A force to reckon with by 2020

14 May,2012


By Ritu Midha


Madhya Pradesh Government’s tourism radio ad proudly states that it is the heart of India. Well, in that case India has a magnanimous, eye-catching and an affectionate heart. Located in the geographic heart of India, Madhya Pradesh has nature’s bounty on one side, and a rich culture and heritage on the other. It is spread on both sides of Narmada River, flowing between the Vindhya and Satpura ranges.


It is the second largest state in the country and is spread over an area of 118,975 sq mi, and is the sixth largest with a population of 75 mn (Provisional – 2011 census). What is more exciting is the attention the state’s economic potential is drawing now. As per Global Dun and Bradstreet report released in August 2011, Madhya Pradesh is poised to emerge as a major economic force in the country by the year 2020. A sign of the same can be seen in the growth rate of the state (GSDP) – which has shown a marked growth of 9 per cent in 2010- 11 as against 3 per cent in 2004-05.


The consumer in the state is more aware and informed today – courtesy media and retail boom. Mall culture is in – and they are mushrooming in all the cities – catering not only to the local populace, but also to the large number of tourists visiting the state.


Flourishing textile mills at Ujjain, Nagda, Indore and Gwalior, PSUs including the Bhilai Steel plant, and the Heavy Electrical, the Nepa Newsprint Mills and Diesel engines manufactured at Indore, are just a few of the factors contributing to the state’s forward march. Hindi is the official language of the state. Several regional variants of Hindi, like Malvi Nimadi Bundeli, and Bagheli too are spoken.


Historical facts:

Here are a few glimpses of Madhya Pradesh’s glorious past:

  • Madhya Pradesh came into being as an Indian state on 1st November 1956. During the British rule, this region was a part of the Central Provinces.
  • Rulers from various dynasties have ruled here. Mughals, Guptas, Satavahanas and Mauryans ruled here in descending order. Each dynasty has left an imprint on the culture and architecture of the state.
  • The main rulers, regionally known as the Kalchuri kings are credited for constructing a number of temples. However, the areas they were influential in now fall under Chhattisgarh.
  • Tansen, one of Akbar’s nine jewels was born in the state, and as per a few scholars, so was Kalidasa, the poet beyond compare who authored Abhigyan Shakuntalam.



Madhya Pradesh has a vibrant and colourful culture. It is home to a number of tribes, whose influence can be seen on the state culture. All the tribal and non-tribal communities have their own socio-cultural space, and hence there is a wide variety of performing arts, as well as art and craft.



Richness of the state’s classical and Folk music is respected and appreciated.


Classical Music:

The Gwalior Gharana, which roseto fame during emperor Akbar’s reign, is one the most respected genres of Indian classical music. Tansen, the renowned singer in Akbar’s court, sang in this style. In the Gwalior Gharana emphasis is on the use of the raga instead of using melodic phrases. Tansen Festival, celebrated at the tomb of Tansen, in Gwalior every year is well attended by classical music aficionados. Dhrupad, music for the soul, seeks to have a calming effect on the listeners. In this devotional music with its roots in the ancient text of Sam Veda, emphasis is on maintaining purity of ragas and Swaras. And hence even today it is performed the way it was more that 500 years ago in the royal courts.



Folk music:

Faga, Bhartahari, Sanja geet, Alha, Pandwani gayan, Garba Garbi Govalan are some of the popular forms of folk songs. What makes these songs even more mesmerising are the musical instruments that support them. Most amazing of these are wind instruments with extremely melodious sounds. The singha, made of the horn of a dead animal- with its tip being sawn off, could well be the first aero phonic instrument invented by man. Then there is binnoor, a richly ornamented brass trumpet used by Marias. Another interesting instrument is Mohuri – a cylindrical bamboo flute with seven holes that produces shrill, piercing notes.



Tribal dances of Madhya Pradesh performed on foot tapping music are all about grace and balance. Here is a look at some of them… Karma, belonging to the Gond and Oraon tribe is performed on the onset of spring by colourfully dressed tribals. Musical instruments like thumki, payri, challa and jhumki accompany the various tribal songs on which it is performed. Jawara, a dance of prosperity, is performed by people of Budelkhand region, after the reaping of a good harvest. Performed by both men and women, the real beauty of this dance form is women balancing baskets full of jawara, on their head while dancing.


Tertali, a folk dance of the Kamar tribe, is usually initiated by two or three women of the tribe sitting on the ground. Holding a small sword between their teeth and balancing a pot on their heads, they rhythmically follow the beat striking the cymbals in their hands. Lehangi, performed in monsoons is dance of the Banjara and Kanjar tribe. Young men rhythmically beating the sticks while dancing also incorporate various acrobatic tricks, making it even more dramatic.


