While Malhar Rao was embarking on northern campaigns, it was Ahilyabai who secured the rule of Holkars in Madhya Pradesh region. Malhar Rao’s letters clearly show it was Ahilyabai who captured Gwalior and secured it for Holkar kingdom. Ahilyabai’s strength was her artillery.

After the death of her husband, Ahilyabai Holkar was groomed by Malhar Rao both in Military and diplomatic affairs. This letter in 1765 from Malhar Rao addressed to Ahilyabai throws light on the situation. He sends her on a military expedition to Gwalior with big artillery

When Abdali invaded India again in 1765, Malhar Rao was fighting the Abdali-Rohilla army in Delhi. During the same time, Ahilyabai Holkar captured Gohad fort (near Gwalior). Malhar Rao in his letter instructed her to “manufacture gun balls and balls of smaller size”.


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  1. Already trained to be a ruler, Ahilyabai petitioned the Peshwa after Malhar’s death, and the death of her son, to take over the administration herself. Some in Malwa objected to her assumption of rule, but the army of Holkar supported her leadership. She led them in person, with four bows and quivers of arrows fitted to the corners of the howdah of her favourite elephant. The Peshwa granted her permission on 11 December 1767, and, with Subhedar Tukojirao Holkar (Malharrao’s adopted son) as the head of military matters, she proceeded to rule Malwa in a most enlightened manner, even reinstating a Brahmin who had opposed her. Ahilyabai daily met public and was always accessible to anyone who needed her ear.

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