India is a country of diverse cultures and beliefs and is famous for its unity in diversity worldwide. Different types of languages, food, festivals, architecture, religion, and culture lie within its twenty-eight states and eight union territories which add to the richness of India. India is one of the world’s most beautiful countries, with six different types of climates and different cultures to explore. In India, every village, town, or city has its own identity and importance. Maheshwar is one the towns of India which is located in Madhya Pradesh and famous for its rich architecture. Situated on the banks of River Narmada, Maheshwar was once upon a time the seat of Indore state in the Malwa region. 

Today, Maheshwar is a small town that offers an old-world charm. Famed for its beautiful architecture and handlooms, the city is slowly sinking into oblivion today.

An architectural review of location: Maheshwar - Sheet1
Sketch of the Ghat and Fort of Maheshwar. Year: 1880_©static.wixstatic.com/media

History of Maheshwar 

Historically the city was known as the Maheshmati and was the capital city of The Heheya Kingdom. Legendary king Kartavirya Arjuna whose mention can also be found in Rigveda, captured Maheshmati from the Naga kingdom. The city went into oblivion for centuries altogether, and though the Malwa region witnessed the rise and fall of many kingdoms, Maheshmati remained in oblivion until the times of Maratha Holkers. In 1771, Maheshwar became the seat of power for the Holker kingdom of Malwa. It remained the centre of power till 1818, when the capital was shifted to the new city of Indore by Malhar Rao Holkar III.

An architectural review of location: Maheshwar - Sheet2
Maheshwar Fort from River Narmada_©static.wixstatic.com/media

Architecture of Maheshwar

Maheshwar’s current shape was bestowed upon it by queen Ahilyabai. Her reign is regarded as one of the most significant periods in the history of India’s resurgence of Hindu sacred architecture, not just for Maheshwar but for all of it. She was responsible for erecting Maheshwar’s stunning ghats. She oversaw the construction of the Maheshwar fort, also known as the Ahilya Fort. A lovely waterfront was built, and ghats were paved. The intriguing aspect of the story is how she employed two Rajasthani architects to design and build the structures we can see today. With the help of Chatteris, Jalis, and customary stone carving, arches, and balconies, the two brothers, Bhujdar and Gajdar, transformed the Maheshwar fort into a Rajasthani Haveli. Maheshwar is reported to contain more than 100 temples. The majority of the temples are scattered along the right side of the river near Maheshwar ghat and the area around the fort, and it appears that they are narrating stories about Maheshwar’s long history.

An architectural review of location: Maheshwar - Sheet3
Vithoba Chatri of Maheshwar_©static.wixstatic.com/media

Social and Economic Dynamics of Maheshwar

Since the fifth century, Maheshwar has been a centre for handloom weaving. One of India’s best handloom fabric traditions is found in Maheshwar. It is renowned as a hub for producing vibrant Maheshwari sarees. The Holkar family established the Rehwa Society in 1979 as an NGO to protect the regional handloom industry. This NGO helped the town’s textile industry by providing jobs for women. Over 100,000 meters of high-quality fabrics are produced annually by the society’s approximately 130 weavers. A historical structure in Maheshwar houses the weaving centre. The Rewa Society also operates a low-cost health program and offers free education to the children of weavers. There are only a few more modest local businesses engaged in the weaving of sarees and other textiles.

An architectural review of location: Maheshwar - Sheet4
Weaving art of Maheshwar through traditional tool_©mptourism.com/images/point-of-interest

Religious and Culture Dynamics of Maheshwar

Maheshwar is a culturally prosperous town and its importance is described in Puranas and throughout history. It is a religious town and the people here are simple and pleasing. Nag Panchami, Gudi Padova, Teez (Hindu New Year celebrations), all Mondays of the Shravan month (DOLA of Kashivishwnath on last Monday, bhang is served as prasad of Shiva), Mahashivratri, Samoti Amavas, and all other Indian festivals are just a few of the many festivals and celebrations held in Maheshwar. There are numerous attractions, including the Rajwada-located gold swing. Additionally, Maheshwar features a temple dedicated to Goddess Vindhyavasini Bhavani, one of Goddess Parvati’s 24 Shatipeeths.

