Malhar Rao trained Ahilyabai in administrative and military matters.
After the deaths of her father-in-law in 1766 and her son, Malerao, the very next year, Ahilyabai petitioned the Peshwa to allow her to take over the reign of Malwa. She had been fully trained in military and administration matters by then and she was brilliant at it. Though some of the nobles objected to this, she had full support of the Holkar army. On many occasions Ahilyabai led the army herself from the front like a brave warrior, armed with bows and arrows on the elephant. The Peshwa granted her permission to take over in 1767 and Ahilyabai proceeded to rule Malwa in a wise and sagacious manner for the next 28 years.
During her reign, Malwa was never once attacked, when at that time the whole of Central India was facing a power struggle, with battles being fought for the throne. Under her rule, Malwa remained an oasis of stability and peace. She turned her capital city, Maheshwar, into a literary, musical, artistic and an industrial centre.
The warrior queen passed away on August 13, 1795, at the age of 70. Centuries later, her legacy lives on in the form of the numerous temples and dharamshalas, and in the amount of public work she dedicated her life to. She built hundreds of temples, more than 30 dharamshalas and garibkhanas, numerous ghats and wells, all for the welfare of people. Ahilyabai Holkar’s 28-year-reign, during the 18th century, is still cited as a model of benevolent and effective government.