While sleek five-star hotels and modern vacation homes definitely have their perks, sometimes nothing quite fits a stunning heritage property. Something about the sense of history that permeates the walls; the old character of the restaurants or the narrative-steeped crevices of the suites – is inimitable. The 250-year-old Ahilya Fort Heritage Hotel, encircled by the towering walls of the 16th-century Maheshwar Fort, fits that bill exactly. With stunning views of the Narmada River and the ghats that surround it, cool shaded verandas and stone walkways, the space puts the ‘idyllic’ back into the phrase ‘idyllic getaway’.
Many may find that the astonishing and calm surroundings escape the endless hustle and bustle of the city enough, but for many, the draw is history too. Adding to this cultural and historical draw are the properties of the New Holkar Cultural Center (HCC), created to preserve the rich history and histories of the Holkar royal family, in particular the revered 18th century Queen Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar, who ruled from Maheshwar. The center focuses its efforts on three areas: research and documentation; communication and publication; and create a rewarding experience for visitors to Maheshwar. The third and final is what a guest of the property can participate in.
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You can take guided walks of the fort and historic Maheshwar district to gain a better understanding of the history of Holkar, or cruise the Narmada while learning about the structures and their past, as well as the ghats along the river. Sandip Dahisarkar, renowned art historian and indologist, is the cultural consultant with a research history tracing various facets of Marathi history and culture which makes him an undisputed authority.
Textile enthusiasts can both buy directly from and attend the weavers of REHWA Company (a Holkar sponsored NGO that supports weaving of Maheshwari fabric). It’s an engaging day, which adds a layer of learning and immersion. All topped off, of course, by an evening by the pool with an organic gourmet meal. It’s a holiday, after all.