Ahilya was born on 31st May. 1725 in a village of Chondi in Jamkhed, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Her parents are Mankoji Shinde and Sushila Shinde. Her father was the Patil (Chief) of the village. Mankoji Shinde had made arrangements for Ahilya’s education at their house only. Malharrao was her father-in-law.
Malharrao Holkar was a part of the expedition to Delhi led by the Maratha Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath. In 1721, he became a soldier in the service of Peshwa Bajirao. With his abilities of courage and valor soon he was able to move up in the ranks and became a Sardar in the army of Peshwa. He had a commanding force of more than a thousand men. He was a part of the Marathas victory in the Battle of Delhi and in the Battle of Bhopal where Marathas defeated the Nizam.
Malharrao founded the State of Indore on July 29, 1732, when Peshwa Bajirao granted him the Twenty-eight and a half Parganas in Malwa. Once while traveling to Pune, he spotted Ahilya feeding hungry and the poor at a temple service. He was deeply impressed by the character and simplicity of Ahilya. He decided to ask her hand to his son Khanderao Holkar. At the tender age of 8, Ahilya got married to Khanderao Holkar.
However, tragedy struck the Holkar family during the siege of Kumher. While Khanderao was inspecting the troops an open cannonball hit him, killing him at the spot. When Ahilyabai was about to commit Sati, Malharrao Holkar refused to let it happen.
After the death of Malharrao in 1766 his grandson Male Rao Holkar became the ruler of Indore. He too died within a few months. After the death of her only son with Khanderao, Ahilyabai took the charge of the State administration and became the ruler of Indore. She ascended the throne of Indore on 11th December 1767.
She ruled Indore for nearly 29 years. She built numerous forts and roads in the Malwa region. She gave a huge amount of money as donations to the temples and sponsored religious festivals. Not only in her own kingdom Malwa but also outside of her kingdom she constructed temples, ghats, wells, tanks, and Dharamshala’s in the pilgrimage centers across the India. At the pilgrimage centers like Ayodhya, Somnath, Gaya, Kashi (Varanasi), Mathura, Kedarnath. She beautified various sites in different cities.
Indore developed from a small village to a beautiful city during her period. Following are some of the constructions built by Ahilyabai Holkar.
She constructed Ahilya ghat at Varanasi.
- Memorial of Malharrao at Alampur (Madhya Pradesh) along with Laxmi Narayan temple, Renuka temple, Hanuman temple.
- Construction of Shri Vishweshwar temple at Gomukhi temple Dharmashala at Amar Kantak, Madhya Pradesh.
- Construction of Vishweshwar temple at Anand Kanan.
She rebuilt the Nagnath temple at Aundh.
- Construction of Shrirama temple, Sarayu ghat, and Dharmashala, Shri Treta Rama temple at Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
- Construction of Shri Kedareshwar temple, Hari temple, Dharamshala, Kundas, the garden at Badrinath, Uttarakhand.
- Construction of Garibkhana at Bhimashankar.
- Construction of Ganpati temple, Panduranga temple at Belur, Karnataka.
- Construction of Changadev temple at Bhusawal, Maharashtra.
- Construction of Raj Ghat, Ram Ghat, Kunda at Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh.
- Construction of Chaudeshwaridevi temple at Chaundi.
- Construction of Mohtajkhana, Pooja House at Dwarakadhish temple at Dwaraka, Gujarat.
- Construction of Vishwanath temple, Annapurna temple, Bhairav temples at Gangotri.
- Construction of Vishnupad temple at Gaya.
- Construction of Grishneshwar Shiva temple at Grishneshwar.
- Construction of Kushavarta Ghat at river Ganga and Dharmashala at Haridwar, Uttarakhand.
- Construction of Ram Mandir at Jalgaon, Maharashtra.
- Construction of Dharmashala and Kund at Kedarnath.
- Construction of Shiva temple, Panchakund Ghat, and Laxmi Kund Ghat at Kurukshetra, Haryana, and many more throughout India.
She was always available to anyone who needed her ear. She used to hold a public audience every day where people can freely address their grievances. People were happy during her reign. She looked into the judicial matters personally and dispensed justice. She bought peace and order to her Kingdom and made her people happy. She was a capable, astute and excellent administrator. She made new laws for agricultural cess, revenue collection, etc., and put the affairs of the State in order. She strove to bring more land under cultivation, digging wells for farmers, promoting trade and industry, building lakes and tanks. She was 90 years old when she has died. Tukojirao Holkar the adopted son of Malharrao Holkar succeeded her. She was a noble queen who was ahead of her time.
Birth: 31 May 1725
Coronation: 11 December 1767.
Father: Mankoji Shinde
Mother: Sushila Shinde
Spouse: Khanderao Holkar
Son: Malerao Holkar
Death: 13 August 1795
Successor: Tukojirao Holkar
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