situated on the banks of River Narmada, Maheshwar was once upon a time the seat of Indore state in the Malwa region. Today , Maheshwar is a small town which offers an old world charm. Famed for its beautiful Architecture and handlooms, today the city is slowly sinking into the oblivion.
History of Maheshwar Historically the city was known as the Maheshmati and was the capital city of the The Heheya Kingdom. Legendary king Kartavirya Arjuna whose mention can also be found in Rigveda captured Maheshmati from the Naga kingdom. The city went into oblivion for centuries altogether and though Malwa region witnessed rise and fall of many kingdoms, Maheshmati remained in oblivion until the times of Maratha Holkers. In 1771, Maheshwar became the seat of power for the Holker kingdom of Malwa. It remained the centre of power till 1818, when the capitol was shifted to the new city of Indore by Malhar Rao Holkar III.. The Rule of Ahilyabai Holkar
It was the queen Ahilyabai who gave Maheshwar its present form. Her rule is considered to be one of the most important era not just for the Maheshwar but for the overall revival of Hindu religious Architecture all over the India. She was instrumental in rebuilding of number of important temples which were plundered and destroyed during the barbaric islamic rule in many places. Most notables were the temple of Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi which was destroyed by Aurangzeb and the Temple of Somnath which suffered number of attacks from invaders for over 1000 years.
Architecture of Maheshwar
It was she who got the beautiful ghats of Maheshwar built. The Maheshwar fort, which is also called Ahilya Fort, was built during her rule. Ghats were paved and a beautiful water front was created. The interesting part of the story is that She hired two architects from Rajasthan for the design and construction of the buildings that we see today. Bhujdar and Gajdar two brother turned Maheshwar fort into a Rajasthai Haveli with the use of Chattris, Jalis and typical stone carving, arches and balconies.
There are two prominent structures inside the fort, Vithoba's Chatri and Shri Ahilyeshwar Temple. The chatri is a memorial for the Vithoba Holkar the younger brother of Malhar Rao II Holkar. Both are situated right in front of each other on an axis inside the fort. The steps from the ghat takes you to the first platform where on one side there is a temple and on another there is the chatri. From that level one can take steps up to the top of the hill where the residential areas and the city is located.
The Present !
Today, Maheshwar is a laid back city which stares at its own past to seek relevance. It is mainly visited by Architects designers and history buffs who wish to visit the well articulated architecture this place has to offer. The Maheshwari handloom which is barely surviving is the main occupation of many in todays time. The architecture is bringing unusual commercial activities to the city in recent times, It is becoming favoured location for film shooting due to its excellent waterfront. Tourism is slowly peaking up due to the intensive government campaign. Participate Heritage places like Maheshwar can only survive if the society takes active participation in conserving it. As an individual, you can visit the place and be respectful about the heritage value of the place. Preserve the buildings and also try and preserve the culture. It can easily be visited as a one day trip from Indore. Visiting Mandu & Maheshwar both in 2 days is also possible. Our built heritage is our link with our past, it is the link of our origin. A society with no meaningful heritage and past is a shallow society. Living in India, We are fortunate that We have a legacy of a history which is unlike in the world. Our buildings are the proofs of our glorious history, preserving them is not just our duty for the present but it is essential for our future as well .
We at UrbanArch Foundation try to capture the essence of our heritage one site at a time. If you wish to know the details about our documentation of Maheshwar, get in touch with us. Heritage documentation is a a forever on-going project for a country like India and we have no complains. If you wish to join the team, write to us at foundation.UrbanArch@gmail.com