Rajwada, Maheshwar Fort, Abode of Ahilya Bai
Rajwada, Maheshwar Fort, Madhya Pradesh (MP)
Abode of Ahilya Bai
Ahilya Bai is second to none in valour, sagacity and eminence. Nobody can equate her in these matters.
The massive Maheshwar Fort stands on hill overlooking the Narmada River on the south. The stupendous walls of the Maheshwar Fort rises straight out of the Narmada River to a height of more than 30 meters.
The Maheshwar Fort dates back to antiquity and there are no clear evidence of its first construction. The fort as we see today was conceived during the reign of Ahilya Bai Holkar (1767 – 95).
Ahilya Bai, was the daughter in law of Malhar Rao Holkar, the founder of Hindu Maratha dynasty of Holkar, who ruled central India from Indore.
Ahilya Bai was born in 1725 in the village of Chondi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Her father was Mankoji Shinde, a village chief. Unusual for the time he tought her daughter to read and write.
According to legend one day Malhar Rao Holkar, while passing through the village of Chondi spotted the 8 year old Ahilya Bai.
Pleased with her beauty and personality he brought her home as a bride for her son Malhar Rao Holkar. They were married in 1733. Ahilya Bai become a widow in 1754, when her husband Malhar Rao Holkar, died during the siege of Kumbher.
In 1766 after the death of Malhar Rao Holkar, Ahilya Bai’s only son Khande Rao, ascended the throne. He died only nine months later forcing Ahila Bai to ascended the throne.
She ruled ably for 28 years and even led the army in many a successful battle. Ahilya Bai was a skilled archer and tales of four bows and quiver of arrows fitted at the four corners of her howdah (elephant seat) had become a part of the local folklore.
Today the Maheshwar Fort is a prime tourist attraction. The Maheshwar Fort is divide into two sections, the eastern section contains the immensely ornate Cenotaph Complex, while the western section houses the Rajwada, the royal court and residence.
The Rajwada complex of Maheshwar Fort is best approachable from the north through the Ahilya Dwar, one of the five gateway to the fort. A massive statue of Ahilya Bai greets visitors to the complex.
Past the Ahilya Bai statue the road leads through another gateway and into the royal complex of Rajwada.
Unlike the Cenotaph Complex, which is under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Holker family still holds possession of the Rajwada Complex.
The entrance off the Rajwada is marked with small scattered religious shrines, along with a couple of cannons.
The palanquin of Ahilyaa Bai is displayed at the entrance of thee two storeyed wooden building.
The entrance to the building opens into an open courtyard, surrounded by a pillared verandah on all side. The rooms on the upper floor serve as the royal residence, while those on lower were meant for guests.
The verandah on the lower floor houses a small museum displaying objects used by Ahilya Bai. From the swords & shields to objects of daily use are in display. The prime attraction of the museum is the throne (or Rajgaddi) of Ahilya Bai. The simple throne reminds one of the simple lifestyle of the great queen.
From the Rajwwadaa, visitors can walk through the eastern gateway and down the stairs and finally into the grand Cenotaph Complex of the Maheshwar Fort.
Note: This trip was part of a FAM (Familiarization) trip of Hanuwantiya (Jal Mahotsav), Omkareshwar, Maheshwar and Mandu. Special Thanks to:
- Abhijit Dhar, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC), Kolkata
- My fellow FAM participants Uttara Gangopadhyay and Soumya Mukherjee