Historical Information on Madhya Pradesh
The Ruling Dynasties Down The Years
Dynasty : Mauryas (capital: Patliputta, in present Bihar) (Ancient)
Dynasty: Sungas (capital: Patliputta, in present Bihar), Era:-187 BC, Area & Expansion:-(approx) above (mentioned, right up to the area around the River Narmada.
Dynasty : Kanvas (capital: Vidisha; under Sunga suzerainty), Era:- 75BC, Area & Expansion:- Area around Vidisha.
Dynasty : Satavahanas and the Kshtrapas i.e., Ahartas and Kadmkas capital: various; from Sanchi to Ajmer to Pune), Era:- 1-3AD, Area & Expansion:- Both sides kept trying to outwit each other to rule the Malwa region.
Dynasty : Nagas (capital: unknown, though probably Gwalior. Despite the numismatic wealth left by the Nagas surprisingly little is known about them.), Era:- 3-4AD, Area & Expansion:- Their origins can be traced from Vidisha. Their reign stretched from a portion of Gwalior to Mathura. Also the Gangetic Plains and Bundelkhand
Dynasty : Vatakas (capital: Vidisha; at least to begin with), Era:- 2-4th century AD, Area & Expansion:- Depending upon the authority, it is a toss-up between Bundelkhand, and Vidharba. Also they ruled Satna and Panna till their last.
Dynasty : Guptas (capital: Patliputta), Era:- 4-5 th century AD
Area & Expansion:- The Guptas started in with Vidisha, then under Shaka rule. With some deft marital and martial relations they extended their empire as far down as Cattisgarh. After the fall of the Guptas lots of smaller dynasties, like Sooryas (Chattisgarh), Sharbhpuriayas (Sirpur), Pandus (Rajim) and others ruled limited areas of MP.
Dynasty : Parivajakas and Utkals (capital: Ucchkalpa; now Uccahara in Satna), Era:- 5-6th century AD, Area & Expansion:- Bundelkhand and Satna.
Dynasty : Aulikar (capital: Dashpur; now Mandsaur)
Era:- 5-6th century AD
Area & Expansion:- Mandsaur, moving on to western Malwa.
Dynasty:- Mahismati Kalchuris
Medieval PeriodDynasty:- Bundelas (Capital: Orchha)
Era:- 13th-17th century AD
Area & Expansion:- After the Chandelas vanished the Bundelas got their moment under MPs rather harsh sun. Coming from Vidarbha, they took Bundelkhand and managed to keep it till Shah Jahans reign, thanks to a shrewd politically expedient policy of always keeping the big chief in Delhi happy. However, their tact finally ran out when the last Bundela King Jhujhar Singh managed to seriously offend Shah Jahan, whose armies then chased him out into the forests of Orchha and killed him.
Dynasty:- Chttrashal Bundelas
Era:- 17th century AD
Area & Expansion:- That was however not the end of the Bundelas. Mughal rule was not very popular and soon a branch of the Bundelas, the Chttrashal Bundelas rebelled against them with the help of the Maratha warrior Shivaji. Over the next 50 years they were able to take back quite a big area of Bundelkhand back. Not for long, as the Mughals sent an army after them too. With the help of the Maratha Peshwa the Chttrashals were able to hang in there, however they had to gift quite a bit of their land away to the Maratha.
Meanwhile in Malwa (Since Malwa always remained the most sought-after property for the rulers of the medieval period, it deserves a section in itself.)
Dynasty:- Ghauris (capital: Dhar and later Mandu)
Era:- 15th century AD
Area & Expansion:- Since 1305AD Malwa, with its capital Dhar, had been under the control of the Tuglaqs in Delhi. In 1401AD however, all that changed, when the Ghauri governor Dilawar Khan and his son Alp Khan declared themselves independent.
Alp Khan changed his name to Hoshang Shah and while he was about it also changed his capital to Mandu. The Ghauris did not rule for long. Within a year of Hoshang Shahs grandsons accession to throne, Mohammad Khilji poisoned him and became sultan. 1531-1561 AD In this period confusion reigned rife in Malwa.
The Khiljis werent able to hold Malwa for long. Mohammad Khans reign was so full of battles that there was nothing but a fatigued army left for his successor Mohammad II who was the last ruler of the dynasty.
