Narmada Parikrama: Ahilyeshwar Temple, Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh

Maheshwar, the revered city of Punyashlok Ahilyabai Holkar located on the banks of the sacrosanct Rewa River is a treasure trove of Akhanda Bharat’s history, culture, art, literature, music, architecture and heritage. This tirthasthala of immense spiritual and religious potency has been at the centre of many important events from the Vedic Period.

 

This city named after Lord Shiva is true to its name with innumerable Shiva Lingas consecrated in the ghats, a tradition started by Rajmata where 108 Brahmins used to create 1,25,000 Shiva Lingas from black earth every day, worship them individually and then offer them to the Narmada River. This beautiful tradition is seen even today where 11 Brahmins make about 15,000 Shiva Lingas every day, worship them and then offer them to the sacred Narmada.

 

It is therefore unsurprising that this vibrant city is held at such high esteem by devotees who come from far-flung places to have darshan of Narmada Devi and Lord Shiva during the auspicious months of ShravanKarthikMargashirsha and Kumbha.

 

One of the oldest Shiva Temples of Maheswar located within the majestic Fort is the Ahilyeshwar Mahadev Temple venerated by artists, architects and historians for its exquisite craftsmanship. This temple in its different levels offers stunning views of the Narmada River through the highly ornate arched openings, windows and doorways.

 

There is an inscription of 16 lines at the entrance of the temple that states that this temple was built in honour of Punyashlok Ahilyabai Holkar by Maharani Krishnabai on the wish of Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar. The construction of the temple commenced on Karthik Shukla Dwadashi in the Vikram Samvat 1856 and was completed on Vaisakha Shukla Saptami Vikram Samvat 1890.

 

The temple has been built in the typical Maratha style of architecture with decorative chhatris, imposing shikharas and grand staircases. Every square inch of this temple has mesmerizing sculptures, intricately carved panels, figures of musicians, Maratha soldiers, elephants, birds, animals, dancers, women and gods and goddesses in black stone. There is an impressive Nandi in the sabha mandapa and Dashavatar sculpted on all the pillars.

 

There are winding stairs on either side of the garbha griha that lead one to the roof of the temple. There is a Shiva Linga consecrated in the sanctum sanctorum that used to be worshipped by Rajmata as well a marble statue of her in the centre, Lord Ganesha on the right and Devi on the left. Omkareshwar Mahadev, Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman have also been seated in the temple. There are Deepasthambas within the temple complex.

 

This temple of spellbinding beauty is a rich tribute to Rajmata‘s chastity, humility, courage, devotion, sacrifice, service and legacy.

 

Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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