Panorama a Centre for Spirituality and Counseling, Pachmarhi
Love to Live and Live to Love.
We offer accompaniment and care on life-pilgrimage through guided retreats, spiritual guidance, psychotherapy, dream work and yoga, leading to wholeness, healing and ecologically sound lifestyle.
Panorama a Centre for Spirituality and Counseling
Panorama was inaugurated this year in Pachmarhi, the only hill station of Madhya Pradesh. Fr. Durairaj SVD, INC Provincial was present for the occasion. Fr. Joseph Purappanathanam SVD heads the panorama. Fr. Joseph made a mid life career change in 1993 from philosophy to Psychology having trained as a psychotherapist. His sociality is in combining therapy and spiritual accompaniment with dream work. He has worked as a psychotherapist in India for the past 10 years, also conducted dream workshops in many cities of USA, Germany, Holand and Italy. From 1996 to 2005 he was the director of Snehalay, a centre for Spirituality and Dialogue, in Indore.
A Centre for Spirituality and Counseling run by the Society of the Divine Word, SVD Central Indian Province.
Panorama was inaugurated in 2005 in Pachmarhi, the only hill station of Madhya Pradesh. Fr. Durairaj SVD, the INC Provincial Superior was present for the occasion. Fr. P.J. Joseph SVD heads the Panorama. Fr. Joseph made a midlife career change in 1993 from philosophy to Psychology and was trained as a psychotherapist. His specialty is in combining therapy and spiritual accompaniment with dream work. He has worked as a psychotherapist in India for the past 10 years also conducted dream workshops in many cities of USA, German, Holland and Italy. From 1996 to 2005 he was the director of Snehalay, a centre for spirituality and dialogue in Indore. Since June 2005 he is the Director of Panorama, the Centre for Spirituality and Counseling in Pachmarhi. The centre offers the following programmes;
Inner Journey Retreat
Training to be a Dream therapist.
Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Director.
Dreams and Healing
Human Maturity: A perspective for Religious Women
PACHMARHI: A rare Treasure we have in Divine Providence.
The presence of five ancient caves had made it famous with the name Panchmarhi where ‘Panch’ means five and ‘Marhi’ means caves. In course of time, it was corrupted into Pachmarhi, giving this space its current name.
It is the highest location in the central India region of the Vindhya and Satpura ranges. It is situated 3555 feet above sea level. This region was part of the kingdom of the Gond king Bhawut Sing and Pachmarhi was his capital. Dense forests and its inaccessibility for people made it a safe hideout for freedom fighters like Jhansi ki Rani and Tatya Topa. When Jhansi ki Rani and the Maratha soldiers declared a war of independence in 1857 against the British, an English officer, Captain James Forsyth, along with some soldiers, were sent to the dense jungles of Satpura to quell the rebellion. This was the way Pachmarhi happened to be introduced to the British and the western world.
Captain Forsyth was fascinated by this saucer-shaped plateau surrounded by hills on all sides. He recommended the area for a sanatorium for the British troops of Central India. The British chased out the original inhabitants of Pachmarhi and its surroundings forests and a cantonment was created in 1872. Bungalows were built and road net work was laid. Also, recreational clubs came up and with them golf, polo, tennis and horse riding facilities were added. Churches were built both for Protestants in 1875 and for Catholics in 1892. Thus Pachmarhi became a hill station and sanatorium for the British soldiers of Central Indian Province of the British India.
Presently, most of the areas of Pachmarhi town are under the administration of the Pachmarhi Cantonment Board, serving the Indian Army. The town has a population of an estimated 16 thousand people, most of whom are connected with the Army installations. The civilian part of the town is very small. The civilians of Pachmarhi are catering to the needs of the military and to the tourists. There are two banks, several shops mostly selling articles of tourists’ attraction. Most of the civilians are involved in hospitality industry, working for the many hotels as cooks, table-waiters etc. There are also many taxi drivers and tourist guides too.
There is a very small Catholic population, consisting of 14 families and a few floating Catholics, mostly in the Army. There are presently seven convents, consisting of three novitiate houses, two postulant houses, one social work centre, and a provincial house cum retirement home. Including the postulants and novices, there are over one hundred religious women in Pachmarhi. Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery are in Pachmarhi since more than a century. The parish church was built in 1892 by an Irish priest. Presently, the parish is administered by Bhopal Archdiocese; it has a diocesan parish priest. There are also three congregations of men including the SVD. The other two are the Dominicans (OP), with three resident priests, the Pallotines with no permanent residents. As recently as 18th of October, 2011, the CBCI’s Commission for Proclamation (Suvartha Kendra) has set up its office and residence on the premises of Sangeet Sadhana Mandir which has a history of 56 years of service and which had pioneered Indian music in Catholic liturgy. Suvartha Kendra has a staff of eight resident members, including four lay people, two sisters and two priests.
