Walking down a narrow lane, past small shrines, I was awestruck when I suddenly found myself in front of the magnificent edifice that stood facing the Narmada. While people around me happily posed and took photographs, all that I wanted to do was admire the magnificent outer façade of Ahilya fort. A peep through one of the arched windows of the fort revealed that life in Maheshwar revolves around the fort. While Narmada flowed languidly along the ghats, the local hawkers, priests, boatmen and guides were seen hustling around with their daily chores in and around the fort.
Overlooking the Narmada, the Ahilya fort was built in mid 18th century by Holkars, who were a part of the Maratha empire and also the rulers of Indore. The fort is named after Ahilyabai Holkar, the Maratha queen who was responsible for the development of Indore and Masheshwar. A person with great administration and diplomatic skills, Ahilyabai made Maheshwar her capital and the royal residence was built inside the fort. Apart from the fort, Maheshwar is also known for a few popular temples which are located within the fort.
A flight of steps from the Narmada ghats lead to the beautiful Ahilya fort, which has a bevy of arched windows, carved entrance door and intricate works. The fort walls stretch themselves on either side of the main entrance beyond the bastions. Inside the fort, the biggest attractions are its two temples and the cloister that offers lovely views of the ghats and the river.
Akhileshwar temple dedicated to Shiva has a sandstone base and is at a height. The arches and dome have been exquisitely carved. The carvings of elephants and Maratha warriors on the outer façade of the base are absolutely magnificent. Opposite Akhileshwar temple steps lead up to Ahilyabai temple which is adorned with engraved pillars and sculpted mythological figurines. The temple offers nice views of the serene Narmada.
Further up from the temples, a narrow road leads to REHWA society that works with the local weavers of Maheshwar. Maheshwari hand-loom sarees which are made here are quite popular for its fabric and reversible border.
The palace of Ahilybai Holkar is referred as Rajwada and is located ahead of the temples. While a portion of this has been converted into a hotel, the other half is open to public. Lined with wooden pillars, this is where the queen lived and ruled. Presently it represents a museum with stories, history and collectibles of the royal family. Outside the palace is a huge statue of the queen, Ahilyabai Holkar.
From the ghats, one can take a boat ride along the Narmada to soak in the serenity of the surroundings and for a panoramic view of the Ahilya fort.
- The fort is open from 7 AM TO 7 PM everyday.
- Avoid weekends if you would like to take photographs devoid of crowds.
How to reach Maheshwar:
Maheshwar is 95 Kms from Indore, which has the nearest airport and major rail head. There are buses and taxis that ply between Indore and Maheshwar. Indore is well connected to other major cities across the country.
Food and Accommodation in Maheshwar:
There are a few cafes and restaurants in Maheshwar, apart from small eateries. The town also has many hotels and a couple of resorts which cater to all type of budgets.