The history of the town of Dhar, located in the Malwa region of western Madhya Pradesh, is said to have been established around 1st Century BC by King Vikramaditya, the second son of Ujjain King Gandharvasena of the Paramara Dynasty (an Indian Maratha surname of Rajput origin).
Vikramaditya, a legendary figure, featured in the two most famous tales in Sanskrit – Vetala Panchvimshati, and Simhasana – Dwatrimshika (the 32 tales of the throne). Of which, Simhasana – Dwatrimshika is the tale of the lost throne of Vikramaditya which King Bhojadeva, the King of Dhar, attempted to ascend 32 times. This leads to 32 tales of Bhojadeva to ascend the throne adorned by thirty two female statues, which eventually allowed him to ascend the throne after being pleased with his humility.
Bhojadeva or Bhoja belonged to the Paramara Dynasty, which based themselves primarily at Dhar, and ruled the Kingdom of Malwa in Central India from 11th Century to 1055. He shifted his capital from Ujjain to Dhar and reigned remarkably both as a military commander and a scholar.
Dhar flourished as a centre of culture and learning under his rule and the wealth and splendour of Dhar drew the attention of rival dynasties such as the Chalukya’s. Bhoja formed an alliance with Emperor Rajendra Chola I of the Chola dynasty and persuaded him to attack the Chalukyas. However, the Chalukya King, Someshvara I (1042-68), stormed the fort of Mandu after a long siege, then took Ujjain and finally captured Dhara from Bhoja, who retreated north.
Thereafter, the region was annexed by Ala-ud-din-Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, who served as governor until 1313, and eventually the control of Dhar passed on to the Mughals and then to the Marathas. The Marathas were warriors and had little knowledge of trade. The only important source of money to them was the chauth (a 25% tax on produce) and sardeshmukhi (a ten percent surcharge) imposed mainly on agriculture which was dependent on the monsoons.
Bajirao, who was in deep debt, established military outposts in the country as far as Bundelkhand and in late 1723, Bajirao, accompanied by his trusted lieutenants, Malhar Rao Holkar, Ranoji Shinde (Scindia) and Udaji Rao Pawar attacked and defeated the Mughal governor and swept through the whole of Malwa region, including Dhar.
Towards the close of the 18th and in the early part of the 19th century, the state was subject to a period of decline by Scindia of Gwalior and Holkar of Indore, (descendants of Ranoji Scindia and Malharao Holkar) and was later preserved from annihilation by the talents and courage of the adoptive mother of the fifth raja.
After the Third Anglo-Maratha War, of 1818, Dhar passed under British rule and became a princely state of British India. It was later confiscated by the British in the Revolt of 1857.
The city was eventually restored to Raja Anand Rao III Pawar in 1860, with an exception since he was then a minor. He received the title of Anand Rao and KCSI in 1877. After his death in 1898, he was succeeded by Udaji Rao II Pawar.
This picturesque town possesses massive ramparts, buildings, forts and records of cultural, historical and national importance.