The vast and epic history of Maheshwar
Maheshwar was, is, and will always be Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar’s city! Rani Ahilya Bai decided to shift the capital of Holkar from Indore to the beautiful Maheshwar situated on the banks of the Narmada as she was a huge devotee of Lord Shiva and Maa Narmada. Maheshwar is a town in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh where wherever you are, you are never far from river Narmada. It is located 13 km east of National Highway 3 and 91 km from Indore.
Maheshwar is an ancient city situated on the north bank of the river Narmada. Maheshwar is a Hindi word meaning Great God which is an epithet of Lord Shiva. May people identify Maheshwar as Mahishmati, a place mentioned in Sanskrit epics like Mahabharat and Ramayan. You may even know Mahishmati from the famous movie ‘Baahubali’. Maheshwar is said to be built on the site of the ancient city of Somvanshya Shastrarjun Kshatriya. It is believed that King Shastrarjun kept Ravan captive here for 7 months.
The story goes something like this. One day King Sahasrarjun went to the river Narmada with his 500 wives for a picnic. Therein, when the wives asked for a vast play area, the King stopped the flow of the river with his 1000 arms. While they were all enjoying themselves, Ravan saw the dry river bed and thought of praying to Lord Shiva, so he made a sand Shivaling and started praying. When the wives were finished playing, the King let the water flow again which swept away the Shivaling which infuriated Ravan who then challenged Sahasrarjun and lost. The King dragged Ravan home and tied him up to his son’s cradle pole.
According to historical records, Maurya and Gupta rulers have also ruled Maheshwar during their time. After which the Delhi Sultanate and Akbar conquered it. Marathas reclaimed this beautiful town in the 14th century. And when Ahilya Bai Holkar took over Malwa, she moved the capital from Indore to Maheshwar. She erected numerous temples, a fort, and many ghats in Maheshwar during her reign.
During the reign of Ahilya Bai, 108 Brahmins used to make and worship 1,25,000 small Shivaling from black soil every day and offered them to Narmada. Today, 11 Brahmins make a total of 15,000 Shivalingas every day to worship them. You can observe this puja from 9 AM to 10 AM every day. If and when you visit Maheshwar, you must see this aarti.
Narmada is the life force of the city and is also known as Shankari because it is believed to have originated from the tears of Lord Shankar.
There are small temples and chhatris on the entire ghats of Narmada in Maheshwar which you can see from the top of Ahilya Garh. Although there are a total of 24 Ghats in Maheshwar, the main ghats are Ahilya Ghat, Peshwa Ghat, Mahila Ghat, etc.
The best living heritage of Rani Ahilya Bai is Maheshwari Sarees. The city Maheshwari sarees have become indispensable to each other. The livelihood of the majority of the city depends on the weaving of Maheshwari sarees. Wherever you go in Maheshwar, you can see these colorful saris scattered all around.