Situated overlooking the ghats of River Narmada, Ahilya Fort was built in the 1700s by Queen Ahilya Bai Holkar and the renovations made in this structure at the advent of the 21st-century, have transformed it into more than just a historical structure. A one-of-a-kind guest residence now, Ahilya Fort Heritage Hotel in Maheshwar fulfils your childhood fantasy of being a royal with no responsibilities and lots of fun! Your weary faces, after covering almost 100 km distance between Indore and Ahilya Fort, will turn upside down as you enjoy these 7 things here, apart from the early morning yoga sessions and sweet dreams in royal chambers.
Enjoy boating on the River Narmada
The scenic view of River Narmada can be relished if you get the room-with-a-view, however, you can always make your way to the ghats to witness the simplicity of daily activities like taking a dip, fishermen setting off on their boats and locals doing their chores. You can also undertake a boat ride to Baneshwar Temple to watch the sun setting as you glide down the river.
Walk amidst nature in Naodatodi & Bothu
If you want to spend some time in an authentic Indian village, then after almost a 20-minute boat ride across the Narmada River, you will step into two sleepy villages of Naodatodi and Bothu. Standing in contrast to the bustling Maheshwar town, you can enjoy pleasant walks through the village as you capture it all on your camera!
Tour the weaving facility of Rehwa Society
Established by the Holkars in the late '70s, the not-for-profit Rehwa Society functions with the objective of reviving the ancient hand-weaving craft of Maheshwar and giving employment to women. You have to walk for five minutes from the Hotel to reach this centre, which employs almost 80 weavers and boasts of an in-house dye facility.
Time: 10 AM to 6 PM (closed on Tuesdays)
Traverse the city ruins of Mandu
Almost an hour away from Ahilya Fort Hotel, on the edge of Malwa plateau, are the ruins of the 15th-century fortified city of Mandu. Famed as one of India's most romantic sites, the buildings here are scattered over 60 square kilometres of forests and they make for picturesque visual frames. When here, history enthusiasts can treat themselves with a tour of the Royal Enclave built around a lake and the tomb of Hoshiang Shah, which is believed to have served as a model for the Taj Mahal!
Pay obeisance at Omkareshwar
Driving upriver from Maheshwar for approximately 80-minutes will lead you to an important Hindu pilgrimage site- the temple of Lord Shiva in Omkareshwar. This temple is most revered by devotees of Lord Shiva, among the 12 famous shrines, also known as the 'Barah Jyotirlinga'. Further, you can even undertake a side trip to Bakawa- reported to be the only place in India that handcrafts shivalings.
Observe the architectural nuances of Baji Rao Samadhi
Perched above the Narmada River in the village of Rewa Khedi, is the scenic chattri or cenotaph of the 18h-century Peshwa Ruler- Baji Rao. Located about an hour away from the Ahilya Fort, a visit to Baji Rao Samadhi can be combined with a trip to Omkareshwar, for they lie in each others' vicinity.
Participate in the Lingarchan Religious Ceremony
Performed every morning since the time of Queen Ahilya Bai Holkar, Lingarchan is a daily ritual dedicated to Lord Shiva. If you too have a religious penchant, then you can watch 11 pandits seated just below the breakfast mandap of the heritage hotel, painstakingly making shivalings out of earth. Almost a thousand shivlings are made and this process culminates into a puja performed for the protection of the inhabitants of the Holkar state.
Time: 8.30 AM to 9.30 AM (daily)
Ahilya Fort has more to offer than what meets the common eye, as an exploration of its corridors will introduce you to the maharajas that once ruled the state of Holkar. Whether you are a history buff, an art admirer or a nature lover, a weekend spent here is what your soul needs to rejuvenate! So pack your bags as Alexa plays "Azeem-o-shan Shahenshah" in the background to put you in the mood for a royal weekend.