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Ahilyabai Holkar: Story of The Brave Maratha Warrior

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Updated On: 27 Jul 2023

Ahilyabai Holkar: Story of The Brave Maratha Warrior

Ahilyabai Holkar is considered to be one of the finest female rulers in Indian history. She is the brave Maratha warrior who spread industrialization in the 18th century from the Malwa Kingdom. She is the hereditary noble queen of the Maratha empire in the early-modern era. She is greatly known for her wisdom and administrative skills throughout her life. She is the living embodiment of courage and bravery. 

Ahilyabai was said to be a great pioneer and builder of Hindu temples and constructed plenty of temples & dharmastalas across the country. All the pilgrimages present in India have some sort of contribution from Ahilyabai Holkar. She is a great inspiration to all the young women of India to be brave in the path they walk on. 

Early Life of Ahilyabai Holkar

Ahilyabai Holkar was born to the pair Mankoji Shinde & Sushila Shinde, a Marathi Hindu family of Chaundi village of Jhamkhed in Ahmednagar. She was born on the 31st of May, 1725. Her father was a reputable scion in the Dhangar family, a Patil. Although women were not allowed to attend schools back then, Ahilyabai’s father taught her to effectively read and write. 

One fine day, the acclaimed lord of the Malwa territory and commander-in-service to Peshwa Bajirao, namely Malhar Rao Holkar, spotted an eight-year-old girl at the temple service, feeding the poor and hungry, on his way to Pune through the village of Chaundi. The simplicity and strong character of young Ahilyabai impressed the Lord and asked her hand in marriage to his son Khanderao Holkar on Peshwa’s advice. She got married to Khanderao Holkar in the year 1733 at the tender age of 8. 

During the early years of marriage, Ahilyabai accompanied Khanderao in several campaigns. She was brought up by Gautama Bai who has a significant role in instilling the values into Ahilybai which made her the person she was. But her married life didn’t last for long, as her husband was killed during the siege in Kumbher fort. Devasted by her husband’s death, it is told that she wanted to commit sati but it was Malhar Rao who stopped her from doing that and instead taught her about administrative matters and trained her with military services. 

Reign of Ahilyabai Holkar

Being her strongest pillar in times of grief, Malhar Rao trained his daughter-in-law about kingdom affairs effectively and transformed her into a new lady. But even he passed away in the year 1766 and young Ahilyabai could witness the kingdom crumbling down with the passing of the old and strongest ruler, Malhar Rao. Male Rao, the grandson of Malhar Rao, and Ahilyabai’s only son, hence then ascended the throne. 

The last hope, Male Rao also died after a few months into his reign in 1767, destroying the kingdom’s structure. No one can imagine the grief, the pain she might have been going through after losing the important people in her life one by one. Her husband, father-in-law, and her only son died one by one. But she was not letting herself fall into the pits of darkness. She would stay strong and continue with the administration for the kingdom and the lives of her people. 

With a firm determination, she petitioned the Peshwa to let her ascend the throne, and on December 1767 she became the ruler of Indore. She had completely trained in the matters of military administration and military by the time she started her reign and effectively handled the kingdom matters. 

Despite the objections of certain nobles, she got the full support and encouragement of the Holkar army. Only after a year, she unleashed her powers and proved her leadership qualities as she protected the kingdom under her reign. She fought the invaders tooth & nail from attacking the Malwa kingdom. With her bravery, armed with weapons and swords, she courageously led the armies into the battlefield and slayed her enemies & invaders on the battlefront with four bows & arrows attached to the elephant. She, the brave queen of Malwa, along with her commander Tukojirao Malhar who is the adoptive son of Malhar Rao Holkar, defeated the enemies and protected their kingdom. 

Not only this, she was an intellectual politician along with an adept ruler. She with her thoughts and perceptions observed the bigger picture when the Peshwas could not even pin down the agenda of the British government. She even addressed a letter to the Peshwas stating the British embrace a Bear-hug. 

Achievements of Ahilyabai Holkar

Indore, the place she ruled, flourished progressively during her 30-year rule. From a tiny village to a big city, Ahilyabai is famous for her numerous road construction and built forts in Malwa. She even sponsored festivals and donated to Hindu temples. Not just in Malwa, her altruism is reflected in other regions as well. Wells, rest houses, ghats, and temples, starting from the Himalayas to pilgrim centers in South India, Ahilyabai helped in the construction of dozens of them. 

Kashi, Gaya, Somnath, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar, Jaganathpuri, and many other sites were embellished & beautified by her. She even established a textile industry in Maheshwar, which was the capital of Malwa. She transformed her capital into a literature, artistic, and industrial center. This place is now identified as the home for the popular Maheswari sarees. 

The most notable one among these was the rebuilding of the Kashi Vishwanath temple 111 years after its destruction. She was truly a woman ahead of her time and one of the bravest women, accomplished women of that era. Her reign is still considered a model of an effective and erudite government. 

Conclusion

During her 30 years of rule, she flourished the Malwa kingdom entirely through her wits and clever administration. Ahilybai Holkar is an impeccable person, who with her strong will and determination she became a role model to many out there. She was a highly respected, apt woman who is praised and loved by lakhs of people. She is an inspiring icon to countless women in today’s generation. She breathed her last on August 13, 1795. 

Soundarya Kamat

Soundarya Kamat is an inquisitive individual with a deep passion for the formation of names and an expertise in freestyle writing. Her relentless curiosity drives her to research and explore the intricacies behind the origins and meanings of names, unraveling the stories they hold. Holding a certifi... Read More

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FAQs

Who is Ahilyabai Holkar?

Ahilyabai Holkar is the famous Maratha Noble queen who reigned during the early-modern era.

What is Ahilyabai Holkar known for?

Rani Ahilyabai Holkar was a great pioneer and builder of Hindu temples. She established wells, ghats, roads, rest houses, and many more.

What are the three qualities of Ahilyabai Holkar?

The three qualities possessed by Rani Ahilyabai Holkar are wisdom, administrative skills, and impeccable courage.

When did Ahilyabai Holkar got married?

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