Born on May 31, 1725, in the village of Chaundi (current day Ahmednagar), Maharashtra, today marks the 297th birth anniversary of Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar, regarded as one of the finest female rulers in Indian history. Her father, Mankoji Sindhia (Shinde), a scion of the Dhangar family, was the Patil of the Village. At a time when women were not allowed to go to school, Ahilyabai’s father taught her to read and write.
Here are some interesting facts about the brave queen of Malwa:
- On his way to Pune, Malhar Rao Holkar, a commander of Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao in the Malwa territory, spotted an eight-year-old Ahilyabai at a temple service feeding the hungry and poor. Impressed by her, he married his son Khanderao with her in 1733.
- In 1745, Ahilyabai was blessed with a son, Male Rao but he died at the age of 19.
- In 1748, she broke societal norms by marrying her daughter to Yashwantrao – a poor but a brave man.
- In 1754, her husband was killed in the battle of Kumbher, leaving her a widow at the age of 29. But she was forbidden from committing Sati by her father-in-law, who became her pillar of support.
- After the death of Malhar Holkar, her son was instated as the king and after his death Ahilyabai ascended the throne and became ruler of Indore on 11 December 1767.
- Ahilyabai was a courageous warrior and a tremendous archer. She used to fight on the back of the elephant. He always kept his territory safe for many years with Bhils and Gonds who were always ready to attack.
- Ahilyabai ruled for nearly three decades and was given the title of ‘The Philosopher Queen’ by a British historian John Keyas. In her praise, he said: “Ahilyabai Holkar, the philosopher-queen of Malwa, had evidently been an acute observer of the wider political scene.”