Who was Ahilya Bai Holkar?


10:41 AM

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The 300th birth anniversary of the Maratha queen Ahilya Bai Holkar — a great administrator and visionary with a spiritual inclination, was recently celebrated.

About Ahilya Bai Holkar:

  • Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar (31 May 1725 – 13 August 1795) was the Holkar Queen of the Maratha Malwa kingdom, India.
  • She is regarded as one of the most visionary female rulers of India. She is widely known for her wisdom, courage, and administrative skills
  • Ahilyabai's husband, Khanderao Holkar, was killed in the battle of Kumbher in 1754.
  • Twelve years later, her father-in-law, Malhar Rao Holkar, died.
  • A year after that, she was crowned the queen of Malwa kingdom. For the next 28 years, Ahilyabai ruled over Malwa in a just, wise, and knowledgeable manner.
  • Under Ahilyabai’s rule, Malwa enjoyed relative peace, prosperity, and stability, and her capital, Maheshwar, was turned into an oasis of literary, musical, artistic, and industrial pursuits.
    • She welcomed stalwartssuch as Marathi poet Moropant, Shahir Ananta Gandhi, and Sanskrit scholar Khushali Ram into her capital.
  • She was instrumental in spreading the message of dharma and propagating industrialization.
  • She established a textile industry in Maheshwar, which today is very famous for its Maheshwari sarees. 
  • She tried to protect her kingdom from plundering invaders.
    • She was military-trained and personally led armies into battle. 
    • She appointed Tukojirao Holkar as the Chief of Army.
  • She earned a reputation for administering justice fairly during her rule, without partiality or partisanship.
    • She sentenced her only son, found guilty of a capital offense, to death by being crushed by an elephant.
  • She was a great pioneer and builder of Hindu temples.
    • She built hundreds of temples and Dharmashalas throughout India.
    • Her most notable contribution was the renovation and repair of the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple in 1780.
  • She also made some landmark decisions during her reign, including the removal of traditional law confiscating the property of childless widows.
  • She held daily public audiences to help redress the problems of the common man.
  • John Keay, the British historian, gave the queen the title of ‘The Philosopher Queen’
  • She passed away on August 13, 1795, at the age of seventy. 
  • Her throne was then succeeded by her commander-in-chief and nephew, Tukojirao Holkar.

Q1: What is the Maratha Empire?

Maratha empire, early modern Indian empire that rose in the 17th century and dominated much of the Indian subcontinent during the 18th century. The Marathas were a Marathi-speaking warrior group mostly from what is now the state of Maharashtra in India. They became politically active under the leadership of Shivaji, their first king, in opposition to the Islamic rulers of the time. The formal Maratha empire began in 1674 with the coronation of Shivaji as Chhatrapati (“Keeper of the Umbrella”) and ended in 1818 after defeat by the English East India Company.

Source: When a Holkar queen gave India Ram Rajya