From Academic Kids

Malwa (माळवा in Malvi ) is a region of western India, lying in the western part of Madhya Pradesh state. It lies at the headwaters of the Chambal River and its tributaries, the Kali Sindh and the Parbati. Ujjain is the ancient center of the region, and Indore is presently the largest city, and commercial center.

Missing image
Malwa in 1780


Missing image
Coin showing Karttikeya and Lakshmi (Ujjain, circa 150 - 75 BC)

Ujjain (Greek: Ozene), also known historically as Ujjaiyini and Avanti emerged as the first important center in the Malwa region during India's second wave of urbanization in the seventh century BCE (the first wave being the Harappan civilization). Around c. 600 BCE, an earthen rampart was built around Ujjain, enclosing a city of considerable size. Ujjain was the center of the Kingdom of Avanti, which emerged c. 500 BCE as an important kingdom of western India until its conquest by the Maurya empire in the mid-fourth century BCE. Ashoka, who was later a Mauryan emperor, was governor of Ujjain in his youth. Ujjain was major trade center during the first centuries CE.

The Gupta period was the golden age in the history of Malwa, with Ujjain as its capital. Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira were all based in Ujjain which emerged as a major center of learning, especially for astronomy and mathematics. Chandragupta Vikramaditya is the most famous king from this period. {add more stuff on the Gupta period}

Around 500 CE, Malwa reemerged from the dissolving Gupta empire as a separate kingdom, and in 528 Yasodharman of Malwa defeated the Huns who had invaded India from the northwest.

From the mid-tenth century, Malwa was ruled by the Paramara clan of Rajputs, who established a capital at Dhar. King Bhoj, who ruled from about 1010 to 1060, was known as the great polymath philosopher-king of medieval India; his extensive writings cover philosophy, poetry, medicine, veterinary science, phonetics, yoga, and archery. Under his rule, Malwa became an intellectual center of India. Bhoj also founded the city of Bhopal to secure the eastern part of his kingdom. His successors ruled until about 1200, when Malwa was conquered by the Delhi Sultanate.

The sacking of Delhi by the Mongol conqueror Timur in the early fifteenth century caused the breakup of the sultanate into smaller states, and in 1401 Dilawar Khan, previously Malwa's governor under the rule of Delhi, declared himself sultan of Malwa. He established a capital at Mandu, high in the Vindhya Range, overlooking the Narmada River valley. His son and successor Hoshang Shah (1405-1435) embellished Mandu. Hoshang Shah's son Ghazni Khan ruled for only a year, and was suceeded by Sultan Mahmud Khalji (1436-1469), first of the Khalji sultans of Malwa, who expanded the state to include portions of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and the Deccan. The Muslim sultans invited Rajputs to settle in the country. In the early 1500's the sultan sought the aid of the sultans of Gujarat to counter the growing power of the Rajputs, while the Rajputs sought the aid of the Sesodia Rajput kings of Mewar. Gujarat stormed Mandu in 1518 and 1531, and shortly thereafter the Malwa sultanate collapsed. The Mughal emperor Akbar captured Malwa in 1562, and made it a province of his empire. Mandu was abandoned by the seventeenth century.

As the Mughal state weakened after 1700, the Marathas raided Malwa. Malhar Rao Holkar (1694-1766) became leader of Maratha armies in Malwa in 1724, and in 1733, the Maratha Peshwa granted him control of most of the region, which was formally ceded by the Mughals in 1738. Another Maratha general, Anand Rao Ponwar, established himself as the raja of Dhar in 1742, and two Ponwar brothers became rajas of Dewas. The Holkar dynasty ruled Malwa from Indore and Maheshwar on the Narmada until 1818, when the Marathas were defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War, and the Holkars of Indore became princely state of the British Raj. Upon Indian independence in 1947, the Holkars and other princely rulers acceded to India, and most of Malwa became part of the new state of Madhya Bharat, which was merged into Madhya Pradesh in 1956.


The Malwa region occupies a plateau located in western Madhya Pradesh and southeastern Rajasthan, with Gujarat lying in the west. To the south and east is the Vindhya Range, and to the north is the Bundelkhand upland. The plateau itself is an extension of the Deccan Traps, which is of volcanic origin. The average elevation of Malwa is 500 metres about sea level. The volcanic origin accounts for the black cotton soil of varying thickness, which is ideal for cultivation of cotton which is an important cash crop. The plateau generally slopes is towards the north. The most important river of Malwa is the Chambal, which is the tributary of Yamuna. Thus, most of the northern part of the plateau is in the Ganga Basin. Other important river basins are Mahi and Narmada river basins. The Shipra river is of historical importance because of the Simhasth mela held every 12 years. Malwa has mild and pleasant weather due to its elevation, and a cool morning wind known as karaman and evening breeze known as Shab-e-Malwa makes the summers less harsh and so much more tolerable.


Missing image
Children in an opium field in Malwa

The region has been one of the important producers of opium in the world. It was opium that first integrated the Malwa economy along with the western Indian ports with China, bringing in international capitalism in the region. Malwa opium was a challenge to the monopoly of the East India Company, which used to supply Bengal opium to China. This led the British company to impose many restrictions on production of and trade in Malwa opium, and eventually the drug was pushed underground. When smuggling went out of control, the British made the rules more liberal. Today, the region is still one of the largest producer of licit opium in the world. The region is predominantly agricultural and about 80% of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood. The black soil of the Malwa region is good for cultivation of cotton and textile is an important industry. Many mills are located in Ujjain, Nagda, and Indore.



