Ahilyabai Holkar Biography
Ahilyabai Holkar (1725-1795) was a great ruler and the Queen of the Kingdom of Malwa. Popularly known as Rajmata Ahilyadevi Holkar and she was born in 1725 in the village of Chondi in Maharashtra, India. She was the daughter of Mankoji Shinde who belonged to the Dhangar community, serving as patil of the village.
Her father educated her himself and she grew up living a humble pious life, when one day, her destiny changed forever to eventually see her become the ruler of Malwa in the 18th century.
Young Ahilyadevi’s character and simplicity impressed Malhar Rao Holkar, who then served under Peshwa Bajirao’s army as a commander. So great was his liking for the girl, that she was married to his son, Khande Rao, thus becoming a bride in the esteemed Maratha community of the Holkars. After her husband’s death in the battle of Kumbher in 1754, Ahilyabai was introduced to the administrative and military affairs of the state by her father-in-law, which saw her perform brilliantly under his guidance.
After Malhar Rao’s death, she requested the Peshwa to grant her the power to lead the administration of the region. His approval saw Rani Ahilyadevi take hold of the reins of the state in 1766, to become ruler of Malwa, with Tukoji Holkar appointed as her new military head. Receiving the full support of her loyal army, Ahilyadevi led them into several wars, whilst, she being a brave warrior and skilled archer herself, fought with valor atop elephant-back, even protecting her kingdom from the plundering Bhils and Gonds.
Rani Ahilyabai moved her capital to Maheshwar, constructing the splendid 18th century Maratha-architecture based, Ahilya Fort, on the banks of the sacred Narmada River. Besides her capital being an industrial enterprise for textile, it was also a thriving destination for literary, sculpture, music and arts, which saw Moropant, the famous Marathi poet, the Shahir Anantaphandi and Sanskrit scholar, Khushali Ram, being patronized during her era.
A wise, just and enlightened ruler who cared for her people, she was available to the aid of everyone holding a daily public audience in her court. During her glorious reign (1767-1795), Rani Ahilyadevi’s innumerable contributions made her a beloved and respected queen amongst her people in a prospering kingdom. She wisely spent the governmental money building several forts, rest houses, wells and roads, celebrating festivals and donations to Hindu temples.
Her feminine side saw her aid widows in retaining their husband’s wealth and in adoption of a son. Besides her transformation of Indore from an erstwhile village into a prosperous and enchanting city, she is also accredited with renovating temples. Her most memorable activities include the construction of numerous temples and pilgrimage centers across an area extending from the Himalayas to South India, at sacred sites like Kashi, Gaya, Somnath, Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Dwarka, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar and Jaganathpuri.
Ahilyabai Holkar’s magnificent and glorious rule ended when she passed away in 1795. In memory and honour of her greatness, the Republic of India issued a commemorative stamp on 25 August 1996. The citizens of Indore also instituted an award in her name in 1996, to be bestowed annually on an outstanding public figure, the first recipient of it being Nanaji Deshmukh.
Facts and Information about Ahilya Bai Holkar
Full Name Ahilya Bai Sahiba Holkar
Born May 31, 1725 at Grram Chaundi, Jamkhed, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India
About Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar ruled the Malwa kingdom in India.
Husband Khanderao Holkar
Father Mankoji Shinde
House House of Holkar
Coronation December 11, 1767
Reign December 1, 1767 to August 13, 1795
Predecessor Malerao Holkar
Successor Tukojirao Holkar I
Father In Law Malhar Rao Holkar
Death of Husband Her husband was killed in 1754 during the siege of Kumbher.
Accomplishments Ahilya Bai transformed Indore from a village to a beautiful city. Many forts and roads were constructed in Malwa under her rule. She made ghats, temples, tanks, wells and rest-houses in South India and across the Himalayas. Somnath, Kashi, Gaya, Ayodhya, Dwarka, Hardwar, Kanchi, Avanti, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar, Mathura and Jaganathpuri are some of the places developed by her.
Books in Marathi Punyashlok Ahilya, M. S. Dixit
Ahilyabai, Hiralal Sharma
Ahilyabai Charitra, Purshottam
Ahilyabai Charitra, Mukund Vaman Barve
Karmayogini, Vijaya Jahagirdar
Dnyat Adnyat Ahilyabai Holakar, Vinaya Khadapekar
In Popular Culture Devi Ahilya Bai is a movie featuring Mallika Prasad as Ahilya Bai.
A children’s park in Thane, Maharashtra is named as ‘Ahilyadevi Holkar Udyan’ in honour of Ahilya Bai.
Documentary The life of Ahilya Bai has been depicted in a documentary of 20 minutes made by Educational Multimedia Research Centre,Indore.