The majestic fort and temple complex stands elegantly by the banks of the genteel Narmada. The structure is massive, and in very good shape belying its almost three-century-old existence. The steps leading from the ghats to the fort complex look imposing and stately. We are on a boat sailing along the Narmada in Maheshwar.
The drive from Indore has been comfortable, taking 90-100 minutes for the 91-kilometer run on a cool sunny morning in late January. The fields on both sides of the road are lush green, alive with cotton, wheat and sugarcane crops. The roadside shops in villages are filled with farm-fresh juicy red carrots, huge white cauliflowers and bright green peas.
Once in Maheshwar, the fort is the obvious destination. The 18th century structure exudes beauty, and charms you with its simplicity. Nothing is over the top here. The carvings, walls and domes in the complex showcase a grandeur that is subtle, understated. Perhaps they reflect the demeanour of the woman who ruled Malwa from these precincts from 1767 to 1795.
The Rajwada (Royal Residence) is built around a central courtyard having partially covered wide corridors on all sides. These lead into rooms. Today, these corridors give us an idea of what life must have been like in the days of yore. There is a life-sized statue of Ahilyabai seated at the head of one of the corridors. The floor is covered with comfortable mattresses under clean white sheets. Maybe Ahilyabai gave an audience to her subjects here. She is known to have had regular public meetings during her rule. Her palki (palanquin) and some arms are also on display. Another beautiful sculpture stands tall just outside the building.
|Photos by Lata|
Situated at a short distance from Indore - the industrial capital of Madhya Pradesh - Maheshwar makes for a good getaway either for just a day trip or for a relaxed stay over a few days. The state government runs a hotel, and there are some private hotels too. The fort houses a heritage hotel called Ahilya Fort. One can find five-star comfort in an ethnic setting here. As for us, we returned to Indore the same evening, drinking freshly squeezed sugarcane juice for the road. Laced with ginger and lemon, it was the sweetest, most delicious and refreshing drink I have had in a long time.