Ahilyabai Holkar was born on 31 May 1725 in the village of Chaundi, in the present-day Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra. Her father, Mankoji Rao Shinde, was the Patil of the village. During her time, women did not go to school, but Ahilyabai’s father made arrangement fro her primary education to read and write in the home itself.
Ahilyabai Was Pious from Childhood
Ahilya did not belong to any royal family, but by the twist of fate she became Ahilyabai Holkar, when Malhar Rao Holkar, a commander in the service of the Maratha Peshwa , stopped in Chaundi on his way to Pune, saw the eight-year-old Ahilyabai feeding the hungry and poor at the temple.
Malhar Rao touched by the young girl’s pious character, he decided to ask her hand for marriage with his Son, Khanderao Holkar. Both of them tied in a relationship in year 1733.
Widow at young age
But destiny has some other plans for the young Ahilyabai, as she lost her husband Khanderao in the battle of Kumher in 1754. She was widowed at young age of 21 years.
Ahilyabai was about to commit Sati, but her father-in-law Malhar Rao didn’t let it happen. He wanted Ahilyabai to look after the Kingdom and considered her his only son. She was soon introduced to the military and administrative affairs of the kingdom.
Soon her strongest support Malhar rao also passed away after the 12 years of her husband’s death. Then Male Rao, the only son of Ahilyabai took over the throne but he too died early leaving Ahilyabai alone.
Although facing the three major losses of her husband, father-in-law and son, Ahilyabai didn’t let her down. She petition the Peshwa after her son’s death, to giver her some time to prepare herself to take over the administration of Malwa kingdom herself.
Became the ruler of Malwa
Finally on 11 December 1767, The Peshwa granted her permisson to rule the Malwa reign and became the ruler of Indore. Subhedar Tukojirao Holkar (Malharrao’s adopted son) as the head of military matters.
There were some section of the society who opposed her as a ruler of Malwa, but her army of Holkars stood by her side and supported her as their Queen.
Soon the people witnessed the bravery of lady Queen of Malwa, who fought with the foreign invaders. She herself headed the battle armies in battlefield with swords and weapons. She didn’t spare her enemies slaying them with her bows and archers.
Caring Ruler Ahilyabai Holkar
Indore prospered from a tiny village to to flourishing city, under her 30-year of rule. She preserved the Hindu Sanskriti by building and repairing the historical sites of India like Kashi, Gaya, Somnath, Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Kanchi, Avanti, Dwarka, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar and Jaganathpuri.
There’s a legend that she never used public funds to meet their personal and family expenses. They had their personal fund from their private property. Like a mother she cared for her people, she was available there in the court to hear everyone grief and who wanted an ear to hear his/her problem.
She was 70 when she died and was succeeded by her commander-in-chief, Tukoji Rao Holkar I.