Born on 31st May 1725 in Dhangar community in village of Chondi , Maharashtra . Ahilyabai Holkar adorned with the name ” Rajamata Ahilyabai Holkar ” and was the holkar queen of the Malwa kingdom. She was the wife of Khanderao holkar and daughter-in-law of the prominent warrior commander Malhar Rao Holkar of the Maratha empire of mid 18th century .
She is widely famous for restoring hindu temples, building ghats and encouraging industrialization.Her compassion , wisdom and administrative skills made her a queen of great values in the Indian history. She had made Maheshwar as the capital of holkar dynasty.
Ahilyabai Holkar ( Ruler of Malwa )
31st May 1725 ( Chondi ,Ahmedanagar )
Subedar Malhar Rao Holkar
Male Rao Holkar
1795 AD ( Natural death )
Her life was full of personal traumas but it didn’t stop her from becoming one of the great women leader in Indian history. Whether it’s Rani Lakshmibai , Keladi chennamma , Abbakka Rani , Belawadi Mallamma , all fought for the protection of their motherland and set an example of great women leader of their time.
She completely took the affairs of holkar dynasty in her hand after the tragic death of his husband Khanderao holkar, Malharrao holkar and his son Malerao holkar. She also lost her daughter who committed sati after the death of his husband.
Her father Mankoji Shinde was the chief of the village, Chondi. He left no stone unturned in educating her daughter and imbibing her with the great values of Dharma.
Ahilyabai had a deep inclination towards spirituality . She was one of the great devotees of Lord Shiva .
A popular history of Ahilyabai Holkar started when one day , Rajmata Ahilyabai with her mother took a visit to the nearby temple of Chondi . Meanwhile Malhar Rao Holkar took his halt to Chondi on his way to Pune .
Ahilyabai was busy in making Shivling with her friends near the river then suddenly a horse from Malhar Rao Holkar side , started to run towards the Shivling . All little girls started to run away from that Shivling except Ahilyabai Holkar who covered the shivling from being destroyed .
When she was asked “ why didn’t you run away to save your life as other girls do? “ she replied in a very gentle manner “ It’s my dharma to protect the thing for which I have given my heart and soul . And this is what I have learnt from my father “ . This statement of her compelled Malhar Rao Holkar to think that this is an uncommon child and she is the right choice for his son .
In 1733 ( when she was 8 years old ) , she got married with Khande Rao Holkar .She came to her laws when she was around 15. While Malhar Rao Holkar and khande Rao Holkar were busy in expeditions for the Maratha empire , Ahilyabai Holkar used to run the administration of Indore .
Ahilyabai Holkar gave birth to Male Rao Holkar in 1745 in Depalpur , Indore and a daughter named Muktabai Holkar in 1748 .
Khande Rao Holkar
Khanderao holkar was the son of Malhar Rao Holkar and the husband of Ahilyabai Holkar . He was courageous and brave warrior king who used to go for the expedition with his father whenever his father needed him . He learnt the war skill from his father Malhar Rao Holkar in a very short period of time which showed his strength and power to fight with Mughal army .
There was divine love between Khanderao Holkar and Ahilyabai Holkar which made their relationship more heavenly . She always used to encourage him to develop more interest in the work of his father . As Khanderao grew up , he started to take the workload of his father like a great warrior man .
Ahilyabai was capable of running the administration brilliantly in absence of his husband and his father-in-law.
Khande Rao Holkar Death
Ahilyabai Holkar’s way of running the administration and huge compassion for everyone made her a successful ruler of that period . , khande Rao Holkar passed away on 24th march 1754 by a cannon suddenly hit him when he was inspecting the member of his army in kumbher fort during war . Ahilyabai became a widow at a very young age of 29 .
Khande Rao Holkar
Khande Rao Holkar
Malhar Rao Holkar
Cause of Death
Death from sudden hitting of a cannon ball in the fort of Kumbher
When Ahilyabai got the news of Khande Rao Holkar death , she left her raising career as a powerful leader and decided to perform sati at his husband’s funeral pyre . The people living in the society had tried their best to stop her from performing sati but she was determined .
Then finally , her father-in-law, Malhar rao Holkar who was filled with grievance and eyes full of tears pleaded to her “ Oh my daughter , my son left me alone midway and you too want to leave me alone in this darkest time ? If that’s the case then let me die first . “
That kind of emotional appeal from his father- in- law compelled her to drop the idea of committing Sati . After the death of khanderao Holkar , Malhar Rao Holkar trained her in military and diplomatic affairs .