Ahiri dance is a trademark of the cattle herders of Gwalior. The dance also has religious overtones, as the various communities of Gwalior who perform this dance, are considered to be the descendants of Lord Krishna. Baredi, an important folk dance of the Gwalior district is performed from Diwali, till the day of ‘Karthik Purnima’. Musical instruments like dholak, jhanz, manjira, mridang and daphli create the melody, to which the dancers clad in dhotis and accessorized with peacock feathers perform.


Gaur, the spectacular marriage dance of Maria Gonds of Bastar is rhythmic and energetic. The head dress for this dance is unique and is made of bison horn, raw silk and feathers – it is usually passed from generation to generation. The Maach of Madhya Pradesh is a folk theatre form. It is largely presented through traditional song and dances. Theme for this is either historical or taken from folk lore. All the characters in it are played by men. Other interesting dances of the tribals of Madhya Pradesh are the Phag (a sword dance), Mandri (a drum dance) and Lota (women dance with full pitchers of water on their heads).


Art & Craft:

Madhya Pradesh has an amazing reservoir of art and craft – with every region having its own specialities: Traditional floor coverings of Madhya Pradesh include durries and carpets. While durries usually have bold patterns incorporating geometric traditional motifs and human and animal figures, carpets are woven with floral and geometric designs. Beautiful folk paintings of the state largely include wall paintings of Bundelkhand, Gondwana, Nimar and Malwa. Splendid examples of folk painting can be seen in Mandana wall and floor paintings, Lipai paintings and Pithora paintings.


The craftsmen of Gond, Muria, Dhruva and Bhatra communities mould iron ore found in the state mines in beautiful shapes. Iron craft from the state finds place of pride in many fancy homes. Metal craft is practiced by Gadhavs, Gonds, Murias, Bhatras and the Dhruva tribal communities. Innovative designs are carved into metals and shaped into beautiful figurine and boxes. Jute is abundantly used in the tradition craft of the state. Creative potential and cost effectiveness makes it suitable for weaving items like lamps, hammocks, wall coverings, baskets, bags and footwear.


Jute handicrafts are mainly produced in Bhopal, Raipur, Indore and Gwalior. Folk jewellery of MP made from gold, silver, bronze and other metals are amazing examples of excellent craftsmenship. Papier Mache is an ancient art form practiced in regions like Ujjain, Gwalior, Bhopal and Ratlam. Ornate items like birds, animals, statues and vases are made out of Papier mache. Craftsmen from Ujjain are well known for creating immaculate replica of living birds. Chanderi sarees: Chanderi, a small town in the hills of North central Madhya Pradesh, has been famous for its sophisticated and artistic handlooms since the reign of the Scindia royal family. It takes two people eight days to weave one sari – sarees with intricate designs take even longer



Madhya Pradesh has a rich cuisine – free use of spices, oil and seasoning make food sumptuous and aromatic. The vast geography of the state is responsible for the diverse cuisine – it varies from region to region. While the north and west prefer wheat-and-meat based meal, the wetter south and east favour rice and fish. One of the exceptional dishes from Madhya Pradesh is Bafla (wheat cakes) dipped in pure ghee and served with daal. ‘Bhutte ki kees’ made of corn and milk, and Chakki ki shaak made up of steames wheat dough and used with curd are two other mouth watering dishes of the state.



There are quite a few delicious options for non vegetarians as well: spicy rogan josh, korma, seekh kebab and shami kebab to name a few. While the main course is tonguetingling spicy, they are followed by finger-licking desserts. Mawa-bati, shreekhand, khoprapak ‘malpua’, and Kusli (the cashew-based barfi) are very popular.
As for drinks, all time favourites are buttermilk and sugarcane juice.An excellent beer and fine rum produced from the cane is also popular. And then there is the local liquor distilled from the flowers of the mahua tree called sulfi and date palm toddy.


Festivals & fairs:

The colourful culture of Madhya Pradesh is well depicted in its festivals. The Madai festival, mainly celebrated by the Gonds in the honour of mother goddess, falls in the third or fourth week of February. While the day is spent in meeting people and doing annual shopping, the night is spent in merry making. Bhagoriya, the colourful festival of the Bhils and Bhilalas, is actually a marriage market held before the Holi festival. During this festival, young men go on applying ‘gulal’ to the girls they like. If the girl applies gulal in return, it indicates reciprocation of feelings.


Karma is a festival of Korba tribes. Devotees observe the religious rites and fast for 24 hours. Various songs and dances are performed during the night around a branch from the Karam tree planted in the middle of an open ground. In addition to it, all the Hindu festivals are celebrated with great aplomb. During Navaratri, the entire region of Ujjain comes alive with multitude of colours in the air. Thousands of people come to Ujjain on the occasion to take a dip in the sacred Shipra River. Shivratri too is a big festival. Held in the months of February/March this festival is attended by lakhs of devotees of Lord Shiva. And then there are Rang Panchmi and Holi which are the festivals of colour, and fall at a gap of five days. Diwali, Dussera and Iid too are celebrated with much zeal and enthusiasm. There are a number of fair in MP. The popular ones occur mostly in the months of Phalguna, Chaitra, Bhadra, Asvina and Kartika. During Phalguna many fairs coincide with the Holi and Shivaratri. The Tansen Urs also falls at Gwalior during this season.


