Madhya Pradesh

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Indian Subcontinent >> India >> Madhya Pradesh >> History of Madhya Pradesh

History of Madhya Pradesh

Archaeological sites strewn across the state show that the first settlements in the region date back to the Stone Age. Several prehistoric cave dwellings at Bhimbetka (the oldest find) have paintings superimposed, one on top of the other indicating that the caves were occupied by different people at different times spread over a long period of mankind’s history.

The region of Madhya Pradesh is also deeply rooted in Hindu mythology. The region around Chitrakoot is hallowed land; the legendary King Rama of Ayodhya and his wife Sita spent eleven of their fourteen years of exile in its dense forests. Ujjain is a sacred site because a few precious drops of divine nectar spilt and sanctified its soil as the as the gods and demons battled in the skies to gain possession of the vessel containing the nectar, brought out of the ocean depths. Madhya Pradesh has always had a chequered and turbulent history. Centrally located as this region is, its long been a corridor through which expansionist rulers and their conquering armies marched in their quest for supremacy over peninsula India. Emperor Ashoka ruled the region in the 3rd century BC, followed by the Sunga and the Gupta dynasties. Towards the end of the first millennium the Parmaras held sway over the western and central parts, while around the same time, the highly aesthetic Chandelas ruled in the north of the state, where they built their magnificent temples at Khajuraho.

The Muslim influx started with Mahmud of Ghazni’s multiple forays in the 11th century. Over the next four centuries the region saw violent times as the Hindus and Muslims fought to gain control till the Mughal armies eventually vanquished everyone in sight. The Marathas rose to power as the Mughal Empire weakened. Their star remained on the ascendant during the 18th century till their ultimate defeat at the hands of the British in the early 19th century. The British set up cantonments and garrison towns and administered the region they named the Central Provinces. So, in MP, visitors will find an unusual blend of the social and religious traditions of many different cultures from Muslim to Maratha Hindu, from tribal to Christian. The state of Madhya Pradesh came into being on 1st Nov 1956 when the different regions of India were reorganized after independence. This behemoth of a state has recently been split with 16 eastern, predominantly tribal districts making up the new state of Chhattisgarh.

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