Maheshwar Mahishmati

By Sanjeev Nayyar | 2018

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1. Front view Ahilya Fort. Can be entered thru a flight of stairs. This 16th century fort is famous for its elegant architecture & spectacular view from Narmada River. Fort was conceived by Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar & was her residential place. Maheshwar was known as ‘Mahishmati’ in ancient times. It’s is derived from the name ‘Mahesh’ one of the names for Shiva.

2. Entrance Ahilya Fort. It is at a height. Today u drive up a road. As you enter is Ahilya School, go straight right for Rajwada before which is a very nice Labbooz’s Cafe. Had only poha that was well made, but loved the ambience & service. On your left enter the village – old style homes of which many now modern constructions.

3. In Rajwada sculpture of Ahilyadevi made by Uttam Pacharne. Pranams. Opposite that is her home. “She ruled ably for 28 years (1767 to 1795) and even led the army in many a successful battle. Ahilya Bai was a skilled archer and tales of four bows and quiver of arrows fitted at the four corners of her howdah (elephant seat) had become a part of the local folklore.”

4. On banks of Narmada are cenotaphs or memorials of Holkars locally known as chattris. Centre of pic Ahilyabai’s, right is Vithoji Rao. “It is also known as Ahilyeshwar Shivalaya, as its garbhagriha (inner sanctum) contains a shivalinga, along with a statue of Ahilya Bai. Built in Nagar style the black curvilinear tower of the cenotaph is capped with a brass finial."

5. Right of pic stairs from Rajwada. Chattri of Ahilyabai Holkar. “The chhatri built by her daughter Krishna Bai resembles more of a temple than a cenotaph.” Mandore Fort near Jodhpur has similar design cenotaphs. See reliefs on plinth. It has a deepstambh – Maharashtrian style. Entrance to REHWA Society is on right, where Maheshwari handlooms are made.

6. Ghats on banks of Ma Narmada, took pic from one end. River bank has many small temples & numerous lingams. Devotees pray and bath in the holy Narmada all day. Very clean. Ahilyabai commissioned 2 architects from Rajasthan to redesign and construct parts of Maheshwar fort. Album first covers exterior part of fort, next chattri exterior & lastly interior.

7. View of fort from boat and from another end. “The stupendous walls of the Maheshwar Fort rises straight out of the Narmada River to a height of more than 30 meters. The architect brothers Bhujdar and Gajdar turned the Maheshwar Fort into a Rajasthani palace, complete with arches, balconies and oriel windows.”

8. Ancient/prachin Rajrajeshwar Mandir/Temple. Was lucky went during morning aarti. Must visit, there is something special about the place. It is a 2 minute walk from Ahilyabai chattri. What is in inverted commas is from well-known travel writer Rangan Datta’s blog.

9. On the banks of the Narmada is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Note the temple in Kashi that has a similar name was built by Devi Ahilyabai Holkar and gold plated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

10. From one end of the chattris view of Ma Narmada and ghats. Centre of pic small brown structure in stone is Samadhi of Ma Saheb Ahilyabai. Flight of steps take you to the chhatris. Boating happens through the day. Wanted to click reflection of Ahilya Fort in the Narmada. Hopefully shall do some day.

11. Flight of steps take you to the chhatris. Walls on both sides has some lovely reliefs – do observe carefully. “This historic town weaves spirituality and folklore with the beauty of nature.” Some quotes from Madhya Pradesh Tourism site.

12. Arched gateway takes you to chattris. On top of the gateway are sculptured figures of musicians.

13. Close up of left side sculpture. Note sculptured figures of musicians. Missed taking a close up. Missed visiting Ek Mukhi Datta Temple ie about 6 kms away.

14. Loved this dress. Note the turban style and mozris or juttis. Juttis bottom coming up – this is more like Patiala style of today. Ahilyabai got Rajasthani workers hence their influence.

15. Around lunch time view of the ghats. To see pics Ahilyabai home and royal throne

16.“A centre of handloom weaving since the 5th century, Maheshwar has been producing the exquisite Maheshwari saris and fabric”. Do buy Maheshwari handlooms super. Saree on display. To see pics of products and recommended shops

17. Narmada Resort run by MP Tourism is a lovely place to stay. A co-operative society sells Maheshwari hand-woven products there. Ask for Mahesh 91 9752252544. I bought for wifey from here – she loved it.

18. View of one side of fort cenotaph wall and Ahilyabai chattri towering above. Seen similar chattris at Mandore Fort near Jodhpur too.

19. Typical Rajasthani design.

20. View of Vithoji Rao chattri and courtyard in front. Right is entrance to ghats. “Vithoji Rao was the younger brother of Yashwant Rao Holkar (ruled 1807-11)”.

21. Lower wall has elephant carvings on three sides. What you see is the rear side.

22. Elephants on either side, centre looks a Mother Goddess seated on a lotus, 4 hands, big ear rings, bangles, and one hand holding mala another do not know. Lotus design top and lower part of pic.

23. Wall facing the Narmada has lovely work. Lower part is man playing the flute, not sure if it is Sri Krishna. Top man with two ladies with his hand on the shoulder of one. Ladies wearing bangles, anklets, nose-ring and ear-rings.

24. Man woman in an embrace cum dancing pose with son. Very creative.

25. View of the holy Narmada – see boats. Great time to go is early morning or after 5 pm.

26. Elephant Frieze. Somewhere in the complex are these elephants bound in chains. Left has one fighter, right has two.

27. From the cenotaph of Ahilyabai you see the cenotaph of Vithoji Rao. It was a Sunday and lots of people.

28. Floral and geometric frieze. Plinth wall of Ahilyabai chattri. Do offer your pranams to Ma Saheb.

29. Another elephant in cenotaph of Ahilyabai.

30. Exit gate of Ahilyabai chattri. Centre is Ganesha. Either side are guards. Front you see Nandi, the vehicle o Siva, i.e. part of Vithoji Rao chattri.

31. Courtyard walls amazing sculptures. Left man playing tabla, centre is lady notice her dress /hair-do and big ear-rings, right looks like a violin being played.

32. Somewhere in the courtyard – left looks like mother blessing he daughter, next is wrestling, not sure if the third is hookah in man’s hands and last looks like husband / wife.

33. As I walked out of the Rajrajeshwar Temple & towards the ghats saw this old styled home with tulsi in front. Next time I visit Maheshwar hope to just walk through the lanes and enter such homes. Loved Maheshwar. Every time I visit return & say ‘Yeah Dil Mange More’. Aum Namah Shivay.

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