Maheshwar is situated on the banks of the river Narmada in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh which has been mentioned in the epics of Ramayana & Mahabharata. Maheshwar was a glorious city at the dawn of Indian civilisation. This temple town possess a treasure tove of beautiful temples that calms the soul and many man- made creations that pleases the eye.
1. MAHESHWAR FORT
The 16th century stronghold is well known for its exquisite engineering and tremendous view from the Narmada River. The massive Maheshwar Fort stands on a hill overlooking the Narmada on the South and Maheshwar town to the North. This place was developed by a biggest ruler Ahilya Bai Holkar and it was her private palace. This ancient monument also consists of temples dedicated to several incarnations of Lord Shiva. Many historians argue regarding the construction of this Fort which could have been done by a local ruler Subhandhu, some scholars conjecture that it was built as early as the Mauryan period. History states that the Holkar ruler, Malhar Rao captured the Fort in 1733. When his daughter-in-law, Ahilya Bhai Holkar ascended the throne, we see the Fort as it stands today which has 5 gates, of which two are used by the locals at present. Currently the Fort is a Heritage Hotel (See Hotels & Accommodation in Omkareshwar & Maheshwar) and is maintained by the last Maharaja of Indore, Prince Shivaji Rao Holkar. The Fort is also used as a popular location for shooting many movies like Asoka, Bajirao Mastani and the famous song ’Snehithane Snehithane’ from Alaipayuthey was filmed here as well.
2. RAJGADDI & RAJWADA
A life-size statue of Rani Ahilyabai sits on a throne in the Rajgaddi within the fort complex. This place is ideal for delving into the history of Maheshwar as it was due to this pious and wise queen who was the main architect of its revived importance. Other fascinating relics and heirlooms can be seen in other rooms which is open to the public. Within the complex is a small shrine which is the starting point of the Dusshera Festival that is carried out even today. The western section of the Maheshwar Fort houses the Rajwada, which is the royal court and residence.
3. GHATS OF MAHESHWAR (NARMADA, PESHAWAR, FANASE, AHILYA GHATS)
NARMADA GHAT: The Narmada Ghat was built in the 18th century by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar. It is believed Narmada River is the holiest of all rivers in India. The Narmada Ghat is always crowded with devotees who visit the Ghat in order to take a holy bath. This is a famous film location spot for many movies and songs as well.
PESHAWAR, FANASE & AHILYA GHAT: The Peshawar, Fanase & Ahilya Ghat line the Narmada River and flights of stairs lead down from the sandy banks to the River, wherein a kaleidoscope of rural India can be seen along these Ghats and sit in meditation. Lining the banks too are memorials in stone to the ’Satis’ of Maheshwar who perished on the funeral pyres of their husbands.
4. TEMPLES OF MAHESHWAR
Many temples of Maheshwar with their soaring spires are distinguished by their carved overhanging balconies and the intricate doorways.
AHILESHWAR TEMPLE: This beautiful temple combines many architectural styles built in stone. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and lies on the banks of the Narmada River. This temple also enshrines a deity of Lord Rama. Built by Krishnabai, Ahilyabai’s daughter, it is called the ‘Chhatri’ or cenotaph of Ahilyabai. The premise of this temple showcases extremely beautiful carvings of Maratha soldiers and elephants that draws the attention of any visitor visiting this temple. Aartis are performed mainly in the evenings and Bhajans (holy songs) are sung on every full moon day at the Ahileshwar Temple.
RAJA RAJESHWAR TEMPLE: The Raja Rajeshwar Temple is located on the banks of the serene Narmada River. This temple too is dedicated to Lord Shiva and it lies in the proximity of the Ahileshwar Temple. A beautiful stone paved way leads to the Raja Rajeshwar Temple from the Ahileshwar Temple. The ceiling inside the sanctum is decorated with multi-faceted mirrors. A unique point about this temple is the 11 lamps that are burning since pre-historic times to honour Agni. These lamps are constantly being lit by the people. Devotees donate ghee so that the lamps are constantly burning, approximately 1.25 kgs of ghee is needed to burn for 24 hours. One can witness these large diyas (lamps) on visiting this temple. This temple complex also has a small temple dedicated to Sahastraarjun- the mighty king who held Ravana for many months here.
KASHI VISWANATH TEMPLE: This temple is another renowned temple that is dedicated to the Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva. Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar built this temple which displays astounding architecture and beauty. As per mythology, devotees would be relieved of their pain and sorrows on the holy darshan of this Jyotirlinga. It is believed if one performs a darshan of this Jyotirlinga it is equal to that of all the Jyotirlingas in rest of India.
