Ahilyabai's lesser known personality on display

Above: School children at the exhibition

DNA, 26th January, 2010

Various facets of the personality of the warrior queen, Ahilyabai Holkar, have been projected through paintings, photographs, maps and texts at an exhibition organised by FACT - India, a non-profit trust.

The event, organised in the hall opposite Mahatma Phule Museum on Ghole Road, Pune, will continue till January 30.

Ahilyabai Holkar ruled the Malwa kingdom during the 18th century. Born in Maharashtra, she was married to Maratha sardar Khanderao Holkar. After her husbands death in a battle in 1754, her father-in-law Malharrao Holkar persuaded her to undergo training in politics and warfare. She personally led armies to battle and was known for imparting justice. She has built various temples across India.

FACT - India chose to highlight the social reformer as the organisation feels that she has not been given the recognition she rightfully deserves.

Over 40 paintings depict the childhood and main incidents of Ahilyabais life. The paintings show armed Ahilyabai leading the troops and speaks about the person she was, a warrior queen. Her childhood, training in warfare, expeditions, formation of womens army, her justice to people, emotional blows like death of her husband and son, incident when her daughter decided to do sati have been showcased through the paintings.

The maps show the various works carried out by Ahilyabai during her rule. She built numerous temples, ghats, dharmshalas, wells, tanks, and bridges all over India. The map neatly marks, where which work was taken up. The copies of letters written to Ahilyabai by her father-in-law Malharrao Holkar have also been displayed. The letters show how Malharrao trusted Ahilyabais abilities.

FACT - India was started by French journalist Francois Gautier. The trust is involved in creating awareness about terrorism and highlighting the positive aspects of India.

Brave saga of Rani Ahilyabai comes alive

Above: H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar inaugurates an exhibition on Devi Ahilyabai Holkar, the warrior queen of India at Balgandharva Rang Mandir, Pune on 13th January, 2010

The Pioneer, 14th January, 2010

FACT has put together a first-of-its-kind exhibition depicting the life and times of the great warrior queen of Indore, writes Tiego Bindra

After the hugely successful exhibitions on Aurangzeb, which raised the hackles of communalists and their political mentors, and Shivaji, FACT - India has put together a fascinating exhibition on Rani Ahilyabai, the warrior queen of Indore. The show was inaugurated by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Pune on Wednesday.

“I knew that Ahilyabai had built the Kashi Vishwanath temple,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “but there are many facts about her which I discovered through this exhibition, such as her being a simple girl from a village and having raised a battalion of women.” Mr Prafull Goradia, a columnist with The Pioneer and sponsor of the exhibition, pointed out that “it was not men who repaired the damages done by invaders to temples, but a woman of courage dedicated to her country”.

FACT - India is managed by François and Namrita Gautier. The acronym stands for Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism. FACT - India not only fights against human rights abuses in South Asia - whether of Ahmadi Muslims and Christians and Buddhists of Bangladesh or the Kashmiri Pandits of India - but also highlights the greatness of Indian culture.

François Gautier said, “In spite of the many abuses on Indian women widely reported, nowhere in the world have women been so honoured like in India. Half of the deities are feminine and the unique concept of Shakti honours the feminine element in all things. Countries such as France or the US never had a woman as their top leader, whereas India had Mrs Indira Gandhi ruling with a strong hand.”

India has had many female rulers, warrior women and poet queens, but Ahilyabai Holkar commands tremendous admiration for her accomplishments during her 30-year-long reign. She was noted for her piety, for her administrative ability, for her keen interest in all her people and for an extraordinary amount of building at holy sites all over the country. Visitors to Varanasi know of the golden domed temple of Vishwanath, Lord of the World, in the heart of the city.

Ahilyabai, though a queen, led a simple life as can be seen by the recount of her daily routine: She rose an hour before daybreak to say her prayers. Then she had scriptures read to her, distributed alms and gave food to a number of poor people. Her breakfast, as indeed all her meals, was vegetarian. After breakfast, she prayed again, and then took a short rest. From two to six she was in her durbar; after religious exercises and a light meal, she again attended to business from nine to eleven. She did not neglect the defence of her motherland and employed a French officer to train four battalions of her army, so as to resist the march of the English troops in Gujarat in 1780.

Her life was marked by prayer, abstinence and work, with religious fasts, festivals and public emergencies affording the only change in this routine. Her devotion was to Shiv, although she respected all religions. “Shri Shankara” appeared on all royal proclamations along with her signature. In spite of all that is known about the warrior queen and all that she has left behind - timeless testimonies to her imagination and beneficence - she has not been given the recognition that she rightfully deserves.

Sri Sri blesses Indian History Museum

Above: Sri Sri planting the Peepul tree on the side of the museum on 12th January, 2010, Swami Vivekananda and Jijabai's birthdays. For the first time in the history of modern India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj will get the recognition he deserves and Indian History will be portrayed as it happened, not as it has been written by mostly British historians

13th January, 2010

Pune: The Bhoomi Puja (foundation stone laying ceremony) of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History was performed on January 12th by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Wagdaon, Pune. It was a most auspicious day as 12th is not only Swami Vivekananda’s, but also Jijabai, Shivaji’s mother’s birthdays.

We had erected a colourful pandal on top the land and laid down carpets and chairs. As Guruji arrived with a caravan of cars, the Pandits started chanting Vedic hymns. Guruji looked at the three concept panels which the architect had prepared, liked them and remarked that the roundness of the buildings would blend in the hilly terrain. He then proceeded to plan a Peepul, the tree of Knowledge, as indeed this is conceived not only as a museum of history, but also a place where students will come to browse in the libraries and scholars to fine-tune their researches.

Then Sri Sri began the puja. He made Namrita and François Gautier trustees of FACT - India (a new trustee, Mrs Gayatri Chauhan, FACT - India’s representative in Maharashtra for many years, has just been added), sit next to him. It was a moment of strong emotions and one felt that at last Shivaji Maharaj would be properly honored in his own territory and that something momentous was starting. Guruji then performed a small puja on the old stone taken from one of Shivaji’s forts, which will go in the foundation.

As Guruji left for other commitments, the four pandits continued the puja and all the Museum’s team, D. Jadeja, Namrita, François, Gayatri, Gautam and Anand, along with a few friends, sat quietly in concentration or meditation.

We now start fencing, tree planting, repair one of the abandoned small houses for a watchman and to store materials. As soon as the architect gives us the first plans, foundation will start, which should be sometimes beginning of March.

Sri Sri blesses Indian History Museum (Pictures)

Above: Sri Sri looking at the concept panels

Above: Sri Sri performing Bhoomi Puja on the very spot where the museum is going to be erected

Above: Sri Sri blessing an ancient stone taken from one of Shivaji's abandoned forts. This stone will now be kept preciously and will be exhibited at the entrance of the museum

Above: Vedic Pandits complete with the Bhoomi Puja, along with FACT - India's team