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Holkars, the Maratha rulers of Indore, ruled a major part of India during the 18th century. They were of peasant origin and of shepherd caste and are believed to have migrated from Mathura District in Uttar Pradesh to Hol Village about 65 km from Pune. The title Holkar is derived from the village name along with the Marathi surname kar, which means 'an inhabitant of.'

The founder of the House of Holkars was Malhar Rao Holkar. The Peshwa rulers at Pune was impressed by his combat prowess and made him the General of Malwa area with Indore as the capital in AD 1724. A decade later he was gifted the area by the Peshwa and thus began the impressive rule of the house of Holkars.

Malhar Rao Holkar was succeeded by his daughter-in-law Ahilya Bai Holkar, the greatest ruler of the dynasty. Her reign from 1767 to 1795 saw the overall improvement of the area and her administration skills was unsurpassed and it even earned laurels from her enemies. She governed the state from a palace fort at Maheshwar on the northern bank of the Narmada River.

Indore city was planned and built by Rani Ahilyabai. The renowned Maheshwari Sarees was introduced by this queen. Rajwada Palace in the heart of Old Indore depicts the ceremonial elegance and splendor of this dynasty. The tombs or cenotaphs of Holkar Dynasty are found in the Chhatri Baug.

In AD 1818, Holkars became a part of British India empire, when the British under Sir John Malcolm defeated them at Mahidpur. A British Resident was stationed at Indore and the Holkars ruled as British vassals. Tukoji Rao II (1844-1886), Shivaji Rao Holkar (1886-1903), Tukoji Rao III (1903-1926) and Yeshwant Rao Holkar (1926-1947) are the last four Holkar rulers. They are credited with the modernization of Indore city.

Updated on 7th June, 2005

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