Grandeur of Ahilya Fort - A Converted Heritage Hotel


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Ahilya fort - A Converted Heritage Hotel in Maheshwar

Maheshwar is a historic fort town, a well-known pilgrimage site, and a home to traditional weaving. Maheshwar, also known as Mahishmati or Mahissatti, was one of the twin cities of Avanti State in the sixth century BC. The other city was Ujjain. The town was taken over by Ahmad of Gujarat in 1422, and Maheshwar was ruled by Akbar in 1601. Following Mughal decline, the Marathas took control of the Malwa region. The best known of Maheshwar's Maratha rulers was the queen Ahilya Bai Holkar, who made Maheshwar her capital in 1767. During her reign of 28 years, Maheshwar became an important centre of politics, commerce, and art. Maheshwar is considered famous for the Ahilya Fort constructed by Ahilya Bai for its grand architecture and history.

Digging deep into the History of Ahilya fort 

A hill with views of the Narmada River is where Ahilya Fort is located,  and the modern Maheshwar town can be seen towards the north of the fort. Archaeological evidence shows that a fort formerly stood here, however historians question as to who initially fortified the Maheshwar hill. Some historians credit the Paramaras to build the fort, while others credit Akbar. Others extend the fort's historical relevance to the 4th -6th centuries AD, or even to the Mauryan era (322-185 BC). According to recorded history, Malhar Rao Holkar assumed control of the fort in 1733 and made some minor renovations and minimal restoration. Later, Ahilya Bai Holkar, his daughter-in-law, reconstructed the fort to what it is today. 

The architectural grandeur of the fort 

The fort walls are very high, where it overlooks the Narmada river. These formidable walls are pierced with five gates, of which two are most frequently used: Kamani Darwaza and Ahilya Dwar (earlier Gadi Darwaza), which is the two largest amongst other gates. Breaking the monotony of the high walls are 20 massive bastions, built along the ramparts at regular intervals, of which the most imposing are Fateh Burj and Bangali Burj. All these bastions are topped with platforms which once held cannons. Tourists find it astonishing to witness these beautifully carved gates which take them back to that era. 

A road from Ahilya Dwar leads to a smaller gateway, beyond which is the royal palace, commonly referred to as Rajwada. It is a straight wooden building that captures the austere way of life of Maheshwar's illustrious queen, Ahilya Bai. There are bull, horse, and elephant statues made of wood close to the building's main entrance that emphasizes the beauty of the fort. The elephant represents the splendour of the Holkar kingdom, the horse its power, and the bull or Nandi, is Shiva's celestial avatar and the Holkars' patron deity. The central courtyard of the Rajwada is encircled on all sides by pillared verandahs. A tiny lake with a pedestal for the Tulsi tree on one end and a statue of Lord Krishna surrounded by bulls on the other sits in the middle of the courtyard. Ahilya Bai's prayer room known as Devpuja is located within the palace. A golden statue of Krishna as a child is positioned on a little swing that serves as the centre attraction of the room. 

Ahilya Fort Heritage Hotel

The part of the fort is now used as a Luxury hotel and is managed by the family members of queen Ahilya Bai. 

The hotel houses a large swimming pool nestled in the wall and could be one of the major draws for tourists. Visitors have the option of lounging poolside under a lemon tree shade. The petanque court, where the game is played using 18 th -century cannon balls, is just a few steps away from the pool. Here, guests can also experience massage treatment and for this, there is a separate room situated in the Lingaarchan area where guests enjoy the traditional Nimadi massage. 

A gateway near the main entrance of Rajwada in the hotel leads downwards to the holy Narmada, via the Ahilya Ghat, the largest of Maheshwar's many ghats, sculptured with lingas and Nandis. While you explore the fort, a not-to-be-missed boat ride to Baneshwar temple should be in your bucket list. Watch the sun setting as you glide down the Narmada on a hand-poled boat to the temple. Have a cup of tea and then release diyas as an offering to the river.

Reaching the majestic Fort

The Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport in Indore is the closest airport to the Ahilya Fort hotel (IDR). The fort can be reached in about two hours by car (95 km) from the airport. The closest major railway station is in Indore, which is connected to most major railway lines. From the railway station it is approximately a two hour car journey (96 km). You can also reach the fort via road, as it is well connected to state and national highways.