Maharani AhilyaBai Holkar was a great ruler. She was the ruler of Indore for many years. At that time Indore was a part of the bigger Maratha Empire. She was a courageous ruler. Her rule in Indore is considered as the golden age in the history of Indore.
Maharani Ahilya is a woman who is remembered for courage, nobility and saintly behaviour. She is one of the women who has worked hard throughout her life and earned great reputation for whatever she has done. She is remembered not only because she went against the societal norms but she inspired the other people through her deeds and actions.
Life of Maharani AhilyaBai Holkar
Ahilya was born in the year 1725 on May 31 in a village called Chaundi. This village is today present in the district of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. She belonged to the Dhangar community. It was also known as Dhangad community and was known as the herding caste. She was the daughter on Mankoji Shinde. He was the Chief of the village at that time.
During that period of time women education was not given importance and they were not allowed to go to schools. But still Mankoji himself taught her to read and write. Once, Malhar Rao Holkar came to the village of Chaundi. He was the Commander of Peshwa Bajirao and also the Lord of the Malwa territory.
When he came to the village, he saw Ahilya present in one of the temple service in the village. He found her to be noble, strong and faithful. So he made up his mind to take Ahilya to their territory and get his son Khande Rao married to her.
According to him his son did not have strong character. Thus it can be said that Ahilya’s entry in the history of India was an accidental one.
In the year 1737 she was married to Khande Rao. At this point of time Malhar Rao Holkar who was her father-in-law became more famous. His fame and fortune increased to a higher level. After this Malhar made a palace in Indore and encouraged many traders and merchants to come and settle for trading.
He even made Maheshwar which was a town on the banks of river Narmada. He did this by promising the craftsmen, merchants, weavers and officers that he would provide them with land and houses. He even worked for their security and safety. After a few years Ahilya made Maheshwar her capital which made the palace more famous.
Malhar became very rich and had many extra lands, forts and ground. This happened because he got many grants and rich tributes from the nearby kingdoms as he used to help them.
But the life of Malhar and Ahilya took a great turn when Khande Rao died. Both of them became very sad. But Malhar did not lose hope. He knew that his daughter in law had the ability and skills. He even trained her to handle the state and its governance.
He taught her about the political aspects and always kept her informed about it. Once she went to judge and weigh the strength of the enemy which was done by Maxim- Least power and greatest weight. She did this because her father-in-law had asked her to do so.
When Malhar died, Ahilya’s son was made the King but his rule could last for just eight months and then he died while fighting in the battle. Later, she got to rule the kingdom by requesting the Peshwa.
Maharani Ahilya’s Reign and Administration
Maharani Ahilya was known for her justice and fairness. Any person who wanted her help could easily go and talk to her about it. She used to hold public audiences daily. Tukoji Rao Holkar was appointed by Ahilya to become the chief of the army. She already knew how to handle legal matters.
So, she could easily refer the cases to courts due to arbitration or equity problem or whenever it was required. There were continuous wars near her territories of Malwa. But inspite of all these, her territories were not disturbed and attacked and her power was still stable.
Her administrators and ministers were always loyal to her because she did not change them. They were the same ones during entire period or rule. She was fair with everyone. But she gave punishment to the ones who worked under her and sometimes turned out to be either unfair or cheating in their work.
But she was never like this. She made it sure that she was gentle, fair and straightforward in all the state affairs. All the people listened to her, gave her respect and were obedient as she was calm, honest, had pure heart and were of devout nature.
She never made any new rules and regulations to satisfy people and keep them happy. She only focused on common sense in which religion was an important part. Whenever there was any sort of war, she managed to maintain peace and harmony through diplomacy and statesmanship. When she was in reign, the state’s revenue increased.
Ahilya followed her routine very strictly. She would give her time for praying before the day started. She would listen to the scriptures after which she would give food and alms to many Brahmins. She was a pure vegetarian. She would pray again after having her breakfast and then take a short break.
She used to go the durbar in the afternoon from two to six. Then she would have a light meal and do some religious exercise. After this she would handle the business matters from nine to eleven. She had respect for all the religions but she was greatly devoted to Lord Shiva.
Whenever her signatures would be needed in any royal proclamation, the words “Shri Shankara” would be seen near the signature. She encouraged the poor to engage themselves in farming and trading so that the problem of theft and crime would be reduced.
The forest tribes were employed by her and they were paid properly for it. They were employed so that they would protect the travelling merchants from any sort of harm or problem. She was a humble woman who never wanted people to praise her. This is why she did not support the books and poems which were written to praise her.
Works of Maharani AhilyaBai Holkar
Indore turned out to be beautiful city because of Maharani AhilyaBai Holkar. New roads and forts were built in Malwa. Many Hindu temples and festivals were sponsored by the Maharani herself. Apart from this, tanks, temples, houses and wells were also built. Ahilya did all these at her on cost.
The widows could now adopt children and get their husband’s wealth. The capital Maheshwar became an important centre of music, art, literature and industrial enterprise. The sculptors, artists and craftsmen were given honours and salaries and a textile industry was made in the capital.
The traders and bankers became rich because of her help. She was overjoyed by all this. But she never claimed their wealth. She worked for the betterment for everyone. It did not matter for her whether the person belong to a high caste or to a low one.
She not only focused on her dominions but she tried her best to restore the Hindu shrines which were destroyed by the Islamic invaders. She maintained peace, prosperity and harmony in her state by being wise and holding a strong hand.
She took care of the soldiers’ family who were loyal or the ones who died while fighting in the battle. She respected everyone who worked for her, whether they were the officers or the clerks. She is known for her charitable works in the entire country.
Death of Maharani AhilyaBai Holkar
Maharani Ahilya died in the year 1795 on August 13th in her capital Maheshwar. She was of the age of seventy. Thus, the rule of Maharani Ahilya came to an end. Tukoji Rao Holkar I who was her commander-in-chief took over her rule after her death.
The Republic of India issued a stamp on August 25th in the year 1996 in memory of her and give honour to her greatness. People remember her for her fairness, selflessness, sincere devotion and piety. She was generous to all her subjects.
She always worked for their welfare. She earned great reputation during her reign which will be an inspiration for the future generation.