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  • Writer's pictureYogesh Kardile

Maheshwar - Mother Narmada & Maharani Ahilyabai

Beautiful designs of the Maheshwar ghat & Raginee

The word uttered by her was no less than a law. Every action of her was with full conviction and for the citizens of her kingdom. She was the ideal Queen of Maheshmati. Most of you must have seen this in an epic movie of Bahubali that changed the course of cinema in our country.

But there was a Queen who was like her in reality. Who used to be in Nauwari Saree ( Nine yard ) , and a ghongdi ( sheep wool rough cloth ) on her throne. The epitome of simplicity, able administrator, soft and straightforward at the same time. Her fame was across the nation for her just rule, donations to various religious and spiritual sites in country. Even the name of her capital was Maheshmati ( ancient empire ) that later on changed to Maheshwar. She was none other than Punyashlok Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar.

Window to the ghat

The interesting fact is she belonged to a village called Chondi from Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Daughter of Mankoji Shinde Patil she became daughter in law of the great warrior and ruler of Indore Sansthan Malharrao Holkar.

Unfortunately our school history books has little to offer us. But when we start travelling and read something extra facts starts to unfold. Then we come to know how complex is the fabric of our cultural relations across states. By omitting names masses will not know the reality. But when you travel to the areas touched by these gifted people you can see their imprint in the cities, villages, temples, caves, sculptures, art, books etc... The prosperous society that you see today in certain areas is the hard work done by them in the past. Sometime books are destroyed , paintings or photographs become faint. But the folklores , ballads , poems , temples , sculptures will tell you the tale. Even after centuries they will be the orator of that glorious past. This is what we came to know when we visited Maheshwar - Indore and Omkareshwar triangle.

Night engulfing the ghat

Let's come back to Maheshwar. It is well know for three things. Maheshwar Ghat on Narmada river , Maheshwari Saree and Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar. The ruler of Malwa region was from Maharashtra. But she fit very well into her chosen land and worked hard for her citizen. Lived life of austerity. A lady monarch surrounded by male kings across the country yet she made her mark by proving her mettle in all aspects that a ruler needs a just queen , able warrior , administrator , spiritual , patron to the art , artists , businesses . A thought leader who was ahead of the century in which she was living. Whatever destruction done by the Mughal emperor and invader was repaired across the country in her time. Most of the major temples has been built or repaired by her across Bharat.

Narmada Aarti

This vision resulted into the one of the most beautiful Ghats by Narmada River. A fort , temple and the vast open ghat ( stairs ) where people can relax, read , sing , perform their religious ceremony etc...

It is one of the best constructed site where tourist come form across the globe. We were left for Indore. And this was our day one from Pune. Surely we didn't want to miss the most famous Narmada Aarti.

It is similar to Ganga arti that happens in Banaras & Rishikesh. Here this is more peaceful and less crowd of course.

Offering to the river

Our friend Aaron Rayburn specially planned this trip to explore the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. A creative person by heart, globetrotter and spiritual seeker. The trip was bound to be exciting. It was the month of December the ideal one to visit Northern Bharat. But at the same time it's very cold. We reached to Maheshwar by 07: 30 p.m. It was already dark so hardly any crowd left on roads. Less shops were open. We rushed to the ghat. And what we saw was complete peace floating with the fog over the river. Even in the darkness people were offering Diyas ( prayer lamps ) to the river with flowers , some were feeding fish and Aarti started amidst this. Soft musical prayers to the mother Narmada.

This is the beauty of our land where we worship the elements like our mother. Aaron was quiet and enjoying the time over there. Once the prayers were over I was watching fishes gathering by the river bank with Anagha. and we decided to feed them next day morning. It was already late for dinner so we left. my tiredness completely gone because of the beautiful ambience.

Happiness : Aaron ( Lovejoy )

We knew sunrise from the riverside is a sight to behold. So we woke up early and left for the Ghat. Watching the beauty of the ghat was something different. For Aaron it will entirely new experience. We felt like we are characters from the historical era. Intricate carvings on the temple walls, arches and sculptures were very interesting. It was really cold and the sky was covered with fog. Sun was behind it till 11:00 a.m. Still we enjoyed the natural as well artist made beauty of the surroundings.

Some things are beyond a picture or words. One need to experience it . And the experience remain so fresh that mere mention of the place / person you feel alive. Being there was something like that. I cannot forget the waves of the river, lamps floating in the water, content expression on the face of a lady who was selling food for fish. Devotees bathing in the river and the meditating on ghats. Some place have that energy and here we experienced natural energy as well the art and cultural vibes through people and art work done by our ancestors who left it for everyone.

When we left the bank in a wooden boat the ghat started to look like a set from the movie. slowly the hustle bustle dimmed down and sound of the waves were prominent. Everyone became quiet and alter of the existence of own breath. In your visit do opt for a wooden boat. It will give you the much required peace, no pollution and less money .

The unique thing of Narmada river is this is the only river in the world that is circumnavigated by foot from millennia . Lakhs of devotees must have done this through the dense forests , beautiful village sea cities by the bank of her. It has a spiritual significance in the society of our nation. Some do it for enlightenment, fulfil a wish, adventure or a tradition. And even locals give them free food and shelter. This has made the tradition intact. We saw some devotees here on the ghats. And many were supposed to meet in our next destination.

Maheshwar Ghat from other side.

When we are on the other side we look at things from a different perspective. Our mind is at peace. Places like these offer us the much needed space to breath without any hindrance. Everyone is doing something yet all of them are relaxed. The baggage of work is already behind us and the fragrance of incense lighten up the spirit.

We are lucky to have spaces like this spread across our country where we do not need to pay money to be happy. Any country is made of of natural resources as well as people . They are the identity of that nation like Kings, Queens, Artists , writers , poets etc... They are our collective identity and the sign of the progress in respective walk of life. They became part of our being and through that they are immortal. That's why Maharani Ahilyabai is unique. A queen who is an inspiration to all girls from our land.

You must be having a fond memory from your childhood . Spending time with your friends or hiding from your parent in a temple outside of the village, or an excursion to the nearby river / a hill. Or your first trek to a fort. All these are your cherished memories your reality. This is because someone from your ancestors made it sure that they should leave something behind for their people or next generation. If there is nothing you must build something for your future generation. Maheshwar is a reminder of our fond past and also a beautiful present. It's our sacred culture and lifestyle.

This is what we learn by travelling to connect with our age old links.

Distances to Maheshwar from :

Dhule : 191 kms

Indore : 96 kms

Omkareshwar : 65 kms

Railway station :

Badwah : 49 kms

Indore : 96 kms

Airport :

Indore : 96 kms

Destination close by :

Mandu ( Mandav ) , Indore , Omkareshwar , Ujjain


Avoid : Swimming in the river unless you are a local. You can take bath close to the ghat stairs. That's good enough to enjoy your stay.

Avoid using diesel boats to reduce your carbon footprints.

Road from Omkareshwar - Burhanpur to Aurangabad is not in a good condition due to repair. So better to use Dhule - Indore highway.

Food : If you are a foodie then a visit to Indore Sarafa market it super must. Jalebi , Gulabjamuns, Paan with fire ( beetle nut leave) is must . So may varieties of food that you need to skip your lunch so that you will have empty space for different delicacies and variety of dishes.

Intricate flower design

Warriors on elephant


A green cafe

What else one want for the breakfast !

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