Male Rao Holkar Death
Male Rao Holkar was the first child of the great Ahilyabai Holkar and he was young and dynamic but wasn’t able to handle the situation of the kingdom after the death of his grandfather Malhar Rao Holkar in 1766 which led to his own destruction . Male Rao Holkar died in 1767 because of unbearable mental stress he had to tolerate during his nine months of reign which was again a thundershock for Ahilyabai Holkar .
Now the whole kingdom’s leadership came to her shoulder. People of her kingdom had great reliance on Ahilyabai . They felt fortunate that again they got a life under the shade of a great queen . Ahilyabai with her great determination started to rule the kingdom and made it nothing less than a golden age to live in .
Male Rao Holkar
Male Rao Holkar's mother name
Male Rao Holkar's father name
Khande Rao Holkar
His sister name
Cause of Death
Muktabai Holkar Death ( sati )
Muktabai Holkar was the wife of great warrior Yashwantrao and the daughter of glorious queen Ahilyabai Holkar who was the Maharani of Malva in the 18th century . Muktabai Holkar died after performing sati ( live burning of body with the funeral of husband ) in 1791 which ultimately left Ahilyabai Holkar without husband , son , father-in-law and daughter .
Muktabai , the daughter of Ahilyabai ,was the only hope left with Ahilyabai after loosing her family . But this last hope too had been taken away from her.
After the death of Muktabai holkar’s son because of acute illness , the husband of Muktabai named Yashwantrao also died of shock in 1791 AD which was again another shock for both Muktabai Holkar and Ahilyabai Holkar .
Muktabai cried out loud and told her mother Ahilyabai “ I am now left with nothing . Leaving without my husband is nothing more than a torture for me . My whole existence was associated with my husband . Now he is not alive then what would I have to do with this life so , it’s better for me to sati . “
After hearing these kinds of heart-wrenching words from the mouth of her daughter , she was left with no choice but to stop her from performing Sati. She tried hard to stop her but didn’t succeed in stopping her daughter from sati . At last , Muktabai lost her life after performing sati .
Muktabai Holkar's husband
Muktabai Holkar's son
Nathu ( Nathoba )
Muktabai Holkar's father name
Khande Rao Holkar
Cause of death
Achievements of Ahilyabai Holkar
One of the biggest achievements of her life was transforming Indore from a small village to a grand village by encouraging industrialization and erecting other buildings and setting good policy for the society. As a social reformist ,she helped widows to have the wealth of their husband’s and also an adopted son . She changed Indore from a small village to a giant City and made Maheshwar her own capital .
- She started to reward people who had mastery in sculpture , musician , dancer and other fields too . She never forget to fill the hands of those who came to her palace for the purpose of investing .
- She restored many Hindu temples and created Ghats on religious places .
- During her reign the Islamic invasion was on its peak . They used to loot the kingdom and onslaught the people brutally . To protect her region she appointed Tukoji Rao Holkar as her commander-in-chief who was a great warrior and well equipped in in warfare .
- She used to sit on the throne only during the time of Darbar . Her way of justice compelled everyone to bow down to her and give the blessings to her .
- She never used public money for charity . Whatever she earned from her private building , used them for restoring Hindu temples and Ghats .
- In 1765, it was Ahilyabai who did the military expedition on Gwalior with heavy artillery which proves her a trained warrior .
- Abdali invaded India again in 1765 and Malhar Rao Holkar was fighting with Abdali’s army . Meantime , Ahilyabai captured Gohadkar’s Fort and stayed in Gwalior where she started to manufacture gun-balls , and balls of smaller guns .
- She was the one who started the postal system in 1783 .
- To facilitate the post office from Maheshwar to Pune , responsibility was given to Padmasi nancy company . There were 20 pairs to facilitate this and for every pair they get 204 rupees every year .
- She put the foundation of Maheshwari saree which is still in used . Indian women love to wear maheshwari saree
It was not an easy task for Ahilyabai to stand affirm after losing those whom she loved so much but her determination of serving the people was much higher than her grief . She had already gained mastery in military and administrative competence . So ,she petitioned the Peshwa to take over the land of Holkar herself . Peshwa granted her petition to rule the region .
After receiving the grant , she appointed Tukoji Rao Holkar ( adopted son of Malhar Rao Holkar ) as her chief commander . She Continued her policy of justice and reconciliation .
She is known for her Hindu renaissance and for combating the enemy in the battlefield . She was a powerful woman who led a powerful Holkar dynasty throughout her life .
