Context: The Maharashtra Government has asked the district administration to submit a proposal to Renaming of Ahmednagar as ‘Punyashlok Ahilyadevi Nagar’, after the 18th century Malwa queen, Ahilyabai Holkar.
Renaming of Ahmednagar Background
- In August 2022, the Maharashtra Assembly unanimously passed two separate resolutions to rename Aurangabad as Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar and rename Osmanabad as Dharashiv.
About Ahmednagar District
- Location: Ahmednagar district is situated in the middle of western Maharashtra.
- Important rivers: Godavari and Bhima Rivers.
- Climate: Hot semi-arid climate and the district known mainly as a drought prone area.
- Important crops:
- Rabbi Jowar, bajra, groundnut, monastery, soybean and moong in Kharif season.
- Jawar, wheat and gram in Rabi season.
- Sugarcane is the major cash crop of the district.
- Ahmednagar district is still known for its identity as a leader in the cooperative sector.
- The district has been a part of some prominent kingdoms, starting from 240B.C, when the vicinity is mentioned in the reference to the Mauryan Emperor Ashok.
- The Rashtrakuta Dynasty, the Western Chalukyas, and then the Delhi Sultanate ruled over the region in the medieval period.
- During Delhi Sultanate period, the rule was not direct, and a revolt by Afghan soldier Alladin Hasan Gangu led to the establishment of the Bahmani kingdom in the Deccan.
- After some time, Ahmednagar (then known as Nizamshahi) became one of the five independent kingdoms to emerge from that empire.
How did Ahmednagar First get its Name?
- In 1486, Malik Ahmad Nizam Shah became the Bahmani Sultanate’s Prime Minister.
- He fought back an attempt by the king to dislodge him from power, and defeated the army of the Bahamani kingdom near Ahmednagar in May 1490.
- Finally, in 1494 he laid the foundation of a city close to where he defeated the army, on the left bank of Sina River, and named it after himself: Ahmednagar.
Who was Ahilyabai Holkar (1725 –1795)?
- Birth: Born in Chondi village of Ahmednagar to the village head Mankoji Shinde, on May 31, 1725, Ahilyabai was one of the few women rulers of Medieval India.
- Emergence as a ruler:
- When she was eight years old, Malhar Rao Holkar, the army commander to Peshwa Bajirao, is believed to have spotted her at a temple service in Chondi.
- Impressed by her devotion and character, he decided to get his son, Khande Rao, married to her.
- Ahilyabai took control of Malwa after her husband’s death in the Battle of Kumbher against the king of Bharatpur in 1754.
- She excelled at administrative and military strategies under the guidance of her father-in-law.
- After the death of her father-in-law and son a few years later, she petitioned the Peshwa to become the ruler, backed by the support of her army.
- Significant Contributions:
- Peace and stability in Malwa: During her reign, Malwa was never once attacked, when at that time the whole of Central India was facing a power struggle. Under her rule, Malwa remained an oasis of stability and peace.
- The city of Maheshwar: Under her rule, the city of Maheshwar became a literary, musical, artistic and industrial centre, and she helped establish a textile industry there, which is now home to the famous Maheshwari saris.
- Temple building: Her role in the restoration of Hindu temples is often emphasized.
- From Gangotri to Rameshwaram, and from Dwarka to Gaya, she spent money on rebuilding temples destroyed under the Mughal rule.
- In 1780, she had the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi rebuilt, nearly a century after Mughal king Aurangzeb ordered its destruction.
- The Somnath temple, repeatedly destroyed over centuries, was restored in 1783 by the Maratha confederates, with significant contributions from Ahilyabai.
- Apart from temple building, she also supported the construction of resting lodges for travelers, and of public ghats.
- John Keay, the British historian, gave Ahilyabai Holkar the title of ‘The Philosopher Queen’. During her reign, she spread the message of dharma and promoted industrialisation in the 18th century.