Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022

Kashi Vishwanath | Modi Mentions 18th-Century Maratha Queen Ahilyabai Holkar. Who Is She?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday mentioned Maratha Queen Ahilyabai Holkar during his inaugural speech at the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor. Who is the 18th-century queen whose statue has been erected inside the corridor?

Kashi Vishwanath Dham illuminated ahead of its inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Varanasi, on Sunday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday inaugurated the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh restoring around 40 temples in the area to their earlier glory. In 2014, after coming to power, Modi had promised to transform Varanasi into Japan’s Kyoto, a city of temples.

Seven years later, the ancient city of Kashi has indeed seen multiple waves of transformation in terms of reviving temples and ghats.

During his inaugural speech, Modi drew a close comparison with 18th-century Maratha queen Ahilyabai Holkar. Ahilyabai is remembered and revered for being the greatest constructor of temples and preserving the same during her lifetime and the BJP has now attempted to portray Modi as the Hindu leader, who is the closest figure to Ahilyabai.

Long-forgotten for her contribution to preserving India’s heritage, Ahilyabai’s name has suddenly found a place following Modi’s speech at Kashi Vishwanath Corridor.

Ahilyabai rebuilt the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in 1776 that was earlier plundered and desecrated by Mughal emperor Aurangazeb.

ALSO READ: Kashi Vishwanath Corridor | A Look At Varanasi’s Transformation Under PM Modi

Who is Ahilyabai Holkar?

Born on May 13, 1725, in the village of Chaundi, in present-day Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar was the Holkar Queen of the Maratha Malwa kingdom.

Ahead of her times, the Maratha queen was the builder of many Hindu temples and Dharmashalas throughout India.

Ahilyabai, also referred to as Rajmata Ahilyabai Holkar, was not born into a royal lineage. She was only 8 years old, when the acclaimed Lord of the Malwa territory, Malhar Rao Holkar, spotted her in a temple feeding the poor. Mesmerised by her empathy, he betrothed her to his son.

After losing her husband at 29, she tried to give up her life at the ancient practice of Sati. However, her father-in-law stopped her.

Ahilyabai was an educated woman, even at a time when women’s education was a far cry. She was homeschooled by her father. Perhaps, it was because of her knowledge and wisdom, later in life, after the demise of her father-in-law and son, she took matters of her court into her own hands and remained determined to not let the Malwa kingdom fall like a pack of cards.

She ascended the throne and became the ruler of Indore on December 11, 1767. Under her regime, Indore prospered for almost 30 years.

She was succeeded by her commander-in-chief, Tukoji Rao Holkar I, following her death at the age of 70.

ALSO SEE: Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project

A pioneer of Hindu temples

Besides being a queen, Ahilyabai was also an erudite politician who was responsible for reviving and adorning various sites including Ayodhya, Somnath, Kasho, Haridwar and so on.

She is fondly remembered for building hundreds of ghats and temples in pilgrimage centres in and around her kingdom.

She was also a lover of literature, art and culture.

Statue and mural of Ahilyabai in Kashi Vishwanath

A statue of Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar has been installed in the sprawling campus of the Kashi Vishwanath Dham, which was bedecked with flowers for its inauguration on Monday.

The current structure of the temple was constructed by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar around 1780, and in the 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had got it crowned with golden 'shikhar'.

Huge posters of Maharani Ahilyabai have been put up in the premises of the corridors on the occasion, paying tribute to the Holkar queen.

(with inputs from PTI)