Handloom weaving in Maheshwar has an ancient history dating back to some 1500 years. This tradition owes its resurgence to Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar, who ruled the former state of Indore from 1765 to 1795 and under whose patronage the weavers prospered. They were also supported by wealthy local families who promoted the fine textiles.

With the coming of India’s independence in 1947, the royal patronage disappeared, leaving the weavers unable to find new markets. Quality declined and incomes diminished.

To countervail this development, the scion of the Holkar dynasty, Richard Holkar and his wife Sally Holkar founded Rehwa Society in 1978 with a grant from the Central Welfare Board.

Rehwa Society started with 3 objectives:

• To sustain the hand weaving tradition of Maheshwar.

• To empower the women weavers by giving employment and an income which would improve their lives.

• To provide housing, healthcare and education to the weaver’s families.

With only eight handlooms and great visions in mind they began to build up the non-profit organization Rehwa Society.


Because Maheshwar’s weavers followed the development, the town today is once again a flourishing market for hand woven textiles.

Rehwa produces between 1100 and 1300 high quality textiles per month. 70 weavers supported by up to 30 staff members work for Rehwa; most of them are women, confident in leading a self-determined life and supporting their families.

To provide housing, a colony of 40 houses, including a hospital, was built for the weavers and their families in the early 1990‘s inside the walls of Ahilya Fort. Sufficient water and electricity supply was installed in all the houses and Rehwa‘s weaving units are only walking distance from Ahilya Vihar Colony.

The vision of the founders also included providing high quality education for the weaver’s children. For this purpose they established Ahilya School in 1989 to become a part of Rehwa Society and it remains one of the biggest goals achieved.


Ahilya School


Ahilya School was founded by Rehwa Society with a supporting grant from the German aid organization, BORDA. The first year in 1989 started with 60 students and two teachers. Each year saw the addition of another class and necessary teachers, until Standard 5 was reached in 1995. The following year, the Madhya Pradesh Government recognized the school.

Today the student population is 240, supported by 16 teachers. The school goes through grade 8 and established one nursery group and 2 pre-school classes. Rehwa Society subsidizes schooling, with tuition based upon the ability to pay. The poorest ten percent of our students receive full scholarships as do 10% of the brightest students.

Ahilya School provides students with superior education. The new school building was inaugurated in 2002. Built with contributions from Rehwa Society, the Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Educational Trust and the Dallas Foundation, our school building is the finest in the district. Our teaching staff has received basic training through the Montessori system, at the expense of Rehwa Society. All have attended workshops and courses at the Center for Learning Resources, Pune, Eklavya at Barda, Bal Niketan Sangh at Indore, and Prerna at Bombay. Throughout the school’s development, we have benefited from Ms. Ferozan Mehta as consultant. Her input has given the children a curriculum, which is rigorous enough to prepare them for successful entrance into government schools at grade 7, while at the same time emphasizing creativity, imagination, sports and the value of handloom weaving.

Special attention is paid to the environment through a school garden. The students receive a free nourishing meal every day and each student’s health and physical development is monitored through Rehwa Society’s subsidized health program. Student health care is assured through a subsidized participatory health scheme.

You can help with your donation!

The cost of one child’s education for a year is $120. Besides their education, this includes a uniform, a nutritious meal, school books and lots of loving care. Should you care to help, we will send you pictures, report cards and welcome you to Ahilya Fort.

To send your contributions through cheque, send them to:
REHWA Society
Ahilya Fort, Maheshwar (M.P.)
Pin – 451224

Donations from India
Account Number: 53040751864
IFAC Code: SBIN0030037
Bank Name: State Bank of India
Branch: M.G. Road Maheshwar, Dist. Khargone (M.P.), PIN-451224
Foreign donations
Account details: Rehwa Society Foreign Currcy
Account Number: 53020090974
Swift Code: SBININBB697
Bank Name: State Bank of India
Branch: Worli, Mumbai, India