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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Malwa (मालवा) is a region in western India occupying a plateau of volcanic origin in the western part of Madhya Pradesh state and the south-eastern part of Rajasthan. This region has been a separate political unit from the time of the Aryan tribe of Malavas until 1947, when the British Malwa Agency was merged into Madhya Bharat.

Extent of Malwa

Malwa as per 1823 depiction of India by Fielding Lucas Jr.

The region includes the Madhya Pradesh districts:

The Rajasthan districts:

Politically and administratively, the definition of Malwa is sometimes extended to include the Nimar region south of the Vindhyas.

The first significant kingdom in the region was Avanti, an important power in western India by around 500 BCE, when it was annexed by the Maurya empire. The fifth-century Gupta (Dharan Jats) period was a golden age in the history of Malwa. The dynasties of the Parmaras, the Malwa sultans, and the Marathas have ruled Malwa at various periods of time in Indian history. The region has given the world prominent leaders in the arts and sciences, including the poet and dramatist Kalidasa, the author Bhartrihari, the mathematicians and astronomers Varahamihira and Brahmagupta, and the polymath king Bhoj.

The name Malwa, according to, is derived from the ancient Aryan tribe of Malavas, about whom very little is known apart from the fact that they founded the Vikrama Samvat; this is a calendar dating from 57 BCE that is widely used in India and that is popularly associated with the king Chandragupta Vikramaditya. The name Malava is derived from the Sanskrit term Malav, and means “part of the abode of Lakshmi”. The location of the Malwa or Moholo, mentioned by the 7th-century Chinese traveller Xuanzang, is plausibly identified with present-day Gujarat. The region is cited as Malibah in Arabic records, such as Kamilu-t Tawarikh by Ibn Asir .

Ujjain, also known historically as Ujjaiyini and Avanti, emerged as the first major centre in the Malwa region during India's second wave of urbanisation in the 7th century BCE (the first wave was the Indus Valley Civilization). Around 600 BCE an earthen rampart was built around Ujjain, enclosing a city of considerable size. Avanti was one of the prominent mahajanapadas of the Indo-Aryans. In the post-Mahabharata period—around 500 BCE—Avanti was an important kingdom in western India; it was ruled by the Haihayas, the people who were possibly of mixed Indo-Aryan and aboriginal descent, who were responsible for the destruction of Naga power in western India. The region was conquered by the Maurya empire in the mid-4th century BCE. Ashoka, who was later a Mauryan emperor, was governor of Ujjain in his youth. After the death of Ashoka in 232 BCE, the Maurya Empire began to collapse. Although evidence is sparse, Malwa was probably ruled by the Kushanas and the Shakas during the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE. Ownership of the region was the subject of dispute between the Western Kshatrapas and the Satavahanas during the first three centuries CE. Ujjain emerged a major trading centre during the 1st century CE.

Mention by Panini

Salva (साल्वा), Malva (माल्वा) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi under Nadyadi (नद्यादि) (4.2.97) group.[1]


According to Dilip Singh Ahlawat [2], The Naga Jats ruled over Kantipur, Mathura, Padmavati, Kausambi, Nagpur, Champavati, (Bhagalpur) and in the central India, in western Malwa, Nagaur (Jodhpur- Rajasthan). In addition they ruled the ancient land of Shergarh, (Kota, Rajasthan), Madhya Pradesh (Central India), Chutiya Nagpur, Khairagarh, Chakra Kotiya and Kawardha. The great scholar, Jat Emperor, Bhoja Parmar, mother Shashiprabha was a maiden of a Naga Clan.

Ram Sarup Joon[3] writes that ....Samudra Gupta conquered the whole of Punjab and a major part of India. The clans defeated by him included

Gupta Empire

Malwa became part of the Gupta Empire during the reign of Chandragupta II (375–414), also known as Vikramaditya, who conquered the region, driving out the Western Kshatrapas. He was son of Samudragupta (335-375 AD). Kumaragupta I (414-455) ascended the throne after death of Chandragupta II in 414 AD. Skandagupta (455-467 AD ) was the last great ruler of the Gupta dynasty. It was during his reign that Hunas for the first time invaded India but Skandgupta gave them such a crushing defeat that they did not try to come near India for next 50 years.

The Gupta period is widely regarded as a golden age in the history of Malwa, when Ujjain served as the empire's western capital. Kalidasa, Aryabhata and Varahamihira were all based in Ujjain, which emerged as a major centre of learning, especially in astronomy and mathematics.

In 484 AD Hunas again fell on India . Their chief Torman shook the Gupta Empre by wrestling from them Punjab, Rajasthan, Sindh and Malwa. Torman died in 511 AD. Torman was succeeded by his son Mihirkula. To contain his devilish cruelties some Indian kings formed themselves into a confederecy in which Ruler of Malwa Yasodharman and Magadha ruler Baladitya played a vital role. They gave Mihirkula a crushing defeat near Multan.

