While turning the pages of history, Indian rulers have always astonished great minds. Their strategies, their culture, and even their mistakes are a part of great lessons. One of the biggest communities that hit the list of the powerful ruling dynasty of Indian states is Marathas. Marathas had their influence throughout the country and especially in Central India. One eminent name is Holkar Dynasty; the princely dynasty of Indore.
The Holkars took control of Indore state in the 1720s when Malhar Rao Holkar established the dynasty rule over Indore. Since then Indore witnessed great leadership with Holkar dynasty. Interestingly, the word ‘Holkar’ wasn’t a part of any ruler’s name but he ruler Malhar Rao was titled as Holkar Maharaja’ by his people and that is how this dynasty got its name. Indore state was also known as Holkar state and even till date the names ‘Holkar’ and ‘Indore’ are understood to be synonyms. So, let’s dig a little deeper into the past and find the hidden treasures and secrets of Holkar dynasty:
Malhar Rao Holkar was a valuable man of the Maratha army serving the Peshwas in 1721. He was then promoted as a Subedar, the post which is responsible for leading the army as a captain. His loyalty and efforts started paying off when Peshwa Baji Rao granted him 9 parghanas in the territory of Malwa region including Indore. Malhar Rao established his headquarters in Maheshwar and Indore.
During the Third battle of Panipat Marathas faced a hard time with the invader Ahmad Shah Abdali. The Marathas were soundly defeated and soon Peshwa no longer had his powers. This turn of events made Malhar Rao the general of Malwa region and then Malhar Rao Holkar established his rule and dynasty as ‘the Holkars’ in Malwa region.
In 1741, he began with a major construction in his territory named as the Rajwada near Khan river. He passed on his succession to his daughter-in-law Ahilyabai Holkar in 1766 and that year Maratha confederacy lost one of its five virtually independent rulers.
The Woman who ruled with grace – Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar
Ahilya Bai Holkar is a name in history that is known for bravery, wisdom and fine leadership. Her mentorship leads to a prosperous and peaceful Indore. Ahilya Bai shifted the capital of estate to Maheshwar. She was a patron of Hindu temples and existing proofs of her prolific buildings can be seen easily on the banks of Yamuna River and throughout Maheshwar. Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar was a merciful ruler and maybe that is why till date her name is remembered the most amongst the Holkar dynasty.
In 1795, the throne was passed to the adopted son of Malhar Rao Holkar, Tukoji Rao Holkar after the death of the noble ruler of Holkar dynasty. Tukoji Rao had been a commander under Ahilyabai for her entire rule and was very familiar with her ideology and strategies. He ruled with dignity and pride on the footsteps left by the Rani for 2 years. Unfortunately, in 1797 Indore lost another pristine member of Holkar dynasty.
Battles To Be Remembered
After Tukoji Rao his son Yashwant Rao Holkar (also called as Jaswant Rao) took control over the empire. Yashwantrao is another name that is known for his generosity, helping nature and bravery. He was given the title of ‘Maharajadiraj Rajrajeshwar Alija Bahadur’ in honour of his bravery that he portrayed by shaking hands with Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II to free Delhi from the British in the unsuccessful Second Anglo-Maratha War. The title was given by the grateful Shah Alam himself.
As the results of the war didn’t turn to be in Holkar’s favour, the outcomes were to be faced. A treaty was signed with the British; the treaty of Rajghat. It was signed in 1805 and since then he was recognised as a Sovereign King.
Later the state was ruled by many successors of the Holkar Dynasty. With time capitals also kept on shifting until the Third Anglo-Maratha War, when the territory was incorporated into the British Raj and the capital was shifted to Indore for the last time before the divisions of Independent India.
After the British rule, Holkars continued to rule Indore state for a long time with frequently changing rulers. The last ruler Yashwant Rao Holkar II ruled Indore state until India’s Independence. After 1947, Indore became a district of Madhya Pradesh state in 1956.
The jewels about Holkar Dynasty
To mention a single achievement of Holkar dynasty won’t be enough. Therefore, here is a list of facts that reflect the best images of the Holkar Dynasty:
- In 1818, when the final treaty was signed with British at Mandsaur, Bhimbai Holkar went against it and kept on attacking the British. This behaviour of Bhimbai Holkar inspired Rani Lakshmibai and she also fought against the British.
- Holkars were known for their style and royal lifestyle. The collection of expensive luxurious cars gave them a royal identity across the world.
- Not only motor vehicles but also exquisite jewellery pieces was a bright forte of the Holkar Dynasty. However, the most precious pieces were either stolen or auctioned after independence. It is estimated that the entire jewellery collection of the Maharaja in 1930s-40s was worth 40 million dollars.
- Indore was made the capital for a reason and that was because it is the most fertile region in Central India. Indore helped Holkars gain a stand amongst the most powerful royalties.
- The love for jewellery runs in the Holkar blood as Prince Richard Holkar, the present son of the Holkar dynasty has a degree in jewellery designing.
- The first female driver in India was from the royal family of Holkars; Maharani Chandravatibai Holkar.
- The Holkar dynasty was highly influenced by the lifestyle of Britishers and as a result, the remains of the lifestyle of Holkars after 19thcentury are inspired by British and French art and lifestyle.
- The exceptional and prestigious Maheshwari Sarees were found by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar herself in the 1760s and later her inheritor Richard Shivaji Rao Holkar along with Sally Holkar, his American wife founded the Rehwa Society for development of the rare and graceful art and culture of Indore and Maheshwar.
The history and lifestyle of Holkar dynasty have caught the eye of many historians and royal families across the world. If you feel like witnessing the grace of the royal family, Lal Bagh Palace, Rajwada and Kaanch Mandir in Indore are still equipped with the majestic feel. Know the Holkars, know your History!