By the river

| Updated on June 23, 2018 Published on June 22, 2018

The sleepy riverside town of Maheshwar shot to fame after a Bollywood hit was filmed here, but the arriving hordes of tourists are proving to be more than it can handle

As a travel writer and photographer, my job is to share the new places that I discover with my audience. But at times, I want to keep the knowledge of a few special places just to myself, fearing it will lose its serenity. One such place is Maheshwar, a small town in Madhya Pradesh. A Bollywood film was all it took for that secret to spill.

The Akshay Kumar-starrer Padman was filmed in Maheshwar and released in February this year. I was present during the shooting, which was marked by much commotion at the otherwise quiet ghats.

Thrilled as I was to see Maheshwar on the big screen, a familiar fear soon crept in: what if the town’s fate becomes similar to that of Pangong Lake in Ladakh, which shot to fame after 3 Idiots? The scene in which Kareena was clad in her red wedding dress, riding a scooter by the lake, had touched a million hearts. The turquoise lake witnessed unprecedented popularity after the film’s release. Thousands of backpackers and motor-cyclists visited the lake during summer, and 50-odd dhabas named 3 Idiots cropped up in not time, to cater to the tourists’ needs.

Maheshwar was the capital of the Maratha Holkar dynasty during Queen Ahilyabai Holkar’s rule in the 18th century. She shifted the capital from Indore to this new city she built at the site of the mythical ‘Mahishmati’ town on the Narmada’s banks. The town is full of beautiful temples, forts and ghats.

As feared, Maheshwar has indeed become quite popular in the last few months. It isn’t unusual to spot tourism ads while casually scrolling TV channels, or come across news articles on the town. I hope this ancient town remains serene and pristine, and manages to stave off the damage that hordes of irresponsible tourists are capable of inflicting.

Deepti Asthana is a Mumbai-based photographer

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Published on June 22, 2018