This 16th century fort is famous for its elegant architecture & spectacular view from Narmada River, this place was constructed by a greatest queen Ahalya Bai Holkar and was her residential place, a queen India ever had seen. More than 210 years after her death, Ahilyabai’s reign is still a reality in the quiet town that was her capital for almost three decades. Its there in the impressive ghats, or riverine landings, rising from the broad flow of the Narmada, one can see it in soaring temples and cenotaphs. It’s in the sound of clacking looms creating the old weaves of the famed Maheshwari hand-woven fabrics. It is in the smile of a woman vending fruit: “Of course I’m happy. Everyone is happy when Ahilyabai Devi watches over us!” Devi is a title reserved for a goddess. The reverence in which the people of Maheshwar hold her has deified Ahilyabai. This sprawling Fort now has turned into a luxurious 4 star hotel with very few luxury rooms for tourists who are coming to visit Maheshwar and its adjoining tourist attractions like Mandu, Omkareshwar, Indore, Ujjain etc. .
This place is associated with several myths and was known as Mahishmati in ancient times. Now it is known with the name ‘Maheshwar’ which is derived from God of Gods ‘Mahesh’ which is a name of Lord Shiva. The word Maheshwar is means in Hind “abode of Lord Mahesh”.
The history of Maheshwar revealing that, how this place has an ample status in religious obsessions, with many myths those interconnected with this place to other epical tails. Maheshwar is built in the place of Shastrarjun Kshatriya’s ancient city. And was a capital of Southern Avanti in ancient time of King Katavirya Arjuna, who is mentioned in Mahabharata and Ramayana Epic.
One day the king along with his 500 wives went to the river for having good time with them, he was requested behalf of his wives that there were not enough place to roam around freely and playing some games then he stopped the mighty river Narmada with his 1000 arms. Ravana was flying by and when he seen beneath a dry river bed, he thought it could be the idle place to worship Lord Shiva, he landed in that dry place and started praying and making Lord Shiva’s sand Lingam. During all his hard work to built lingam and praying soul deeply, the King Shastrarjun and his all wives done and planning to go back, while leaving the place Shastrarjun let the water flow. And then mighty water stream of Narmada swept Ravana along with his Shiva lingam messing up his prayers, angry Ravana got up and challenged Shastrarjun, The mighty Sahasrarjuna with the 1000 arms pinned Ravana to the ground. Then he placed 10 lamps on his heads and one on his hand. After tying up Ravana, Sahasrarjuna dragged him home and tied him up to the cradle pole of his son. A humiliated Ravana stayed prisoner until his release was secured.
Another tale correlate upper incident in little different way, where the King Sahasrarjuna was bathing with his wives in the river when some people around challenged him to stop the waters flow by his thousands hands effort and he did it effortlessly, but by doing this the water level of the mighty River Narmada growing up, the Ravana was doing his prayers and meditation nearby and so he became furious as he got disrupted. He challenged Sahasrarjuna for the battle and hence there were a gigantic fight between them, since then this place is marked for Ravana’s defeat and capture. One another tale added that, there was a king in Maheshwar named nila, who blessed with a beautiful daughter, the God of Fire Agni fell in love with her and a secret love story began between them. God Agni who assumed the form of a Brahmin to hide this secret to the king, started meeting with the princess everyday, when the king learnt about it, he became angry and ordered Agni to be punished. But then Agni assumed his true form and threatened that he will destroy everything if someone would try to harm him or his beloved princess. The king nila begged forgiveness and since then girls of Maheshwari rather became unacceptable to others as wives, thereupon incident stated that God Agni blessed them sexual liberty so they may take any Man they pleased to.
Once Maheshwar happened to be the capital of the Holkar Kingdom, since they were defeated by British, the capital was moved to Indore, Maheshwar is now a pilgrimage and many tourists from across the globe come here to have a look over stunning Mheshwar Fort which soars over the Narmada River, numerous temples and the picturesque ghats.
Accordingly to the story, Ahilyabai was a child of eight when Malhar Rao Holkar, military governor of the malwa region, stopped at chondi village on his way to his ruler’s capital in pune, he was impressed by the way this little girl conducted herself at a temple service. He brought the child to his mansion and had her groomed to be a bride for his son Khande Rao. In those days, child marriages were common, all over the world; so were arranged marriages with parents actively involved in seeking ‘suitable matching’ for the children. Besides, women did not have much say in the conduct of their lives: which is all the more reason to admire Ahilyabai’s outstanding success in a male-dominated world.
She was widowed when she was just 29 and, if she had followed the tradition of those days, should have thrown herself on her husband’s funeral pyre, and died in a socially sanctioned rite called sati. Most unusually, her father-in-law prevented her from taking this extreme step. Legend has it that Malhar Rao Holkar had trained her in both administrative work and military affairs. She excelled in both.
Once, when a neighbour wanted to seize her territories on the death of Malhar Rao, legend has it that she sent turbans to all the other chieftains and asked them to come to the aid of their ‘sister’. They appeared with their armies on her borders, scaring her would-be attacker. Besides, everyone realized that this physically small woman had the unquestioning loyalty of both her troops and her people. And also the protection of all the gods in the pantheon as well as the powerful Brahmins: she had given generously to charity and for the building and restoration of temples. The powers ranged behind her were formidable.
Ahilyabai’s wise and just reign came to an end with her death in 1795. But there has been a lasting consequence of her sending turbans to the other Maratha chieftains. When their wives met her they said, according to legend. “You’ve given turbans to our husbands, but what have you given to us?” Ahilyabai gave an order, immediately, for the weavers of surat who had made the turbans, to create a special weave for the saris she intended to present to the women of her supporting chieftains. In fact, she went further than that. She invited the weavers to brings their looms and their families and to relocate themselves in her capital.This, according to a strong local belief, was the beginning of the weaving industry in Maheshwar.
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