Mhow (Madhya Pradesh): Commissioned by erstwhile Holkar Queen the local artisans finished building the Jam Darwaza or (Jam Gate) on January 13, 1761.
It separates Malwa region from Nimar. The gateway lies over 50 kilometers south of Indore and 2,328 feet above sea level is an spot which people like to throng on weekends.
The 75 feet long, 66 feet broad, and 40 to 50 feet high architectural beauty boasts of spacious porticos and galleries on second floor providing a view of the Jam Ghat ñ a very steep stretch of two kilometres.
The steps from the gateway go down to Ahilya Baiís tank that is believed to be the source of Choral River. The Choral flows northwards and about 8 miles from Jam, falls from some height into Mehndi Kund.
The top of Jam Darwaza commands a magnificent view of the valley of the Narmada, over 2,000 feet below. The panorama of miniature lakes, dense forests, and green and golden fields from the spot is a view to behold.
On its sides are the great Vindhyan cliffs. Far away on the panoramic edges rise in dull grey, the parallel ranges of the Satpuras. No wonder the place has a following.
The spot was an important pass frequented by travellers from the south, as it was the direct route into Malwa.
Travelogues abound about how it was in those days to journey up the giant ghats, with steep ascent that transported the travellers 2,328 feet above sea level, almost at once, through the Vindhya mountains and right on the table of Malwa plateau.
A military officer John Shipp who had escorted Sir John Malcolm to Mhow up this Pass in 1818 mentioned ìThis ghat which we were to ascend, was frightful even to look at. I saw elephants, camels, and horses, men, women, and children, that seemed hanging on the projected bosom of the flinty rock or suspended from the clouds. When the elephants had reached the summit, they looked like small ponies and the men like little dark grey specks in the sky.
We encamped on the top of the hill. The people below seemed of another world. The atmosphere there was intensely hot and sultry; but upon the hill, it was cool, pure, and salubrious so that we seemed in another country!
The Jam Gate bears an inscription, recording that it was built in the Vikram Samvat year 1847, i. e. 1791 AD which when translated is ìSalutations to Ganesh! In the Samvat year 1847 of the Vikrama era, in 1712 of the Shaka era, and Durmati Samvatsar, on Wednesday the 13th of the bright half of the month Magh under the Pushya nakshatra Ahalya, beloved wife of Khande Rao, and daughter-in-law of Malhar Rao, who is ever worshipping the God Shiva and ever ready to give alms to Brahmans, has caused this Gate to be erected.
Grant for construction
Free Press spoke to historian Denzil Lobo, the legend is that during the second half of the 1,700s, a Maratha called Ganpat Rao stationed himself at this place. He used to collect toll from the travellers, horse riders and carts that passed through this ghat.
When the collection of tax called hatjhulai became a substantial amount in the due course of time, he happily took it to the palace at Maheshwar ñ to give it to Rani Ahilya Bai.
Like everyone in the prosperous Holkar kingdom under her reign, Ganpat Rao was also happy to be of some service to the Government. But, Rani Ahilya Bai refused to accept the money, and instead, ordered him to go back, and spend the amount to construct a gate where weary travellers could stop for some time and rest, before resuming their journey.
This was how Jam Darwaza this double gateway of great strength - was built. Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar was known for good governance. A Frenchman called Modave who passed through the place in 1776 when Jam Gate was under construction mentioned in his travelogue, Her orders were punctually executed.
Several temples in India bear testimony to her pious deeds, and so does this Gateway of Ahilya Bai as it is also known. Four years after Jam Darwaza was ready, Rani Ahilya Bai breathed her last in 1795.