Of the many tourist attractions of Central India, Indore is a destination that reflects the art, culture and history of state of Madhya Pradesh. During the 16th century , the city was a trading hub between Delhi (North India) and the Deccan (South India). Though modernised today, Indore still echoes the greatness of the Holkar family who ruled it from 1724 until India became independent in 1947.
Step into the world of the Holkar dynasty of the Maratha Empire and their exquisite abode, the Rajwada Palace. Located in Indore’s Khajuri Bazaar in Madhya Pradesh, the 18th-century palace is not only a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Royal Holkars but also a reflection of the city’s diverse history
The Holkar Dynasty residence, Rajwada Palace, built in 1747, now houses a fascinating legacy and history.
Rajwada (Holkar Palace) is located in the heart of Indore, and easily reached by taxi or auto-rickshaw. The Palace is surrounded by a buzzing marketplace called the Khajuri Market. Here, visitors will find clothes, food stalls, jewellery and religious artefacts. It can feel overwhelming to move between the congested traffic, vendors and commuters, right outside the main gate of the palace.
If you’re traveling from another city in India, Indore is well-connected by road, rail, and air. The city’s airport is 10 kilometres west of the city and has daily flights to major Indian cities.
Two national highways, NH-3 and NH-59, meet in Indore, and the city has a well-connected railway station.
As you step inside the Rajwada, it feels like a sudden pull into a time machine that transports us from the hectic hustle of modern Indore into the life and times of the Holkar Dynasty that prosperously ruled Indore for almost two centuries.
Inside the Palace
The palace has an open courtyard in the middle, surrounded by building structures on all four sides. A 360-degree view from the midst of the palace courtyard reveals the fact that each side is unique and depicts Maratha, Moghul, French and South Indian architectural design styles. Tourists are allowed to visit only few rooms of the palace upto to the second floor. Malhar Rao Holkar, the founder of Holkar dynasty initiated the construction of the palace in the year 1747 AD. The palace has witnessed many royal ceremonies, cultural programs and political events since then.
The intricate carvings, arches and unique window styles called ‘jharokhas’ highlight the old-world charm found around Indore. As you make your way around the palace, a flight of stairs leads to the first floor, which is where the Holkar monarchs would have held their daily court.
The family were known for their acumen in winning battles, doing fair trade and restoring culture legacy. Over the years, the palace has witnessed both good and bad times. On one side it has pompously celebrated the victories of Malharrao Holkar’s Maratha conquests, but on the other hand it witnessed horrifying fires that set the palace ablaze on three different occasions.
The Holkar Gallery Museum
Just behind the main palace premise is situated the Holkar Gallery, a museum that houses artefacts from the Holkar royal family as well as those that celebrate Indore’s glory.
Tourists are expected to remove their footwear before entering and place their shoes on a rack. Since there are idols of Hindu deities, this is a mandatory ritual that must be followed.
It is a visual treat to view the stone and metal idols, portraits of the royal family, and get a glimpse of various artefacts depicting the life and times of bygone Indore.
The centrally situated garden that receives natural light from above, lights up the ground floor of the museum. Be sure to admire the fully grown holy basil plant that adorns the garden, along with Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesh idols in the vicinity.
The top floor of the gallery showcases swords, utensils, a weaving loom and a royal palanquin that summarises the life in the Malwa region of India in which Indore is situated.
One of the most interesting aspects of the museum is getting to know about the extraordinary rule of Queen Ahilyabai Holkar who ruled the state of Indore after the untimely death of her husband.
In those times, given the prevalence of strong patriarchal values, it was unusual for Indian women to be involved in politics and warfare. Malharrao Holkar, the queen’s father-in-law was liberal minded and known to be a man ahead of his time, who had unwavering confidence in her military and administrative skills. On the death of his only son, he requested his daughter-in-law ascend to the throne and continue the legacy of good and prosperous governance for which the Holkar rulers were known.
The last section of the museum hosts a photo gallery that showcases the role of the Holkar dynasty’s modern achievements related to town planning and contribution to war efforts during the 1st World War. Photos of the primitive railway systems of Indore, the coronation ceremonies and the war photographs paint a nostalgic picture for the visitors.
A photograph depicting soldiers from Holkar state army standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the French army, reveals the Holkar dynasty’s contribution to the victory of the Allied forces during the First World War.
Sound & Music Show
There is yet another tourist attraction that the tourism department of Madhya Pradesh has incorporated into a visit— a lovely sound and music show every day from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The life and times of Queen Ahilyabai Holkar is narrated in an hour-long audio-visual presentation that is projected on the interiors of the palace walls.
For every history, architecture, art and culture lover, the palace and the museum are an intellectual feast and a place to get inspired by the life and times of the Holkar dynasty of Indore.
Good to Know: It takes nearly 2 to 3 hours to explore the palace and the museum premise. After 3 p.m. is the best time to visit the palace so you can end the tour with an evening sound and light show.
Wow! Factor: The Holkar Gallery museum is home to the family temple of the Holkar Dynasty, and the altar is made up pure silver.
Tip: Car parking can be a problem near the palace area, but there is one public car park to the left of the palace, at Subhash Chowk, near Hanuman temple.
Author bio: Shraddha C Sankulkar
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