The SVD Presence in Pachmarhi
The SVD presence in Pachmarhi goes back to 1948. After the Second World War, expatriate SVD missionaries in India felt the need for a place for annual vacation. By then they had laid the foundation for Indore mission and also the Jabalpur mission. For the purpose of annual vacation in a pleasant climate and natural surroundings, the SVD Mission Indore chose Pachmarhi and bought the first house, Raheen as a holiday villa on the lst of June, 1948 for Rs. 23,000.00 from Msgr. Louis F.Gayat, Bishop of Nagpur. Soon this house was found inadequate and a second house, by name Panorama Cottage was bought on 28 November, 1952, from Rev. Fr. W. Livesay of Pachmarhi for Rs.12,000.00. From 1948 onwards till 1968 a good number of SVDs from Indore and Sambalpur missions, frequented Pachmarhi for their annual summer vacation.
Till the General Chapter in 1967, the expatriate SVDs in India were allowed to go home for vacation only once in ten years. However, in 1968, after the general Chapter, they were allowed to go for home holidays every five years. Also, Indian SVDs were allowed to go home for vacation once in two years. However, the frequency of vacation for Indian SVDs was soon revised into once every year. Many of the expatriate SVDs took the chance to go to their own home countries for vacation and Indian SVDs preferred to go to their own families for vacation and not to a holiday villa. Thus Pachmarhi became less and less frequented as a holiday destination. The holiday villas became a financial liability to the province. This problem was discussed in the Regional Assembly and Chapter in Indore. On 1 August 1973, the Regional Superior Rev. Fr. Anand informed Rev.Fr. Superior General that the Regional Chapter had resolved to sell the villas in Pachmarhi. The Superior General granted the necessary permission in a letter dated 24 August, 1973. Raheen was sold to the Carmelite Sisters (CMC) from Kerala, and the SVD Regional Superior received an advance of a few thousand rupees from a police inspector for selling Panorama.
Panorama from 1975 to 2003
In the mean time, the majority of the confreres of Indore region decided against selling Panorama Cottage. As a consequence, the police inspector took the Province to court. The litigation lasted over 26 years. Our province has spent an undisclosed and enormous amount of money fighting the case in High Court at Jabalpur for more than two and a half decades. Finally the court decided in favour of SVDs. In 1998, the then provincial Rev. Fr. Chacko Thottumarickal SVD appointed Fr. Thomas Vellappally SVD to make a feasibility study of some ministry in Pachmarhi. His study presented a negative opinion; no ministry was possible, he concluded.
Panorama an old building with a new mission
When the court decision was in favour of the SVD, the then provincial Rev. Fr. Cletus Colaco arranged to repair Panorama Villa. And the Indore Provincial Chapter passed a resolution in 2003 (No.10)
We resolve that the property at Pachmarhi be not sold and the provincial administration finds ways and means to utilize the same to the best interest of the province.
The Generalate approved the above resolution of the Provincial Chapter to start some meaningful ministry in Pachmarhi. When Panorama Villa was being repaired, Fr.Thomas Ottarackal SVD volunteered to live in Pachmarhi with a plan to start some sort of Bible apostolate. He went to Pachmarhi and stayed for a few months in the guest house of the Carmel Sisters but could not begin any ministry. The next Provincial Rev.Fr. Durairaj SVD and his council implemented the 2003 Chapter decision by deciding to open a new Centre for Spirituality and Counselling in Pachmarhi and in April 2005 appointed Fr. Joseph Purappanthanam SVD as its director.
From June 2005 guided retreats, counseling sessions and training in counselling skills are being regularly offered by Joseph Purappanthanam.
By the end of May 2006, a boundary was made because of which we could keep away wild pigs. Also by May the same year, we got municipality water –connection. Due to shortage of accommodation, rooms were being hired from neighbouring religious houses.
On 8th September, 2008 a Grotto of Our Lady of Pachmarhi was blessed on Panorama Campus.
On 27th of Feb. 2009 the Society acquired 14 thousand square feet of land from St. Michael’s Convent (the Green Garden Sisters) Pachmarhi and on 1st of May; the Grotto was shifted to the new location on the newly acquired land. Also we began a practice of taking the statue of Mother of Pachmarhi to all the Catholic families and institutions from the First of May, 2009.
Confreres who worked so far:
Name of the Confreres
Post / Assignment
Fr. Sudhir Shenoy
Fr. Joseph Purapanthanam
Fr. Thomas Chacko
Fr. William Tirkey