Maheshwar was a glorious city at the dawn of Indian civilization when it was Mahishmati, capital of king Kartivarjun. This temple town on the banks of the river Narmada finds mention in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Revived to its ancient position of importance by the Holkar queen Rani Ahilyabai of Indore. Maheshwar's temples and mighty fort-complex stand in quiet beauty, mirrored in the river below.
Today, Maheshwar is also known for its distinctive handwoven sarees called Maheshwari. meditation; in the rows of graceful women, who carry gleaming brass pots down to the holy, life giving river; in the ferry loads of villagers who cross and recross these surging waters. Lining the banks too, are poignant memorials in stone to the satis of Maheshwar, who perished on the funeral pyres of their husbands.
Maheshwar is a town in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh state, in central India. It is located 13 km east of National Highway 3 (Agra-Mumbai highway) and 91 km from Indore, the commercial capital of the state. The town lies on the north bank of the Narmada River.
The name Maheshwar comes from Mahesh, a name for Lord Shiva. The word Maheshwar in Hindi means abode of Lord Mahesh.
Maheshwar town is built on the site of the ancient city of Somvanshya Shastrarjun Kshatriya, and was the capital of king Kartavirya Arjuna,(Shree SHASTRARJUN) who is mentioned in the Sanskrit epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. Maheshwar was known as Mahissati (Mahishamati in Sanskrit) in ancient times and was the capital of Southern Avanti.
Maheshwar on the banks of the Narmada was capital of King Sahasrarjun. One day the King and his 500 wives went to the river for a picnic. When the wives wanted a vast play area, the King stopped the mighty river Narmada with his 1000 arms! While they were all enjoying themselves, Ravana flew by in his Pushpak Vimana. Downstream, when he saw the dry river bed, he thought it was an ideal place to pray to Lord Shiva. He made a shivalinga out of sand and started his prayers. When Sahasrajuna’s wives were done and they stepped out of the river bed, he let the waters flow. The voluminous river flowed down sweeping Ravana’s shivalinga along, messing up his prayers. Furious, Ravana tracked Sahasrajuna and challenged him. Armed to the hilt the mighty Ravana was in for a huge surprise. The mighty Sahasrarjuna with the 1000 arms pinned Ravana to the ground. Then he placed 10 lamps on his heads and one on his hand. After tying up Ravana, Sahasrarjuna dragged him home and tied him up to the cradle pole of his son. A humiliated Ravana stayed prisoner until his release was secured.
Even today, the Sahasrarjun temple at Maheshwar lights 11 lamps in memory of the event.
In Mahabharata, there is description of an unusual custom of non-prevalence of marriages in Mahishmati. As per the legend, there was a king named Nila who ruled over Mahishmati. King Nila had a daughter who was exceedingly beautiful. So much so that god Agni (fire) fell in love with her. She always used to stay near the sacred fire of her father, causing it to blaze up with vigour. And it so happened that king Nila's fire, even if fanned, would not blaze up till agitated by the gentle breath of that girl's fair lips. And it was said in King Nila's palace and in the house of all his subjects that the god Agni desired that beautiful girl for his bride. And it so happened that Agni was accepted by the girl herself. A secret love affair began between god Agni, who assumed the form of a Brahman, and the beautiful princess. But, one day the couple was discovered by the king, who became furious. Nila thereupon ordered the Brahmana to be punished according to law. At this the illustrious deity flamed up in wrath and beholding the terrible flame, the king felt terrified and bent his head low on the ground. The legend abruptly comes to a conclusion (perhaps due to narration changes it underwent in later centuries before being written) and from that time, the girls of the city of Mahishmati became rather unacceptable to others as wives. God Agni by his boon granted them sexual liberty, so that the women of that town always roam about at will, each unbound to a particular husband.
In the late eighteenth century, Maheshwar served as the capital of Rajmata Ahilya Devi Holkar, ruler of the state of Indore. She embellished the city with many buildings and public works, and it is home to her palace, as well as numerous temples, a fort, and riverfront ghats (broad stone steps which step down to the river).
Maheshwar has been a centre of handloom weaving since the 5th century. Maheshwar is the home of one of India's finest hand loom fabric traditions. Maheshwar is noted as a centre for weaving colourful Maheshwari saris. These cotton saris are weaved with distinctive designs involving stripes, checks and floral borders. The hand looms also make fabric material used for making kurtas and other clothings.
The origin of Maheshwari saris is traced to the establishment of Rehwa Society , an NGO founded by the Holkars in 1978 to give women employment and revive the town's textiles. About 130 weavers associated with the society produce over 100,000 metres of fine fabrics a year. The weaving centre is located in one of Maheshwar's historic buildings. Rehwa Society also provides a free school for weavers' children and runs a low-cost health scheme. There are few other small local organisations involved in weaving of saris and other fabrics.
Maheshwar is full of festivals and celebrations, some are: Nag Panchami, Gudi Padava, Teez (New year celebrations according to the Hindu calendar), All Mondays of Shravan month, (DOLA of Kashivishwnath on last Monday, bhang is served as prasad of Shiva), Mahashivratri, Samoti Amavas, and all other Indian festivals. There are many visiting places like gold swing is also their and it is situated at Rajwada.
Every year on the immediately preceding Sunday of Makar Sankranti (i.e. the Sunday just before the date when the Sun is about to enter the sign of Capricorn as per Indian Astrological / Sidereal calendar), Swaadhyaaya Bhavan Ashram (based at Mahalaxmi Nagar, Maheshwar) organizes Mahaamrityunjaya Rath Yaatraa in the town of Maheshwar. This Mahaamrityunjaya Rath Yaatraa was initiated by Shri Harvilas Aasopaa for the welfare of humanity, and is known to be the first of its kind in the world. The yaatraa intends to invoke blessings of Ayurved Murti Bhagwaan Sadaashiv Mahaamrityunjaya (who is regarded as the primordial and supreme doctor), and it starts from Swaadhyaaya Bhawan Ashram and culminates at the banks of the holy river Narmada.
The exquisite beauty of Maheshwar and river Narmada is captured in some Bollywood and Tamil movies. me of the movies shooted in Maheshwar including the movie "Ashoka" , Tulsi (by actor and director Sachin), Mahashivratri, A R Rehman's music video, Tamil movie Alaipayuthey's song "Snekithanea..." and " yaro yaro di..." directed by Maniratnam. Also starting episodes of Zee TV serial Jhansi Ki Rani were shooted here.In the 60's, Mythological film Mahashivratri's shooting was done here and many local artists were given a chance to act in that. Then Aadi Shankaryachary's shooting was completed in 1985. Many Film stars from Bharat Bhushan to Shahrukh Khan have visited Maheshwar and admired its rich culture and beauty. Also Yamala Pagla Deewana (Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol, Kulraj Randhawa come here for shooting) film's 50 minute shot done here at Bazar Chowk, Rajwada, Ahilyabai Chhatri, Ahilya Ghaat and many more location.
Maheshwar is a culturally prosperous town and its importance is described in Puranas and through history. It is a religious town and people here are simple and pleasing.