The main language of Malwa is Malvi, with more than a million speakers. This Indo-European language is further classified as Indo-Aryan. The language is also sometimes known as Malavi, Ujjaini, etc. The language is related to the Rajasthani family of languages, with Nimadi being the closest cousin in Rajasthan. Various dialects of Malvi, in alphabetical order are Bachadi, Bhoyari, Dholewari, Hoshangabadi, Jamral, Katiyai, Malvi Proper, Patvi, Rangari, Rangri and Sondwari. About 55% of the population of Malwa can converse in Hindi, and literacy rate in second language (Hindi) is about 40%.


Missing image
Malwa traditional food

The traditional Malwa food has elements of both Gujarati and Rajasthani cuisine. Traditionally, Jowar was the major food crop, but with green revolution in India, wheat has replaced jowar as the most important food crop. Most people have a vegetarian diet. Since the climate is mostly dry throughout the year, most people sustained on stored foods like pulses, and vegetables are rare. A typical snack of Malwa is the bhutta ri kees (made with grated corn roasted in ghee and later cooked in milk with spices). Chakki ri shaak is made of wheat dough which is washed under running water, steamed and then used in a gravy of curd. The traditional bread of Malwa is called bati/bafla, which essentially is a small round ball of wheat flour roasted in a traditional way, over cakes made of cow-dung. Bati is typically eaten with dal (pulses). The baflas are dripping with ghee and are soaked with dal. The amli ri kadhi is kadhi made with tamarind instead of yogurt. Sweet cakes made of whear called tapu are prepared during religious festivities. Sweet cereal called thulli is also typically eaten with milk or yoghurt.

Traditional dessert include like mawa-bati (a milk-based sweet), khopra-paak (made of coconut), shrikhand (yogurt based) and malpua.


Lavani music is popular in southern Malwa, which came through the Marathas. The Nirguni Lavani (philosophical) and the Shringari Lavani (erotic) are the two types. The Bhils have their own folk songs, which are always accompanied by dance. The folk musical modes of Malwa depend on four to five notes. In rare cases, six notes are employed. The devotional music of the Nirguni cult is popular all over Malwa. Legends about Raja Bhoj and Bijori, the Kanjar girl and the tale of Balabau are popular folk songs. Insertions known as 'Stobha' are popular in Malwa music. This can occur in four ways: the Matra stobha (syllable insertion), Varna stobha (letter insertion), Shabda stobha (word insertion) and Vakya stobha (sentence insertion.)


Malwa was the center of Sanskrit literature during and after the Gupta period. The most famous playwright of Malwa is Kalidasa. His first surviving play is Malavikagnimitra or Malavika and Agnimitra. Kalidasa's second play, generally considered his masterpiece, is the Shakuntala which tells the story of king, Dushyanta, who falls in love with a girl of lowly birth, the lovely Shakuntala. The last of Kalidasa's surviving plays is Vikramorvashe or Urvashi Conquered by Valor. Kalidasa also wrote two surviving epic poems Raghuvamsha ("Dynasty of Raghu") and Kumarasambhava ("Birth of the War God"), as well as the lyric "Meghaduta" ("Cloud Messenger"). He is generally considered to be the greatest Indian writer of any epoch.


Swang is a popular dance form in Malwa. It's roots can be traced back to the origins of the Indian theatre tradition. Since women did not participate in the dance-drama form, men enacted their roles. Swang incorporates suitable theatrics and mimicry accompanied by song and dialogue. It is dialogue-oriented rather than movement-oriented.


Mandana wall and floor paintings are the best known painting traditions of Malwa. White drawings stand out in contrast to the red clay and cow dung mixture base material. Peacocks, cats, lions, goojari, bawari, swastika and chowk are some motifs of this style. Sanjhya is a ritual wall painting done by young girls during the period when ancestors are remembered and offered ritual oblation by Hindus. Malwa miniature paintings specialize in their attractive brushwork.


Missing image
Simhastha Mela, Ujjain

The biggest festival of Malwa is undoubtedly the Simhastha Kumbh mela held every 12 years, in which more than a million pilgrims take a holy dip in river Shipra. Gana-gour is celebrated in honour of Shiva and Parvati. The history of the festival goes back to Rano Bai whose parental house was in Malwa and she was married in Rajasthan. Rano Bai was so much attached to Malwa that she did not like staying in Rajasthan. After marriage she could come to Malwa only once a year, and Gana-Gour symbolizes the coming back of Rano Bai to Malwa. The festival is observed by the women of Malwa once in the month of Bhadra and again in the month of Chaitra. Ghadlya festival is celebrated by the girls of Malwa, who gather to visit every house of the village in the evenings, carrying earthen pots with holes for the light from oil lamps inside to come out. The girls recite songs connected with Ghadlya in front of every house, and in return get foodstuff or coins. The Gordhan festival is celebrated on the sixteenth day in the month of Kartika. The Bhils of Malwa sing to the cattle some anecdotal songs, known as Heeda, while the women sing the Chandrawali song, associated with Krishna's romance.


The most popular fairs occur in the months of Phalguna, Chaitra, Bhadra, Asvina and Kartika. The Chaitra fair held at Biaora and the Gal Yatras held at over two dozen villages of Malwa are remarkable. Many fairs are held in the 10th day of the month of Bhadra, to mark the birth of Tejaji. The Triveni Mela is held at Ratlam and other remarkable fairs take place in Kartika at Ujjain, Mandhata (Nimad), Naya Gaon, etc.


Important Cities

Ujjain Indore Dhar Ratlam Mandsaur Mhow Dewas Hoshangabad Shajapur Neemuch Jhalawar

Famous People



In Fiction

In the Belisarius series by David Drake and Eric Flint, the people of Malwa are chosen by creatures from the future to change the course of history. The Byzantine general Belisarius is set on them by a creature sent by another group of future beings.

See Also

ja:マールワ sv:Malwa


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools