Malharrao Holkar (born 1694, died 1766) established the family's rule over Indore. He commanded Maratha armies in Malwa region in the 1720s, and in 1733 was granted the Indore state as a fief by the Peshwa. By the time of his death, he ruled much of Malwa, and was acknowledged as one of the five virtually independent rulers of the Maratha Cconfederacy.
He was succeeded by Rajmata Ahilya Devi Holkar (reigned 1767-1795), his daughter-in-law. She was born in the village 'Chaundi' in Maharashtra. She moved the capital to Maheshwar, south of Indore on the Narmada River. Rani Ahilyadevi was a great builder and patron of many Hindu temples, who embellished Maheshwar and Indore. She also built temples at sacred sites outside her kingdom, from Dwarka in Gujarat east to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple at Varanasi on the Ganges.
The adopted son of Malhar Rao Haolkar, Tukojirao Holkar (ruled 1795-1797) briefly succeeded Rani Ahilyadevi upon her death.
Yashwantrao Holkar- Extending the Holkar dominion
His son Yashwantrao Holkar (reigned 1797-1811) (also called as Jaswant Rao) succeeded him upon his death. He decided to free the Delhi Mughal Emperor Shah Alam from the British but was unsuccessful. Admiring his bravery, Shah Alam gave him the title of "Maharajadiraj Rajrajeshwar Alija Bahadur".
Yashwantrao Holkar defeated the combined armies of Scindia and Peshwa Bajirao II at Hadapsar, near Pune in 1802. The Peshwa fled from Poona, scared of being killed by Yashwantrao Holkar - owing to his(Bajirao's) killing Vitthojirao Holkar a few years earlier. Bajirao quit Poona and fled to Bassein where the English offered him allurements to sign the Subsidiary Treaty in return for the throne. Meanwhile, Yashwantrao made Amrutrao as the next Peshwa in Pune. After deliberating for over a month and after threats that his brother would otherwise be recognised as Peshwa, Bajirao II signed the treaty surrendering his residual sovereignty and allowing the English to put him on the throne at Poona.
Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar saw that rest of the Kings were not ready to unite and were interested in personal benefits, he was the last to sign a treaty with the British on 24 December, 1805 at a place called Rajghat (Treaty of Rajghat). He was the only King in India to whom the British approached to sign a peace treaty. He didn’t accept any condition which would affect his self respect. The British recognised him as a sovereign King and returned all his territories. They accepted his dominion over Jaipur, Udaipur, Kota, Bundi, and some Rajput Kings. They also accepted that they would not interfere in the matters of Holkars.
Yaswantrao Holkar was a gifted military leader, and battled the British in the Second Anglo-Maratha War. After some early victories, he made peace with the British.
Battle of Mahidpur
Maharaja Malharrao Holkar (III) succeeded Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar at an age of 4 years. Maharani Tulsibai Holkar looked after the administration. However, Dharama Kunwar and Balaram Seth with the help of Pathans and Pindaris, who had secretly joined hands with the British, plotted to imprison Tulsibai and Malharrao. When Tulsibai learnt about this, she beheaded both of them in 1815 and appointed Tatya Jog. Due to this, Gaffur Khan Pindari secretly signed a treaty with the British on 9 November, 1817 and accordingly killed Tulsibai on 19 December, 1817. The British, led by Sir Thomas Hislop, attacked on 20 December, 1817 and defeated the army led by 11-year-old Maharaja Malharrao Holhar (III), 20-year-old Harirao Holkar and 20-year-old Bhimabai Holkar in the Battle of Mahidpur. Holkars had nearly won the war but at the deciding moment Nawab Abdul Gaffur Khan betrayed and left the battlefield along with his army. The British gave the Jahagir of Jawara to Gaffur Khan for this betrayal. The treaty was signed on 6 January, 1818 at Mandsaur. Bhimabai Holkar didn't accept the treaty, and kept attacking the British by guerilla methods. Maharani Laxmibai of Jhanshi took inspiration from Bhimabai Holkar and fought against the British. At the conclusion of this Third Anglo-Maratha War, the Holkars lost much of their territory to the British and were incorporated into the British Raj as a princely state of the Central India Agency.
Yashwantrao II (reigned 1926-1947) ruled Indore state until shortly after India's independence in 1947, when he acceded to the Indian Government. Indore became a district of Madhya Bharat state, which was merged into Madhya Pradesh state in 1956.
The current Princess of Indore, Sabrina Holkar (daughter of Richard Holkar) finished her education in the U.S. and is married to Jewish-Indian Real Estate developer Ari Ellis. They live in Union Square in Manhattan.