Sandwiched between pilgrim spot Omkareshwar and romantic favourite Mandu, the pretty and serene Maheshwar actually deserves a better status than that of a sideshow. It combines a wide and lovely looking Narmada, very clean ghats, tranquil temples; all guarded by a scenic fort and peppered with an interesting history. So, it’s time that you explore this quiet gem which falls in Madhya Pradesh.
Things to See and Do
Entering the well-kept fort, you can explore the Rajwada on the right. It’s a lovely 18th-century building which held Ahilyabai Holkar’s (the Maratha queen) living and administrative quarters. Her seat, various chhatris, and her personal temple can be seen here. The sleepy town is one of many gems of Madhya Pradesh which are yet to be explored.
Fort timings 7 am-7 pm
The Rewa Society is a weavers’ cooperative which has workshops in the fort. See the famous Maheshwari saris being woven here and pick up a few too.
Stairs lead down from the fort to the gracefully proportioned, grey-stone Ahilyeshwar Temple, a Shiva temple, which includes a shrine of Ram on the premises. The carved façades are pleasant and the figurines of elephants and Maratha soldiers provide novelty.
Just a minute away from Ahilyeshwar, up a lovely stone-paved path, is the Rajarajeshwara Temple, famous as the temple of the 11 Akhand Jyoti Deepak or eternal-flame lamps. Steps from here lead down to a small, well-maintained stretch of ghats, which abound with Shivalings and Nandi shrines while the Narmada sways to the beat of the dhobis washing clothes.
How about some boating experience on the pristine Narmada river? Motorboats on the Narmada can be hired for INR 400 per 15 mins from the Ahilyeshwar Temple ghat. To reduce pollution, the Ahilya Bai Trust offers free 45-min rowboat rides from 8 am-6 pm.
Ahilya Bai Trust: Mob-+91- 9229125261
Where to Stay and Eat
There are a few good accommodation options in Maheshwar and most of the hotels have their in-house restaurants so you may not find stand-alone eating options in the town except Laboo Cafe, a lovely spot where you can indulge in dishes like poha, aloo paratha and sandwiches. Some of the recommended hotels are Ahilya Fort and Narmada Retreat.
This lesser-known place by the river Tapti, where Mumtaz Mahal died and was initially buried, is a worth- exploring spot on the Indore circuit (180 km South of Indore). Founded by the Faruqi king Nasir Khan in 1400, it was captured by Akbar in 1600 and became a Mughal base.
Distance from Maheshwar: 170 km (around 5 hours).
Getting to Maheshwar: Nearest airport: Indore (91 km/; 2.5 hrs), linked to Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, etc. Taxi from Indore charges approx. INR 2,500-3,300 to Maheshwar
Rail Nearest railhead: Indore Junction, linked to Delhi, Mumbai and other major cities.
Road: Maheshwar is an easy 3-hour drive from Indore and you get good buses to reach here.
Take the road less travelled when you pick Maheshwar as your next vacation destination.
Photo credits: Ahilya Fort (official website) and flickr user : dalbera (Burhanpur)