipdce Pani (Odhd), the Tub Water Stream, or as Maldungaci Nadi, the Malduhga River. This flows to the northwest and then turns west to the Panvel river. Further to the east the stream that drains the hollow between the Governor’s Hill and Hart Point, one of the Malduhga streams which is known as the Dhodambyace Pdni or the Waterfall Stream,-passes west into the Panvel river, through the deep-wooded valley in which are the Simpson reservoir and the remains of the ruined Elphinstone lake.
In spite of the rainfall of about 200 inches even the largest streams cease to flow soon after Christmas. This is due partly to the porous iron-clay and partly to the dense growth of timber and brushwood that covers almost the whole hill-top. In 1850, as has been noticed above, before the trees and brushwood were preserved, the Bund or Pisarnath stream, which now barely trickles during the hot months, flowed freely even in May, discharging from the cliff a stream of water over a foot wide and three or four inches deep [ Smith’s Matheran, 2, 11. Dr. Smith’s quotations seem to prove that the free growth of trees in the gathering ground of springs exhausts their supply of water.]. Of eleven springs only two, Harrison’s on the east and Malet’s on the west of the main hill-top, last throughout the year. Beginning from the north and working east, in the hollow above Simpson’s reservoir, near the old Dhangar settlement, is a spring known as the Phansi or Jack-Tree Water.
On the outskirts of the Wild-Palm grove under Governor’s Hill, a few hundred yards from the road, is a spring which, by a grant from a Mr. Bamanji, has been turned into a rock-cut cistern with a flat boarded covering. It is known as the Black Water or Kale Pani, and, till the middle of the hot weather, supplied the stand-pipe on the roadside close to the fourth mile from Neral. On the south of the neck that joins the eastern and the central belt of hill, close to the beginning of Garbat point, are two springs. About half a mile further, near the sixth mile to the left of the Market road, is Harrison’s Spring which yields water throughout the year or at least till the middle of May. It has a cistern which was built in 1864-65 at a cost of Rs. 2,876. Not far off, another spring, in the market to the left of the police li
nes, has a cistern which was built in 1865-66 at a cost of Rs. 1,322. The south hill has three springs, one to the south and one to the north of the Sanatorium, and a third on the south slope of the Pisarnath valley. At the spring to the south of the Sanatorium a cistern was built in 1865-66 at a cost of Rs. 1,225. Further north there are three springs in the ravine between Porcupine and Hart points, Malet spring or Tipace pani, at the head of the main ravine Ponsonby Spring or Ghaterice Pani, that is the Buffaloes’ Drinking Trough, about a quarter of a mile to the north, and Robert’s Spring close to Hart Point. Of these the chief are the Malet Spring, in the bed of the Maldunga, about 300 feet down a steep winding path. The water of the main spring is held in a rock-cut cistern roofed by iron sheeting and there are two smaller springs close by. The Malet Spring has never been known to fail.
For [ Contributed by Mr. F. B. Maclaran, C. E. for the old edition.] the storage of water seven reservoirs have been made, two of which have proved failures. The chief site is in the Pisarnath valley, where, in April and May 1857, Mr. West, C. E., built two dams at a cost of Rs. 3,975. The third dam in the same valley was built in 1857-58 by General Fuller, R. E., at a cost of Rs. 5,330; it was subsequently in 1866-67 raised three feet at a further cost of Rs. 1,156. These dams are all of masonry and are provided with sluice gates, which are removed at the beginning of the rains and are re-fixed in the month of November so that every monsoon the reservoirs are thoroughly flushed, and fresh supply of pure water gathered.
In 1858, to provide water for the residents at the north-east or Garbat end of the hill, Lord Elphinstone, the then Governor of Bombay, conceived the idea of constructing an earthen dam in the valley between Hart point and Panorama hill. The work was designed and carried out by the Public Works Department.
In 1873-74, as the Garbat end of the hill still suffered from want of water, it was decided to build a masonry dam on a rock foundation at a point a little below Colonel Fife’s dam. The reservoir so formed, which was suggested by and bears the name of Dr. Simpson, the Superintendent, was begun in 1875 and completed in 1876 at a cost of Rs. 16,260. In spite of its distance from the more thickly peopled part of the hill, this reservoir has proved of great: service. The bed of the stream below the dam has been set apart for washing clothes, the quantity of water impounded being more than enough for this and other purposes. This is a great convenience to residents and visitors, as formerly during April and May, washermen had to take clothes to the Ulhas river near Neral. The capacity of this reservoir, which was designed and built by Colonel Maunsell, R. E., Executive Engineer, North Konkan, is 416,400 cubic feet.
Prior to the installation of the water taps in 1927, water used to be supplied in Pakhals from small tanks constructed at the sites of natural springs. When gradually Matheran attracted increasing number of visitors followed by big and petty tradesmen to cater to their demands, the supply of water fell short to meet the total need. A fresh lake was constructed in the Pisarnath Valley, to make good the shortage and named after Mrs. Charlotte Fuller, the wife of General Fuller, R. E. The site of the dam was suggested by General Fuller in 1857 and in 1880. The work of enlarging the dam was undertaken in 1950 and completed in 1956 with the total cost of Rs. 3,95,000. The total height of the dam at present is 50′, its breadth being half a furlong. Settling tanks are situated at the highest of the hill near Rugby Park. The water is pumped, settled and supplied to the town through pipes. The dams are all of masonry and are provided with sluice gates, which are removed at the beginning of the rains and re-fixed in the month of September so that every monsoon the reservoirs are thoroughly flushed and supply of fresh and pure water is guaranteed.