She didn’t give any burden to the people of the society . She didn’t tax even a penny to the people when there was less rain in the specific year . The kind of honesty and kindness she carried throughout her life made her “ Rajmata” for the society . They feel blessed to have such a Rajmata who was ruling .
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Ahilyabai Holkar – Restoring Hindu temples
She was famous not just in India but worldwide for her great service of restoring the Hindu temples and ghats and for her kindness towards the society . Many great people praised her like John Keyas ( a British historian ) , Joanna Baillie (poet) , Jawahar Lal Nehru and many others .
Islamic Invaders during their reign had destroyed many temples and Ghats .They hate Hindus for worshipping the deities and that was the reason they destroyed Hindu temples and looted the precious ornaments. As we have discussed, Ahilyabai was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and used to live her life into the Dharmik fold . She decided to restore the Hindu temples and Ghats in the same manner it had existed before .
List of temples built by ahilyabai holkar
- Rajapur temple
- Jagannath Puri temple
- Sri Bhairava temple
- Maheshwar Temple
- Varanasi temple and Ghat
- Badrinath Kund
- Kedarnath Kund
- Omkareshwar temple
- Amarkantak Dharamshala
- Rameshwaram Dharamshala
- Pune Dharamshala and Ghat
- Prayag Ghat and Dharamshala
- Kashi Vishwanath Temple
- Rishikesh Ghat
- Ujjain Temple
- Somnath Temple
- Vrindavan temple
- Pushkar temple
She visited Srisailam which was completely destroyed by invaders . She rebuilt the temple and did other things too .
Ahilyabai Holkar and Raghunath Rao
After the death of Malerao Holkar , Dewan of Malhar rao Holkar (Gangadhar) was of the belief that Ahilyabai was not suitable for ruling the region . So he invited Raghunath Rao , uncle of Peshwa Madhavrao , to attack the state of Indore .
When Ahilyabai got the news from her spier of attack ,she became totally attentive and started to make contact with nearby king Mahadji Scindia and Damaji Rao Gaekwad and asked for their support to defeat Raghunath Rao . Soon , they sent their armies to assist her . Ahilyabai also sent a letter to Peshwa Madhavrao and described the whole situation and said
“ My father-in-law lost his life in your service and my husband too . And It was you who had given me this throne to run the administration of Indore . It’s only and only you who has the power to dethrone me . If some other person comes and tell me to leave this throne then I am not going to leave it “
After receiving the letter , Peshwa Madhavrao authorised Ahilyabai to take severe action against Raghunath Rao . Ahilyabai with her army came to the battlefield to confront Raghunath . After seeing the courage of Ahilyabai , Raghunath got frightened and dropped the idea of Confrontation And told the Ahilyabai that he had come here to give his condolence on the death of her son Male Rao Holkar .
Then Ahilyabai replied “ If that is the case then why are you coming with your army ? isn’t it better to come only with a few people? “ He agreed and did what she said .
She died in 1795 because of her old age . She had lived around 70 years .After Ahilyabai Holkar death, Tukojirao Holkar, adopted son of Malhar rao Holkar, accessed the throne of Malwa kingdom and reigned till 1797 AD.
Her life was not less than a roller-coaster but still her determination to serve the people of her kingdom made her strong and valorous .She had lived a very satvik and simple life . And her belief in Shiva made her more stronger to face the most critical situation in her life .
The reign of Ahilyabai lasted for 30 years which could be considered as a golden period in which good Governance and prosperity spread all over the country . She was a dynamic lady with a great open heart for everyone . Her death was an end to a golden period which she had created .
Ahilyabai Holkar airport
She was a phenomenal queen whose impact was powerful throughout the country . To show the gratitude towards Ahilyabai who belonged to Holkar dynasty , an airport in Madhya Pradesh which is around 8 Km away from Indore , has been named after her as ” Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport “.
Ahilyabai Holkar Jayanti
Ahilyabai Holkar Jayanti is celebrated on 31st may of every year as this was the date of her birth . She was one of the most dynamic queen who was not just a great warrior but also a great dharmic person who restored many temples and created many Ghats for the betterment of future generation .
On her rememberance , there are chawk , university , colleges , rewards and some schemes are being started which shows huge respect towards the warrior queen of Malwa .
What happened to Muktabai Holkar?
After the death of her son due to an acute disease , his husband Yashwant Rao also died which left Muktabai Holkar to finally perform sati . She felt that her existence was completely associated with her husband and if her husband had already gone , then there is no use of her life anymore.
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