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About Ahilya Bai Holkar


The 300th birth anniversary of the Maratha queen Ahilya Bai Holkar — a great administrator and visionary with a spiritual inclination, was recently celebrated.


GS I: History

About Ahilya Bai Holkar

Personal Background
  • Full Name: Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar
  • Lifespan: 31 May 1725 – 13 August 1795
  • Title: Holkar Queen of the Maratha Malwa Kingdom, India
  • Reputation: Known as one of India’s most visionary female rulers, celebrated for her wisdom, courage, and administrative skills.
Early Life and Ascension to Power
  • Tragedy: Ahilyabai’s husband, Khanderao Holkar, was killed in the battle of Kumbher in 1754.
  • Further Loss: Twelve years later, her father-in-law, Malhar Rao Holkar, passed away.
  • Coronation: In 1767, a year after her father-in-law’s death, she was crowned the queen of Malwa. She ruled for the next 28 years, bringing justice, wisdom, and knowledge to her governance.
Achievements and Contributions
  • Peace and Prosperity: Under her rule, Malwa enjoyed relative peace, prosperity, and stability. Her capital, Maheshwar, became a hub for literary, musical, artistic, and industrial pursuits.
  • Welcoming Scholars: She welcomed notable figures such as Marathi poet Moropant, Shahir Ananta Gandhi, and Sanskrit scholar Khushali Ram into her capital.
  • Promoting Dharma and Industrialization: She played a significant role in spreading the message of dharma and fostering industrialization.
  • Textile Industry: Established a textile industry in Maheshwar, now famous for Maheshwari sarees.
Military and Justice


  • Military Training: Ahilyabai was military-trained and personally led armies into battle.
  • Appointment: She appointed Tukojirao Holkar as the Chief of Army.
  • Justice Administration: Known for her fair and impartial administration of justice, she even sentenced her only son to death for a capital offense.
Religious and Social Contributions
  • Temple Construction: A pioneer in building Hindu temples, she constructed hundreds of temples and Dharmashalas across India. Her notable contributions include the renovation and repair of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in 1780.
  • Landmark Decisions: Implemented significant reforms, such as abolishing the law that confiscated property from childless widows.
  • Public Audiences: Held daily public audiences to address and resolve the common man’s problems.
Legacy and Death
  • Philosopher Queen: British historian John Keay honored her with the title ‘The Philosopher Queen’.
  • Death: Ahilyabai passed away on August 13, 1795, at the age of seventy.
  • Succession: Her throne was succeeded by her commander-in-chief and nephew, Tukojirao Holkar.

-Source: Indian Express

June 2024