Look upon any painted or sculpted representation of Ahilya Ma Saab, and you will discover a serene resilient woman, the determination to help her people, strong in her eyes. As a widow in an ancient India, her style was extremely simple, poised and elegant. Maheshwari handlooms derived their fine simplicity from this icon. It is said that under her artistic guidance, the craftspeople made light fabrics, detailed with motifs drawn from the carvings on the Maheshwar fort- a design directory in stone that they regularly used for inspiration.
Maheshwari saris were traditionally made in colours like peacock blue, bright yellow, forest green or an Indian red dye called Aal. The pallus were designed with stripes of red, white and gold zari. Borders like Leheriya (wave), Narmada, RuiPhul (cotton flower), Eent (brick),Chatai (matting), Heera (diamond)-were all drawn from the fort and the adjoining river and woven seamlessly into the fabric . Originally, the classic Maheshwari saris were only woven in pure cotton, 9 yards long, and with pallus at both ends, so when they frayed, the saree could be reversed and worn some more. That was the essence of a Maheshwari sari- elegantly versatile and durable.