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Address: Maheshwar, West Nimar, Khargone, MP, India - 451224

Area / Landmark: Maheshwar /Ahilya Fort

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Category Attraction
Distance From
Railway Station: 90.00 km
Bus Stand: 90.00 km
Airport: 80.00 km

About Attraction

Maheshwar, literally meaning the abode of Mahesh or Lord Shiva, is also known as Somvanshya and Mahissati/Mahishmati (in Sanskrit) !! It is a small town on the banks of River Narmada, some 90 KM away from Indore, known more for its Maheshwari Saarees (women’s clothing) than other things !! However, Maheshwar is deeply steeped in very rich history, and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site !!

Not known to many people -  it is said to be one of the oldest civilisations of India, dating back to more than 4,000 years !! Remains as old as those of the Mohenjo-Daro & Harappa of the Indus Valley Civilisations times (3,300 - 1,300 BCE) are said to have been found in Maheshwar !! Later, in ancient India, it was also famous as one of the twin capitals of the powerful kingdom - Avanti (600 BCE) !! Interestingly enough, this town has also been mentioned in the two most holy & ancient Indian epics - the Ramayan and the Mahabharat !! Mahishmati was then ruled by Haihayas king - Sahasrarjun (
Kārtavīrya Arjun) !!

Further, it is also very important to note that skilled work of weaving is not something of recent past - Kautilya mentions Mahishmati (Maheshwar) in his works, in relation to the weaving craft !! And the oldest record for the weaving work from Maheshwar has been found for turbans !!

Since Indore and surrounding areas including Maheshwar were on the rich, lucrative, and famous trade route between Mumbai & Delhi, it also caught the attention of most rulers in Medieval India too - Mughal Emperor Akbar being one of them !! Maheshwar was under Akbar’s reign from the early 1600s until 1741, when it came under the Holkar rulers !! The majestic Maheshwar fort was built during this time by Akbar, which was then rebuilt in its present-day form by the legendary Holkar ruler - Ahilya Bai Holkar (reign: 1767 - 1795) !!

Maheshwar came into political prominence again in the 18th century, only when Ahilya Bai Holkar moved her state's capital from Indore to Maheshwar in 1767, for having her own space near the holy river !! It is also then that Maheshwar became an important centre for art, culture, and industry/enterprise !! To further art of Maheshwar’s weaving into more products, and make the city’s artisans more enterprising, Ahilya Bai got artisans from Surat to weave Saarees in the skilled form !!

Ahilya Bai Holkar was known as one strongest & most powerful women rulers of India, but she was known more for her administrative skills, generous public/charitable works, and above all else, her pious & religious nature !! “She was a lady of uncommon sagacity, saintly purity, and wonderful intellectual and moral qualities, displaying utmost valour and personal courage in the midst of most difficult situations” says author Ms. Smita Gate of the Vintage Indore book !!

Of her being so generous & pious soon spread far across India !! No pilgrim, saint (sadhu), etc. ever returned without donations in kind, after meeting her or from the innumerable facilities (sarai/serai, dharmshalas) she had got built for the pilgrims, across the country !! She was a huge devotee of Lord Shiv, and so, had got contracted many facilities at Lord Shiv's shrines across India !! It is said that it was unthinkable to have got reconstructed, all the Hindu temples/shrines after the destruction by Mughals, without the help of Ahilya Bai Holkar !!

Of particular significance here is the immensely popular and sacred temple of Kashi Vishwanath/ Kashi Vishweshwar, or literally the Lord of the World, in Benares (Varanasi), which she got fully rebuilt in 1785, after the attack by Mughal ruler Aurangzeb !! She was so religiously tolerant that she did not damage/destroy the mosque that Aurangzeb got constructed after breaking an old temple in Kashi !! Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar got constructed, repaired, idols reinstalled at many of the world-famous Indian temples from Himalayas to the Indian Ocean in South including those at Somanath & Dwarka in Gujarat, ancient city of Ujjain, Nashik, Gaya, Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Badrinarayan, Rameshwaram, and Jagannathpuri !!

Besides reconstructing or getting made anew numerous temples, pilgrim facilities, ghats/river banks, rest houses, sarais/serais, ponds, roads, free kitchens for pilgrims called 'ANNAKSHETRAS', she also got repaired the famous road from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Varanasi (Benares), as the pilgrims faced trouble in getting to the Kashi temple !!

Ahilya Bai also got made a small replica of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Maheshwar, after she restored the original one in Benares !! 

To add to this, the Scottish poet Ms. Joanna Baillie, wrote a poem in 1849 on this great ruler:

         "For thirty years her reign of peace,

The land in blessing did increase,

And she was blessed by every tongue.  

By stern and gentle, old and young.
Yea, even the children at their mothers feet,
Are taught such homely rhyming to repeat.
'In latter days from Brahma came,
To rule our land, a noble Dame,
Kind was her heart, and bright her fame,
And Ahilya was her honoured name.'"

Maheshwar kept losing importance after it no longer remained the capital of the Holkar State after the reign of Ahilya Bai !! However, after independence, when the Indian royalties' privy purses were stopped by the Indian government, Holkar dynasty's descendant Prince Shivaji Richard Holkar moved back to Maheshwar, the same place where his ancestor Ahilya Bai Holkar once lived and ruled the entire state from !!

At the same time, the once-famous
 weavers of Maheshwar also didn't have much work left after independence in 1947, and therefore, were moving away to other towns !! But when Prince Richard and his wife Ms. Sally Holkar came to live in Maheshwar, the weavers came to them to ask for help !! They agreed to help by putting up an exhibition of the works of the weavers, sending invites to their friends and family in India and abroad !! Consequently, it was a total sell-out !! After that, prince Richard, with contributions from friends including Mr. Sumant Mulgaonkar of Tata Motors and his wife, helped the weavers financially and then, the Rehwa Society was formed !!

Prince Richard didn't stop there.... he wanted others to feel the experience feel of staying at the original fort & palace from where the legendary ruler Ahilya Bai Holkar ruled her state & also lived !! Prince Richard still lives here and has painfully converted this ancient monument into a fabulous guest residence, as he calls it (boutique hotel), which has won several awards !! For complete details on the Ahilya Fort Hotel, please click here: Ahilya Fort Hotel !!


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Location & Other Details

Distance From :
Railway Station: 90.00 km
Bus Stand: 90.00 km
Airport: 80.00 km

User Rating & Reviews

Mohini Pawar April 15, 2020
 "Wonderful place!"

Maheshwar is a wonderful place near Indore. Mainly Ahilyabai ghat is the prime destination to visit in Maheshwar. The Narmada is known to be a clean river and it is also calm and peaceful. The beauty of the fort can be cherished from here. Great spot for photography. A boat ride is also available around the temple. Ghats is also clean..Fort is very beautiful..

Gokul patel April 30, 2017
 "Pious and a wonderful place"
If you being closer to the nature the maheshwar fort is the world's best place for you. Come here experience the legacy of devi Ahilya Bai Holkars reign and get mesmerised by the divine beauty of maa narmada