Around 500, Malwa re-emerged from the dissolving Gupta empire as a separate kingdom; in 528, Yasodharman of Malwa defeated the Hunas, who had invaded India from the north-west. During the seventh century, the region became part of Harsha's empire, and he disputed the region with the Chalukya king Pulakesin II of Badami in the Deccan.

[ The discovery of the Risthal (near Mandsaur) has demolishes the previouly held views. Now we know that it was Prakashdharman,the immediate predecessor and most likely father of Yashodharman who defeated Hunas' ruler in a frontal war. The event should have taken place well before the date of the inscription mentioned here i.e. Malava year 572=A.D.515-16. Accordingly.If there was a confederacy and a single war with the Hunas it should have been led by Yashodharman's father Prakashadharman. The father son duo of the Aulikara family must have staged a grand surrender scene after vanquishig the Huna father-son duo. Hence the similar references separately in their respective inscriptions authored by the same poet Vasula, son of Kakka. Also the date 528A.D. assigned to Mihirakula's defeat at the hands of Yashodharman is mere conjecture and aganst the confederacy theory. Since the older texts relating to Yashodharman of Mandsaur, Vshnuvardhana of Bijayagarh inscription are edit proof I HAD NO OTHER KNOWN(TO ME)to update the history wherevr relevant.]

Jat rulers in Malwa

According to Thakur Deshraj Malwa gets its name from Mall republics who were famous during Mahabharata and Bhuddhist periods. There Mall tribe was known as Malloi at the time of Alexander. Mall tribe is found in Jats and Brahmans. According to Katyayan they became Malwi in Brahmans and Mali in Jat Kshatriyas. Both these words have been derived from Sanskrit word Malav. Mall tribes were in the neighbourhood of Videhi tribe and came to this area in later periods. Earlier this country was known as Avanti. Vikramditya was ruler of this country. Malwa was a fertile and wealthy country. Like Punjab and Sindh it was abode of Jats. Jats ruled this country.

The history of Malwa prior to 4th century BC is in dark. Malwa region was inhabited by Dasharn, Dasharh, Kuntal and Charman tribes. Bhoj tribes were in and around Dharanagri. Dasharn and Dasharh tribes ruled at Mandsaur, which was earlier known as Dashpur or Dashaur. Charman (Chahar+Maan) tribes ruled on the banks of Chambal River.

Apart from these tribes this country was also ruled by Mauryans, Guptas, Andhak and Panwar. These groups from outside the Malwa and had destroyed the Republics of Malwa. Prior to these groups from outside Malwa, Mallois were the rulers of these Republics. During Alexander’s period Kshudrak tribes were reported in their neighbourhood.

Out of these castes some are found in Jats and Rajputs. Dashpuria, Bhoj and Kuntal are found in Jats only. Bangari tribes also ruled Malwa and one area of Malwa region is known as Bangar after them. Traces of Bangars are found in Brahmans and Jats both.


At the time of Gupta rulers in Malwa there is mention of one more dynasty of rulers in Malwa. Singhvarma was contemporary of Samudragupta (335-375 AD). Singhvarma had two sons namely Chandravarma and Narvarma. Chandravarma moved from Malwa and established kingdom in Marwar. Narvarma remained ruler in Malwa. Narvarma had two sons namely Bandhu Varma and Bhim Varma. Guptas had increased their powers in Malwa and Bandhuvarma accepted subjection of Gupta rulers. Bhimvarma became samant of Skandgupta Vikramaditya (455-467), son of Kumargupta I. He was probably samant of Kaushambi.[4]

Bhangupta Baladitya became ruler of Malwa after 40 years period of Skandgupta. Baladitya has been mentioned along with Jat ruler Yasodharman in defeating the Huns. If we add name of Vishnuvardhan after Bandhuvarma the chronology of these rulers becomes as under:

Singhvarma, his two sons Chandravarma and Narvarma. Narvarma had one son – Vishvavarma. He had two sons – Raghuvarma and Bhimvarma. Raghuvarma’s son was Vishnuvardhan and his son Yasodharman. Yasodharman’s son was Shiladitya. [5]

Bandhu Varma was contemporary of Kumargupta I and Samudragupta. He was ruler of Mandsaur before Huna victory of Yashodharman. There is a inscription about Bandhu Varma at Mandsaur. The silk workers had constructed Sun temple here which was repaired by Bandhu Varma in samvat 530 (473 AD). This indicates that he was present there till 473 AD. After Bandhuvarma the ruler of Mandsaur was Vishnuvardhan who erected a pillar of victory at Bayana due to which Bayana’s name became Vijaygarh. Vishnuvardhan and Yasodharman assumed the title of Samrat after they occupied the territories of Bandhuvarma. It is also mentioned that Vishnuvardha had assumed the title of ‘Maharajadhiraja’ or Emperor. [6]