(These Khiljis are not to be confused with the Khiljis of Delhi.) After they went west, the region became a battleground for the Mughals and the Gujarat Sultans. In the middle somewhere another Khilji (Kadir Shah) tried to declare independence from here, but was brushed aside by Sher Shah Suris army in 1542. Sher Shah Suri appointed Shujaat Khan governor of Mandu.
In 1554 Shujaat Khans son Bayzaad Khan succeeded and promptly declared himself independent. He took the name Baz Bahadur (of Roopmati fame; see Mandu). In 1561 AD the new immigrants the Mughals finally turned their attention to Mandu.
Dynasty:- Faroquis (capital: Burhanpur and Asirgarh)
Area & Expansion:- Nimar, southern Malwa and Khandesh. This was one of the rare dynasties that Madhya Pradesh can really call its own.
Dynasty:- Mughals (capital: Agra and Delhi)
Area & Expansion:- Akbar, the grand Mughal emperor, was the first Mughal to focus on Malwa.
He defeated Baz Bahadur quite convincingly. Baz Bahadur did try his luck again with Malwa, but was able to hold it for a very short time. Mandu was quite a hotspot with the Mughals (Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan) spending a lot of their time here. Under the efficient and firm control of the Mughals, Malwa remained peaceful and prospered till 1731AD, when it passed on to the Marathas.
Dynasty:- Gonds (capital: Jabalpur)
Area & Expansion:- The origin of the Gonds is debatable. In 1400AD, as the Kalchuri power began to wane, they managed to establish themselves as an independent force. Gondwana,
as their realm was called, reached its peak under Sangram Shah (1480-1530AD). The area under
their control was throughout limited to Jabalpur - Bhopal. One of their important queens Rani Durgavati is still celebrated in Gond legends for her courage and valour.
Dynasty:- Kacchapaghatas (capital: Gwalior)
Area & Expansion:- The origin of this dynasty is obscure. We have ample records about one of the kings Vajradaman though, thanks to the many inscriptions around the Gwalior fort. They were driven out of the fort by the Muslim invader Ghauri. After them, in the mid-12tth century, the Gwalior-Shivpuri area was ruled for a short while by minor rulers.
Dynasty:- Tomaras (capital: Gwalior)
Area & Expansion:- In 1398, after Timur the Lames sacking of Gwalior, the Tomaras took over the fortress of Gwalior.
Area & Expansion:- Chattisgarh. In the middle from 1818-1830AD, the British were given control of this area under a treaty following the Third Maratha War (see History under India). However the Bhonsles managed to win it back. Not for long though as the British took this region back soon after, under their infamous Doctrine of Lapse policy.
Dynasty:- Holkars (capital: Indore)
Area & Expansion:- In the confused conditions prevailing following the collapse of the grand
Mughals and the subtle entry of the British in India, the Marathas started making overtures at Malwa. After many campaigns and taking of small regions, Malhar Rao Holkar finally established the Holkar dynasty with its seat at Indore. Technically of course, The Holkars no longer rule. In 1948, Tukoji Holkar gave up all claims to the throne and merged Indore with the sovereign republic of India.
Dynasty:- Scindias (capital: Gwalior)
Area & Expansion:- When Malwa passed on to the Marathas, they divided it among the Holkars, Scindias and Pawars. So along with Malhar Rao Holkar, Ranoji Scindia established himself in
Gwalior. On independence, Gwalior became part of the Indian Union.
A lot of the action of the 1857 Indian Uprising was staged around MP. This was largely because of the close ties that the Rani of Jhansi (in UP) had with Gwalior. However Gwalior itself never rebelled against the British. After the revolt, the British swiftly regained control over the area and that status quo remained till independence.
Throughout history, until as late as the coming of the British, Madhya Pradesh remained a sort of caravansarai of India. It was a resting spot for travellers, conquerors, messiahs and traders to stop a while, before going ahead to the Deccan. Maybe thats why till John Malcolm wrote his A Memoir of Central India in 1824, this state remained a sort of forgotten entity.
As things turned out, it was all to the good. The state never got star billing in the scene of Indian history, but then nor was it ever a victim of foreign invasions, needless wars and bloodshed. For very long, much more than the south, central India was able to retain its inherent character and culture. Maybe that would explain why there are so many tribals here.
