Ahilyabai Holkar, the Inspirational Queen of Malwa

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Queen of Malwa, Ahilyabai Holkar

Ahilyabai Holkar was one of India’s most renowned female leaders. She reigned for nearly three decades and reached unprecedented heights of prosperity. Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar was bestowed upon the title ‘The Philosopher Queen’ by British historian John Keyes. This blog is a small tribute to the life of Ahilyabai Holkar and his endless contribution to the thriving of Malwa!

Ahilyabai’s Early Life and Education

Ahilyabai was born on May 31, 1725, in the Maharashtra hamlet of Chamundi. Her father, Mankoji Sindhia (Shinde), was the district chief. He made certain that his child could read and write, especially because people weren’t allowed to attend school years ago. Ahilyabai did not come from a royal family, yet her rise to the throne was nothing short of a miracle. On his journey to Pune, Malhar Rao Holkar, an acknowledged Malwa lord, noticed an eight-year-old Ahilyabai at a religious ceremony serving the starving and destitute. 

He decided to seek permission to marry his son Khanderao Holkar after being deeply affected by the little girl’s deed of compassion and dignity. At the early age of eight, Ahilyabai wedded Khanderao Holkar in 1733. The young girl’s groom was slain at the war of Kumbher in 1754, rendering her a widow at the age of 29. Her father-in-law, who became her most steadfast supporter at the moment, forbade her from doing Sati. She redirected her sadness when she chose to take issues into her arms for the benefit of the empire’s management and the welfare of her subjects. She took the throne and became empress of Indore on December 11, 1767, after requesting the Peshwa following her son’s demise.

Also Read: The Saga of Savitribai Phule, India’s First Lady Teacher 

Her Contribution to Malwa

Although there was some opposition to her ascending the throne, her troop of Holkars stuck by her and backed their lady’s authority. Here’s Ahilyabai’s contribution to Malwa and the future generations:

Leading the Army to War

Less than a year into her reign, the valiant Holkar queen defended her realm, driving off attackers from ravaging Malwa. She led an army into war, equipped with daggers and weaponry.

Subhedar Tukojirao Holkar was her army advisor, and she nominated him as chief of the armed forces.

A Skilful Architect and Leader

Other than being a courageous princess and a capable ruler, the Empress of Malwa was also a learned diplomat. When Marathi Peshwa couldn’t narrow down the English objective, she saw the wider issue. Throughout her 30-year reign, Indore grew from a small hamlet to a thriving metropolis. She was well-known in Malwa for erecting several fortresses and roadways and supporting festivals and donating to various Sanctuaries.

Encouraging Spirituality 

Outside of her realm, her generosity was evident in the creation of hundreds of shrines and rest areas spanning from the Great Himalayas to religious sites in the south. According to the Bharatiya Sanskritikosh, the Holkar princess also enriched and adorned many locations. Maheshwar, her capital, was a mosaic of scholastic, spiritual, creative, and economic triumphs. She welcomed luminaries such as Marathi poet Mo in her kingdom.

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A Woman Ahead of Her Time

Ahilyabai, a lady way progressive for her time, broke several traditions for the betterment of her family. She married her daughter Muktabai to Yashwantrao, a brave but poor man after he succeeded in defeating the dacoits. However, her last sorrow was when her daughter became a sati after the death of her husband. She was also military trained and was considered capable enough to run civil and military affairs. Her father-in-law wrote her a letter in 1765, illustrating her abilities. Here are the lines that it mentioned:

…proceed to Gwalior after crossing the Chambal. You may halt there for four or five days. You should keep your big artillery and arrange for its ammunition as much as possible… The big artillery should be kept at Gwalior and you should proceed further after making proper arrangements for it’s expenses for a month. On the march, you should arrange for military posts being located for protection of the road.

Lessons to Learn from the Life of Ahilyabai Holkar 

That was all about the queen of Malwa, Ahilyabai Holkar. She has rightfully been an inspiration to those who wish to have big dreams in life and a heart to pursue them. For more such inspiring content, follow Leverage Edu and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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