Every year, the Swaadhyaaya Bhavan Ashram (located in Mahalaxmi Nagar, Maheshwar) organizes the Mahaamrityunjaya Rath Yaatraa in the city of Maheshwar on Sunday immediately preceding Makar Sankranti (i.e., the Sunday just before the date when the Sun is about to enter the sign of Capricorn according to the Indian Astrological / Sidereal calendar). As the first of its type in the world, the Mahaamrityunjaya Rath Yaatraa was started by Shri Harvilas Aasopaa for the benefit of humanity. The yatra, which begins at Swaadhyaaya Bhawan Ashram and concludes at the banks of the sacred river Narmada, is intended to invoke the blessings of Ayurved Murti Bhagwaan Sadaashiv Mahaamrityunjaya (who is regarded as the primordial and supreme doctor)

Festival Celebration at Maheshwars_©img.naidunia.com/naidunia/ndnimg

Conclusion: Enlightening the Maheshwar

Maheshwar is a little town located on the banks of the river Narmada. It is most known for these two things. The first one is Holkar queen ‘Ahilyabai’. She is linked with the monarch of the Malwa Maratha dynasty. The second one is woven Maheshwari sarees. It’s a typical destination for Indian tourists from India as well as foreign. Maheshwar is a laid-back city today that searches for importance in its history. Architects, designers, and history fans who want to see the beautifully crafted structures this location has to offer are the main visitors. Many people now still primarily work in the endangered Maheshwari handloom industry. The city’s architecture has recently attracted unexpected economic interests, and because of its superb shoreline, it is increasingly being used as a filming site. Also, due to extensive government promotion for the town, the tourism of the location is gradually increasing and boosting the economy of the town.

Image 6_Morning vibes of Maheshwar’s_©rediscoveryproject.com/wp-content/uploads

Reference list

urbanarchoffice (2022). Maheshwar & It’s Architecture. [online] UrbanArch Foundation. Available at: https://www.urbanarchfoundation.com/post/maheshwar-architecture [Accessed 19 Oct. 2022].

Wikipedia. (2021). Maheshwar. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maheshwar [Accessed 29 Aug. 2021].

‌Bajpai, S. (2021). Maheshwar: Soaked in Architecture and Spirituality. [online] India Currents. Available at: https://indiacurrents.com/maheshwar-soaked-in-architecture-and-spirituality/ [Accessed 19 Oct. 2022].

reDiscoveryProject (2017). Maheshwar: A glimpse into the old town by the Narmada. [online] The reDiscovery Project. Available at: https://rediscoveryproject.com/2017/06/13/maheshwar/ [Accessed 19 Oct. 2022].

Image list

  • Sketch of the Ghat and Fort of Maheshwar. Year: 1880. https://static.wixstatic.com/media/86b65a_3c82ea65293a456988dcce198a2ba2aa~mv2.jpeg/v1/fill/w_925,h_601,al_c,q_85,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,enc_auto/86b65a_3c82ea65293a456988dcce198a2ba2aa~mv2.jpeg
  • Maheshwar Fort from River Narmada. https://static.wixstatic.com/media/86b65a_1ecf71b7dec94428974581fc802b7ace~mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_804,h_491,al_c,lg_1,q_85,enc_auto/86b65a_1ecf71b7dec94428974581fc802b7ace~mv2.jpg
  • Vithoba Chatri of Maheshwar. https://static.wixstatic.com/media/86b65a_1eea69e279614ee68d3cfa8b57c025d5~mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_925,h_694,al_c,q_85,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,enc_auto/86b65a_1eea69e279614ee68d3cfa8b57c025d5~mv2.jpg
  • Weaving art of Maheshwar through traditional tool. https://www.mptourism.com/images/point-of-interest/Rehwa%20society.jpg
  • Festival Celebration at Maheshwars. https://img.naidunia.com/naidunia/ndnimg/11112019/11_11_2019-nimar_utsav_maheshwar2_20191111_222630.jpg
  • Morning vibes of Maheshwar’s. https://rediscoveryproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DSCF2684.1-1.jpg
Author

Architect Mohd. Afzal Khan graduated in Architecture with Honors from Jamia Millia Islamia – New Delhi. He has been enthusiast to uncover in architecture research work with a boundless passion to know more about the same. He has been fascinated by the historic nature and interest to discover the same.

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