The porous capping of iron-clay, which has made the watersupply of the hill so scanty and so hard to improve, has, at all times of the year, in spite of the heavy rainfall, ensured for Matheran freedom from malaria. There is no marsh on any part of the hill and every stream bed is a bare rock. All material for malaria is yearly swept away, and, in almost all seasons, the thickest of the hill-top forests can be entered without risk. The grass or woodcutters do not suffer from fever, and, where fever has occurred, it has been due to dirt, not to damp. A fit of ague may be caught among the clefts of the rocks, but there is no danger in open places where the air moves. It is this freedom from malaria that makes Matheran so healthy a change to visitors. Children, especially, soon lose the pasty flabbiness they have brought with them from the plains. For the weakness caused by the rainy season in Bombay and for all mental or bodily complaints that healthy exercise and a pleasant life can relieve, Matheran has a healing power. In severe and complex ailments its influence fails.
For some time after the rains are over (October-November) the climate is pleasant. But, as the cold weather advances and the dry north-east winds grow stronger, the climate is much like the Deccan climate, and is neither pleasant nor healthy for those who have suffered from fever or from congested liver. In March and April, though the mornings and evenings continue cool and a hot night is unusual, the midday heat is oppressive. This lasts till, early, in May, specks of fleecy mist in the Pisarnath valley show that a moist air has set in from the sea. From this time, as the sea breeze freshens and the air grows moister and cooler, the climate becomes more and more pleasant, till, in the end of May, thunderstorms gathering from the Deccan, drench the hill, and the season is over. Though the first heavy rain drives away most visitors, those who can stay and are well housed, may, in spite of the wetness of the paths and the want of amusement, enjoy a fortnight or even three weeks of fresh hearty weather even when it rains, and, between the bursts of rain, bright cool days of great beauty. After two or three showers the views gain greatly in softness and colour. The hill tops are clear and purple, the grey leafless woods of the lower slopes become tipped with pink, gold, and light green, and the bushes throw out tufts of pink and purple and sprays of scarlet and gold [. The pahir, ficus cordifolia, is tipped with pink and gold, and the suir and mogri with light green, the ranbhendi bursts into tufts of bright purple, the mhaura patches of pink, and the koshim in sprays of scarlet and gold.]. The baked white and black hillsides soften into greys and browns, and a sudden greening passes over the warm rich plains. Even after heavy rain, in fair days in July and August, the hill-top is pleasant, the paths are firm and tidy, not sodden with damp or overgrown with rank grass or underwood.
The great event of the year is the breaking of the south-west monsoon. Some years the rains come in by stealth. Gentle showers and light mists grow rawer and fiercer till the damp and discomfort drive visitors away. But, as a rule, the hot-weather ends with great thunderstorms [ In the afternoon of Monday, June 6th 1865, sullen thunder began in the north-west, where clouds had all day been gathering in towering piles. As they thundered the clouds moved slowly down across the north Konkan, and. about four o’clock gathered against the jagged crest of Bava Malang. To the north, and all along the Bava Malang range, the sky and land were filled with lurid clouds, thunder, lightning, and rain, the Kalyan river flowing black as ink through a scene of the most striking desolation and gloom. South of this abrupt line of storm, the country from Bombay to Khandala was full of pure calm light. Every village, every hut, every road and forest-track, even the bridgeover the river at Chauk, came clearly into view. The trees and groves looked magically gre
en; and the light picked out the most hidden streams and burnished them into threads of molten silver. The Panvel and Nagothana rivers shone like mirrors, and the sea was scored with bars of vivid sunshine. Suddenly, at about five, the storm-rack poured over Bava Malang like a tumultuous sea, and swept into the deep valley between Matheran. and Prabal, with furious blasts and torrents, awful thunder, and flashes of forked lightning. When the clouds had filled the valley the rain and wind ceased and the storm stood still, and, in dead stillness, the thunder and lightning raged without ceasing for an hour. The thunder mostly rolled from end to end of the valley, but it sometimes burst with a crash fit to loosen the bonds of the hills. At six o’clock the storm again moved and passed slowly south over Prabal towards Nagothana, and stream grew strangely clear, the rain-filled rice-fields and rivers flashed like steel, while fleecy clouds lay on every hillock and slowly crept up every ravine. As the sun set behind Bombay the air was filled with soft golden light. Westward towards Thana the hilltops were bright with every hue from golden light to deep purple shadow, while among them, the winding Ulhas shone like links of burnished gold. Then, the moon rose, brightened the mists which had gathered out of the ravines and off the hills, and cleared a way across the calm heavens, while far in the south the black embattled storm-rack belched flame and thunder the whole night long.
The next day (Tuesday) passed without a storm. On Wednesday, the 8th, eastward towards Khandala vast electric cloud banks began to gather. At two in the afternoon, with mutterings of thunder, the sky grew suddenly black and lurid. At half-past two the storm passed west moving straight on Matheran. A mist went before the storm, thickening as it came, first into trailing clouds and then into dripping rain, with muttering thunder all the while. At three the valley between Matheran and Prabal was filled with the storm. Thunder rolled in long echoing peals, and flashes lightened the dense fog with extraordinary splendour. The fog lasted with heavy rain till 3-45, when a light wind swept it west towards Bombay, where, about four, the monsoon burst.
These appalling electric outbursts end serenely. The storm clouds retreat like a drove of bellowing bulls and their last echoes die beyond the distant hills. The sun shines again in majesty, in every dell the delicious sound of running water wakens life, and the woods are vocal with the glad song of birds. [From the Overland Mail, January 16, 1880, p. 17. ]] from the east.