Virtually all phases of Indian history made their mark on the region historically known as Malwa, starting with the rock paintings at Bhimbetka and Pachmarhi, which date back more than 10, 000 years. They tell of a cultural succession through the late Stone Age to the start of recorded history in the 3rd century BC, when the Buddhist emperor Ashoka controlled the Mauryan empire from Malwa and built Sanchi’s Great Stupa.
The Mauryas were followed by the Sungas and the Guptas – Chandragupta II ruled from Ujjain and had the caves cut at Udaigiri – before the Huns rampaged across the state. Around 1000 years ago the Parmaras reigned in southwest Madhya Pradesh – notably Raja Bhoj, who ruled over Indore, Mandu and Bhopal. The state capital’s name derives from its original moniker, Bhojapal, which refers to the pal (dam) Bhoj built to create the city’s two lakes.
From AD 950 to 1050 the Chandelas’ nimble-fingered sculptors enlivened the façades of some 85 temples in Khajuraho with erotic scenes. Between the 12th and 16th centuries, the region experienced continuing struggles between Hindu and Muslim rulers, and Mandu was the scene of some decisive clashes. The Mughals were eventually superseded by the Marathas, who enjoyed most power in Malwa before they fell to the British, for who the Scindia maharajas of Gwalior were powerful allies.
With the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, several former states were combined to form Madhya Pradesh. In 2000 Chhattisgarh became an independent state.