Sankranti Melas held at various places draw crowds. Melas held around Basant Panchami are also important. Baldeviji Ka Mela(Panna), Rajim Mela and the fairs held in Bilaspur district are worth notice. In the Chaitra, fair held at Biaora (Malwa), the Dhup Dehi ka Mela of Hirapur (Rewa Division), the Ram Navami fair of Naya Gaon and the Bhilat Baba ka Mela of Seoni are worth mention. In the months of Asadha and Bhadra, at Deotalab (Rewa) the Somnath Sankarji ka Mela and Tejaji fair draw thousands of people. The Kumbha Mela is held after every twelve years at Ujjain.


Places to see:

Madhya Pradesh is a state of architectural grandeur as well as natural bliss. Three sites in Madhya Pradesh have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO: the Khajuraho Group of Monuments, REWA, Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi and the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003).



Ancient caves of the state are a major tourist attraction. Bhimbetka caves of Madhya Pradesh, located 46 km south of Bhopal are considered to be the largest treasure house of prehistoric art in the country, and are enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bagh caves, situated on the road from Indore to Vadodara are counted amongst the finest specimens of Buddhist art and architecture in India. Pandav caves, an important andmark in Panchmani get their name from Pandavas, who as per the local legends, spent a part of their exile here along with their wife ‘Draupadi’. Other majestic caves in the state are Bharatrihari and Udaigiri caves.




Ancient exquisite forts appear frozen in time and are a major tourist attraction. Asirgarh Fort, situated in the Burhanpur district, is located atop the Satpura mountainous ranges at a height of 850 ft above sea level. Built by Asa Ahir (an Ahir prince), it has Shiva temple and the Jami Masjid within its confines. Chanderi Fort is located at Chanderi in Ashoknagar district. This Mughal fort stands on a hillock – 71 metres above the town. Its main gate is called the ‘Khooni Darwaza’ (Gate of Blood). The reason as per the legend is, that it was witness to execution of many notorious criminals.


The exquisite Gwalior Fort was built by Raja Man Singh Tomar in the 15th century. Its three sq. km area houses three temples and six palaces among other things. About 2000 year old Bandhavgarh fort is located atop the Bandhavgarh hill in the centre of Bandhavgarh National Park. It is a breathtaking example of architectural magnificence and scenic beauty blending together. Jhansi, Narwar , Gohad and Mandu Fort too tell the stories of a golden past and attract a number of tourists.



Khajuraho temples, spread over eight square miles, entwine spiritualism and eroticism. Located in Khajuraho village, these temples have been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Created between the 9th to 12th century, temples of Khajuraho are the evidences of the architectural geniuses during the times of Chandela dynasty. Temples at Narmada Kund – Amarkantak and Omkar Mandhata temple are also very renowned – and worshippers visit them in large numbers.


Sanchi Stupas:

Sanchi is a well known seat of Buddhism. Enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Buddhist monuments of Sanchi, have a meticulous architecture. These stupas date back to the early Mauryan Empire (3rd century BC to 12th century AD). Besides stupas & monasteries, there are also chaityas, gateways and temples in Sanchi.



Besides these there are many artistic and beautiful palaces in the state. For instance, Rajwada Palace is an exquisite fusion of French, Mughal & Maratha architectural style and is a legacy of the Holkar rulers in Indore. Lal Bagh Palace with its classic architecture, complemented by sprawling lawns, is a remarkable sight. Today, a part of the building is converted into a museum.


A gleaming white sandstone palace, Jai Vilas Palace of Gwalior was built by Sir Michael Filose. Its edifice magnificently synthesizes Italian Tuscan and Corinthian architecture. Today, 35 of its many rooms form the Jai Vilas Museum. Jahaz Mahal, built in the 15th century, by Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din- Khilji to maintain his large harem, simulates a floating ship. Lying on a narrow strip of land between the two lakes, Munj Talao and Kapur Talao, the double-storied pleasure palace presents a hypnotic picture.


Wild Life Sanctuaries:

Madhya Pradesh’s natural abundance is as exquisite as its architectural magnificence. Bandhavgarh National Park is a habitat to tigers, wolves and reptiles among other animals – and is famous for tiger sightings. Trek to the Bandhavgarh Fort is also full of surprises, and very popular. Panna National Park has an amazing landscape and vegetation. Tigers, wolves, deer, sloth bears and crocodiles are the major attractions of this park. Kanha National Park and Satpura National Park too have tigers, leopards, sloth bears, deer and migratory birds. Satpura, in fact, is the first park in India where one is allowed to walk into the forest.



Though there are a number of waterfalls in the state, two without which the article would be incomplete are Rajat Prapat at Panchmani and Dhuandar falls at Bedaghat. At both the places one is awestruck by sheer natural beauty that intimidates as it enthrals.


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