Maheshwar

Maheshwar is a city in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh state. The City lies on the north bank of the Narmada River. It was the capital of the Malwa during the Maratha Holkar reign till 6 January 1818, when the capital was shifted to Indore by Malhar Rao Holkar III. The word Maheshwar in Hindi means Great God, an epithet of Lord Shiva. It has a mention in the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. A glorious city which was known as ‘Mahishmati’, was the capital of southern Avanti at the time of King Kartavirya Arjun. A city famous for its temple, bathing ghats, mighty fort complex which stand in quiet beauty and splendour mirrored in the river Narmada and obviously its exquisitely woven ‘Maheshwari sarees, revived to its ancient position of importance by the Holkar queen Rani Ahilyabai of Indore, who transformed this land into a land of tranquility and prosperity. The economy is dependent on handloom weaving. The temperature here ranges from an average of 40 °C maximum in summer to 10 °C minimum in winter. Winter is the best time to visit Maheshwar.

Mythology: Maheshwar is believed to be built on the site of the ancient city of Somvanshiya Sahastrarjun Kshatriya, and was the capital of king Kartavirya Arjuna, (Shree Sahasrarjun) who is mentioned in the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. According to a popular legend, one day the King Sahasrarjun and his 500 wives went to the river for a picnic. When the wives wanted a vast play area, the King stopped the mighty river Narmada with his 1000 arms. While they were all enjoying themselves, Ravana flew by in his Pushpaka Vimana. Downstream, when he saw the dry river bed, he thought it was an ideal place to pray to Lord Shiva. He made a shiva linga out of the sand and began to pray. When Sahastrajuna’s wives were done playing and they stepped out of the river bed, he let the waters flow. The voluminous river flowed down sweeping Ravana’s shiva linga along, messing up his prayers. In Mahabharata, there is a narration of an unusual tradition wherein marriage as a civil institution was not universal in Mahishmati unlike in rest of Aryavarta. As per the legend, there was a Nishada king named Nila who ruled over Mahishmati. King Nila had a daughter who was exceedingly beautiful. So much so that Agni (lord of fire) fell in love with her which was reciprocated. The princess always used to stay near the sacred fire of her father, causing it to blaze up with vigour. And king Nila’s sacred fire, even if fanned, would not blaze until agitated by the gentle breath of her lips. Agni, assuming the form of a Brahman starts courting with the princess for long. But, one day the couple was discovered by the king, who became furious. Nila thereupon ordered the Brahman to be punished according to law. At this the illustrious deity flamed up in wrath and beholding the terrible flame, the king felt terrified and bent his head low on the ground. King hails Lord Agni and says he cannot punish a god who is responsible for the origin of Vedas, the source of all Knowledge and Dharma. Pacified Agni then grants a boon to Nishada, and the King requests for the protection of his kingdom from any invasions. Agni swears to protect his kingdom on the condition that the king should sanctify pleasure out of pure love a legitimate action in his kingdom. Liberated from the orthodoxy of marriage as a prelude, women of Mahishmati enjoyed the freedom that was then unheard of elsewhere in Aryavarta.

History: The city was founded by the King Maishman of the Som dynasty. Mahishmati was a very prosperous city and had connections with other popular ancient centres like Avantika, Patliputra, Paithan, Kashi (Varanasi), Bhadauch, Kutch etc. It had itself become a popular centre for spiritual, religious, administrative, literature, and cultural activities. There is a fort at Maheshwar that was constructed during the rule of the Mughal King Akbar. The Mughals were replaced by the Peshwas and in 1767 the Queen Ahilyabai of the Holkar kingdom made Maheshwar her capital city. Her rule continued up to 1795 since she defeated by British, the capital was moved to Indore.

Transport:

Airport: Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport (IDR) at Indore is the nearest airport to at a distance of 100 km. Indore is connected to major cities in India by air. It has direct air connectivity with New Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, Pune, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Raipur and Ahmedabad.

Rail: The nearest railway station is at Barwaha; located about 39 km from Maheshwar. Indore is the nearest major railway station which is connected to major Indian cities.

Road: Maheshwar is connected to major towns and cities of Madhya Pradesh like Indore, Dhar, Ratlam, Bhopal and Ujjain. A large number of state-run and private buses are available, connecting various cities.

Local: Auto rickshaws and taxis are available for transportation within the city. Tour operators provide vehicles for hire.

Tourist Interest:

Maheshwar Fort: This 16th-century fort is famous for its elegant architecture & spectacular view from Narmada River, this place was constructed by the greatest queen Ahilya Bai Holkar and was her residential place. This sprawling Fort now has turned into a luxurious 4-star hotel with very few luxury rooms for tourists who are coming to visit Maheshwar and its adjoining tourist attractions.

Ek Mukhi Datta Temple: It is also called Shiva Datta Dham and one of the newly constructed temples in Sahastradhara, Jalkote at Maheshwar. It is spread over an area of 30 acres whereas temple area is 10000 sq. feet.

Sahastrarjun Temple: It is also called Sri Somavamsha Sahastrarjun temple. The original temple was built in the 2nd century but was demolished in Muslim attacks. Later it was rebuilt in 13 century. Sometimes it is also referred as Sah-bahu temple.

Royal Ghats: To fulfil the unimpressive look of Ahilyabai Holkar’s cenotaph, her daughter-in-law Krishnabai gave special interest in building these impressive royal ghats. In most of the Maheshwar images, you will find pictures of these ghats from where tourists usually do boat ride in Narmada river.

Ahilya Mata’s Cenotaph: Main building of cenotaph is simple but its surrounding is even more beautiful and shows better sculpture work as it was developed later by her daughter-in-law. She commissioned two artisans brothers Bhujdar and Gajdar to redesign and construct both the retaining wall and the new cenotaph. In court, there is cenotaph of Vithoji Rao also which was Holkar prince. In middle of the court, it was Islamic looking domed structure. One of the gates of this court opens towards river Narmada.

The other places of interest are Rajrajeshwari Temple, Baneshwar Mahadev Temple, Ahileshwar Temple and more.

Tour Planner:

This tour planner is made on the basis of the location of the destinations. One can make changes as per their interest, convenience and accessibility and duration of the trip.

Day 1: All the places in Maheshwar can be covered in a day if stayed in Maheshwar.

Hotels: Online booking is always preferable for discounts in tariff. Hotels in Maheshwar are Kanchan Recreation, Hansa Heritage Hotel, Narmada Retreat, Ahilya Fort and more.

Read my experience in Maheshwar.

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