Tribals in India are known as adivasis, or those who came before. They are regarded as the original inhabitants of India; civilization might have caught up with all of us but the adivasis, according to folklore, still live the way man used to before all that jazz.
Since the tribals in India have traditionally lived in forests and remote areas, their interaction with the townsfolk has been limited. An arrangement that seems to have suited everybody down the centuries. Nowadays of course things are different; the government has made active efforts to bring the tribals into the fold of civilized life. Much to the dismay of the anthropologists though!
Perhaps it is because of this isolation that, despite growing intolerance all around, the Chandelas were still building erotic temples in Khajuraho as late as the 12th century AD. Also when the Muslims invaded and then finally settled in for a long rule in India, Khajuraho managed to escape their attention; had they been noticed, the temples would most certainly have been destroyed. In fact they were right there in the forests, just waiting to be discovered, when in 1838 a young British army engineer stumbled upon them (see Khajuraho for details).
A Contentment Among The People
Lack of incessant warfare, plenty of money and peace ensured that the people of Madhya Pradesh never had to struggle for basics, so life thrived here. The arts music, dance, architecture, painting and so on - flourished. In fact Madhya Pradesh is much celebrated for its many love stories and quaint local legends. The most famous love story of them all is of course that of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati (see Mandu for details).
History here is divided region-wise and cannot be clubbed under one head. At best MP can broadly be said to be Rajput-influenced in the north and Maratha in character in the south.
From the time of King Asoka of the Mauryan dynasty to that of the Guptas in the 4th century AD, many dynasties came and went. Principal among them was the Sungas, the andhras, the Satavahanas, the Ksaptrapas and the Nagas. The all-pervading and all-invading Huns tried their luck in the Malwa region of the state, but it was simply too far away for them to hold for long. Then in the 7th century AD it became a part of King Harshavardhanas empire. In the 10th century, a number of dynasties were cheek-to-jowl in various corners of the region; the Chandelas at Khajuraho and the Kachhawahas at Gwalior were the more prominent among these.
Dynasties again changed hands in the 11th century, when the Muslims conquered Gwalior. By the 13th century, the Khaljis had penetrated as far deep as the Malwa region. The grand Mughal Akbar annexed this area into his empire in the mid-16th century.
From then on whatever few upheavals this state had been witness to, end. Madhya Pradesh became a tranquil oasis in the midst of chaos, great battles, and many other feats that might have gone ringing down in the annals of history but were not very conducive for serenity and hence good living.
With the fading of the Mughal power, the Scindia and Holkar dynasties of the Marathas ruled independently at Gwalior and Indore respectively during the 18th century. When the British came to India some of the regions ruling dynasties continued to rule under British protection. However, even then, Central Provinces (as it came to be called) was known to be one of the least troubled and most peaceful states.
After independence, the Central Provinces was re-organized and the modern state of Madhya Pradesh was created.
The Main Ruling Dynasties Now
The Scindias of Gwalior
The present scion of the family is Madhavrao Scindia. As with most royal families, the family is now divided into two bitter factions; one headed by the present Maharajas mother, the Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia, and sister, Princess Vasundhara Scindia, and the other by the Maharaja himself.
So much so that they are members of Parliament from different political parties: the Rajmata (Queen Mother) and the Princess represent the Bharatiya Janta Party and the Maharaja is a very popular Congress I member. (See Gwalior for details on the Scindias.)
The Holkars of Indore
The present Maharaja is half-American and is called Richard Holkar. His wife is also an American, Sally Holkar. Sally and Richard together have done a lot of work for the revival of the traditional arts and crafts of Indore. The famous Maheshwari sari owes its second lease of life to them.
However Richard and Sally have now separated and Sally has gone back to live in America. They have a young teenaged daughter Sabrina, who is pretty enough to be called Sabrina fair and divides her time between India and America. Sabrina made much news recently when she bought a horse for 1,40,000 rupees ($ 3500/2335 pounds). (See Indore for details on the Holkars.)
The Nawabs of Bhopal
Bhopal, being Muslim, has a special character and charm of its own. Its style and personality is completely distinct from that of Indore and Gwalior. Under the British it was a 19-gun salute state. The present head of the Bhopal family is the reclusive Nawab Mahfooz Ali Khan.