KALESHWAR TEMPLE: The Kaleshwar Temple is constructed in the 12th century AD located on the north shore of the Narmada River. The deity worshipped in this temple is considered as the form of Lord Shiva. This temple stands on an elevated platform which is an unusual shrine in glittering red colour. The temple premises of the Kaleshwar Temple has lush greenery which provides a feeling of extreme peace and calm for devotees.
JALESHWAR TEMPLE: The Jaleshwar Temple stands out as an important temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and this temple houses a deity worshipped as ‘God of Water’. Legend has it that this temple was constructed based on when Lord Shiva protected the earth from river Ganga’s impact when she fell on earth from heaven. The carvings and architecture of this temple is exemplary. An exception to this architecture is the carved overhanging balconies which gives the temple an entirely different look.
PANDARINATH TEMPLE: The Pandarinath Temple, unlike other temples is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. According to local legends, Lord Krishna incarnated as Pandarimnath on the eighth day of the new moon, which happened at the end of Dwapara Yug. The Puranas mention the worship of Lord Vishnu in the form of Pandarinath or Lord Vitthala. This temple is embellished with intricate carvings of idols from the Puranas.
TILBHANDESHWAR TEMPLE: Tilbhandeshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is known for its’ architecture exhibiting beautifully constructed doors and balconies. The most distinct feature of this temple is the increasing size of the idol of the deity residing in the temple. Mahashivratri festival is celebrated on the premises of this temple which is witnessed each year. It is said the devotees of Lord Shiva never return from Maheshwar without a visit to the Tilbhandeshwar Temple.
EK MUKHI DATTA TEMPLE: This is a newly constructed temple in Sahastradhara, also called as ’Shiva Datta Dham’. This temple is constructed in 30 acres and is approximately 10,000 sq.feet. This temple is situated at the banks of the River Narmada in it’s most serious, calm and adventured form. The main attractions of this temple are the beautiful idols of Lord Ek Mukhi Datta, Maa Narmada and Lord Ganesha. Sadguru Shri Narayan Maharaj and his disciple are building “Char Datta Dhams” in 4 different directions in India, two of which have already completed construction. The other three are in Kanyakumari, Kolkata and Himachal Pradesh.
Mandleshwar is a town and is termed as ‘ancient town’ of Madhya Pradesh which is also the political block of Maheshwar. This town is well known for its’ temples, fort complex and bathing ghats. The sarees of this town are also famous for their floral designs throughout the country. Mandleshwar means the home of Lord Shiva was earlier known as Mahishmati, was later changed to Mandleshwar. King Mahishman founded the city of Mandleshwar. Mandleshwar is rich in history and is believed to be a place where different battles were fought during Ramayana and Mahabharata.
6. MAHESHWARI SAREES
The Maheshwari Saree was introduced into Maheshwar 250 years ago by Maharani Ahilyabai and these sarees are renowned throughout India for their unique weave. A centre of prime handloom weaving since the 5th century, Maheshwar an ancient town on the banks of the Narmada was originally the capital of the Malwa during the Maratha Holkar reign till 1818. Legend has it that Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar employed a special team of craftsmen from Surat and Malwa and she had designed the first saree. This exclusive nine yard saree would be gifted to her relatives and guests who visited the palace. Following India’s Independence, the Maheshwari industry started to see a major decline. However, in 1979, the Holkars of this region founded the Rehwa Society to revive the dying craft. Rehwa aimed at providing the women of this region employment while saving this ancient craft as well.
Mostly woven in cotton, a typical Maheshwari Saree has a plain body and sometimes stripes in different variations. Some Maheswari sarees also have a reversible border, called as ‘bugdi’ which can be worn on both sides. A few authentic stores in Maheshwar to pick up sarees are Maheshwari Handloom Works on M.G. Road, Rehwa Society in Ahilya Fort and few stores in Laxmi Bai Marg, Teacher’s colony, Sahastraarjun Marg.
Navdatoli is a pre-historic place which is located on the other side of the Narmada River. The uniqueness of this site is the fact that it has housed many cultures starting from the Paleolithic Period to the end of the 18th century. The ruins of Navdatoli were discovered in 1950 during an excavation. Various artifacts from this forgotten period were found on the excavation site. The ruins of these houses were either circular or rectangular in shape of about 3m in circumference. The houses had bamboo walls and roof made of mud. The Navdatoli is a place worth visiting at Maheshwar.
8. DEVI AHILYA ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM, MAHESHWAR (KHARGONE)
Named after the prudent queen of the Holkar Dynasty, together with antique armaments, this grand and novel museum conserves some rare manuscripts and photographs of freedom struggle. The double-storey museum is demarcated into different galleries based upon the idols of various deities displayed.
Until the next time, Find RunCations near you using the Madhya Pradesh RunCation App- M.P. RunCation App