Maheshwar, situated on the north bank of river Narmada, has a dual personality. At first glance it seems like the epitome of tranquillity, with its many beautiful temples but a closer look reveals a humming handloom industry that caters to every part of the country.
As mentioned in the great Hindu epics ‘Ramayana & Mahabharata’, a glorious city which was known as ‘Mahishmati’, was the capital of southern Avanti at the time of King Kartavirya Arjun. A city famous for its temple, bathing ghats, mighty fort complex which stand in quiet beauty and splendor mirrored in the river Narmada and obviously its exquisitely woven ‘Maheshwari sarees, revived to its ancient position of importance by the Holkar queen Rani Ahilyabai of Indore, who transformed this land into a land of tranquility and prosperity. These sariees are famous throughout India for their excellent floral designs. Maheshwar is a town situated at the geological coordination of 22.11° North and 75.35° east, in the Khargone district of Central Indian State, Madhya Pradesh. The town lies on the north bank of the Holy River Narmada. The commercial capital of the state Indore is at the distance of 91 km from Maheshwar. A glorious city from a very old time, Maheshwar's temples and massive fort-complex presents an unusual charm of architectural grandeur. The city opt its name ‘Maheshwar’ from the great Lord ‘Shiva’, a grand lord in Hindu religion, which literally meant to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The ancient name of the city was Mahishmati, later it changed into Maheshwar. It sustained rich art and cultural heritage under it. Tourism and religion also hold immense significance in and around Maheshwar. Some of the ancient Temples here are Shiv Jyotirlingam Mandleshwar, Bawangaja and Mandav. Towards 65 kms east of Maheshwar lies Onkareshwar temple, which is one of the 12 most popular Shiv Lingam temples in India. Charmed to its natural, spiritual & historical beauty, many Bollywood & Tamil movies have been shot here like Ashoka, Tulsi. The place witnessed some renowned names of Bollywood, The place also being visited by many foreign nationals round the year, those having strong interest in Indian art & spiritual values.
The city was founded by the King Mahishman of the Som dynasty. Various scriptures and Ballads make a mention of the historical facts of this place, which is even known to be the arena for different battles that were fought during the periods of Ramayana and Mahabharata, The history of Maheshwar revealing that, how this place has an ample status in religious obsessions, with many myths those interconnected with this place to other epical tails. Maheshwar is built in the place of Shastrarjun Kshatriya’s ancient city. And was a capital of Southern Avanti in ancient time of King Katavirya Arjuna, who is mentioned in Mahabharata and Ramayana Epic. Mahishmanti was the capital city of the southern kingdom of Avanti, whose others names are Janpad and Nimad. Mahishmati was a very prosperous city and had connections with other popular ancient centers like Avantika, Patliputra, Paithan, Kashi (Varanasi), Bhadauch, Kutch etc. It had itself become a popular centre for spiritual, religious, administrative, literature, and cultural activities. There is a fort at Maheshwar that was constructed during the rule of the mughal King Akbar. The mughals were replaced by the Peshawars and in 1767 the Queen Ahilyabai of the Holkar kingdom made Maheshwar her capital city. Her rule continued up to 1795, since she defeated by British, the capital was moved to Indore, Maheshwar is now a pilgrimage and many tourists from across the globe come here to have a look over stunning Mheshwar Fort which soars over the Narmada River, numerous temples and the picturesque Ghats.
One day the king along with his 500 wives went to the river for having good time with them, he was requested behalf of his wives that there were not enough place to roam around freely and playing some games then he stopped the mighty river Narmada with his 1000 arms. Ravana was flying by and when he seen beneath a dry river bed, he thought it could be the idle place to worship Lord Shiva, he landed in that dry place and started praying and making Lord Shiva’s sand Lingam. During all his hard work to built lingam and praying soul deeply, the King Shastrarjun and his all wives done and planning to go back, while leaving the place Shastrarjun let the water flow. And then mighty water stream of Narmada swept Ravana along with his Shiva lingam messing up his prayers, angry Ravana got up and challenged Shastrarjun, The mighty Sahastrarjuna 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, Sahastrarjuna dragged him home and tied him up to the cradle pole of his son. A humiliated Ravana stayed prisoner until his release was secured.
Another tale correlate upper incident in little different way, where the King Sahastrarjuna was bathing with his wives in the river when some people around challenged him to stop the waters flow by his thousands hands effort and he did it effortlessly, but by doing this the water level of the mighty River Narmada growing up, the Ravana was doing his prayers and meditation nearby and so he became furious as he got disrupted. He challenged Sahastrarjuna for the battle and hence there were a gigantic fight between them, since then this place is marked for Ravana’s defeat and capture.
One another tale added that, there was a king in Maheshwar named Nila, who blessed with a beautiful daughter, the God of Fire Agni fell in love with her and a secret love story began between them. God Agni who assumed the form of a Brahmin to hide this secret to the king, started meeting with the princess every day, when the king learnt about it, he became angry and ordered Agni to be punished. But then Agni assumed his true form and threatened that he will destroy everything if someone would try to harm him or his beloved princess. The king Nila begged forgiveness and since then girls of Maheshwari rather became unacceptable to others as wives, thereupon incident stated that God Agni blessed them sexual liberty so they may take any Man they pleased to.