Thakur Deshraj [7]writes that the outsider caste-groups damaged the Malwa republics system. These republics of Malwa became monochromatic over a period of time. Such people out of these republics (Jats) were Kanishka, Shalendra and Yasodharman. Maharaja Vishnuvardhan was father of Yasodharman. Vishnuvardhan was Virk gotra Jat. The inscription of Bayana mentions him as Virk Vishnuvardhan.

[The proposition as above of Thakur Deshraj stands refuted now. Vishnuvardhana of Bijaygarh inscription was different from Vishnuvardhana an alias of Yashodhrman, the Aulikara of the Mandsaur inscriptions. The name of Vishnuvardhana of Bijaygarh was Yashovardhna not Yashdharman.]

CV Vaidya in ‘Hindu Medeival India’ writes about Vishnuvardhan as under:

“The kingdom of Malapo or western Malwa belonged to Yasodharman Vishnuvardhan of the Mandsaur inscription. In our surmise their name ending Vardhan shows that he was a vaisya like Guptas. His great exploit was that he defeated Mihirkula the Hun. Now we already quoted the sentence in Chandr’a Grammar अजय जर्टो हुणान (“Ajay Jarto Hunan”) meaning the Jats conquered the Huns. If we apply this sentence to Yasodharman and there is none else to whom it can well be applied. We may surmise that he was a jarta or jat from the Punjab. Infact like the Gujars of Bhinmal we may suppose that Jats from Punjab to have migrated to Malwa (which like Rajputana is a favourite land with migrators ) to take refuse from the invasions of the Huns and these Jats in Malwa of getting strong under Yasodharman influence in 528 AD a signal defeat on Huns who had over run their motherland, the Punjab.”

There is an inscription on pillar of Maharaja Vishnuvardhan in Bayana town in Bharatpur district, which is known as ‘Bhim Lat’. This shows the extent of his rule up to Bayana. According to CV Vaidya the period of Jat rulers in Malwa is 500-641 AD. They were rulers in Mandsaur when Guptas were the rulers in Ujjain. Out of these rulers of Mandsaur one or two have been recorded as mandalikas of the Guptas. [8]


Yasodharman was the king of Malwa, in central India, during the early part of the 6th century. The Gupta empire had been weakened by the attacks of the Indo-Hephthalites, known in India as the Hunas, towards the end of the 5th century, which caused it to break up into smaller states. Yasodharman declared independence. Yasodharman defeated a Huna army in 528, which checked the Huna expansion in India. Twin monolithic pillars at Sondani in Mandsaur District were erected by Yasodharman as a record of his victory. Three inscriptions of Yasodharman have been found in Mandsaur. One of these is of samvat 589 (532 AD). Yasodharman had acquired the title of Vikramaditya. He started the vikram samvat calendar of Hindus based on Lunar movements.


He was son of Yasodharman. He became ruler of Malwa after Yasodharman. He was a follower of Buddhism. The Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang has mentioned about him. His neighbours were brahmans who attacked him so he migrated from Malwa and reached Kashmir. In 540 AD Pravarsen of Kashmir made him king again. After the fall of the rule of Virk Jats in Malwa, there remained no other Jat state worth mentioning.[9]

Malwa mentioned in Edda – Scandinavian religious book

There is description of the Malwa in the religious book of Scandinavia- Edda, according to Thakur Deshraj. Thakur Deshraj has mentioned in his book on History of Jats “Jat Itihas” (Hindi) (1934) that the country Assyria gets its name from Asiagh gotra Jats. The origin of word Asiagh is from Sanskrit word ‘Asi’ meaning sword. According to Kautilya the people who depended on ‘Asi’ (sword) for their living were known as Asiagh. The Asiaghs moved from Asirgarh in Malwa to Europe. Those who settled in Jangladesh were called Asiagh and those who moved to Scandinavia were known as Asi. Jats entered Scandinavia around 500 BCE and their leader was Odin. James Tod considers Odin to be derived from Buddha or Bodan. The Asi Jats founded Jutland as their homeland in Scandinavia. The religious book of Scandinavia ‘Edda’ mentions that the ancient inhabitants of Scandinavia were Jats or Jits who were Aryans known as Asi people and came to this land from Asirgarh.

Asirgarh is a site of an ancient fort situated in Burhanpur district of Malwa region in Madhya Pradesh, India. Thakur Deshraj further quotes Scandinavian writer Mr Count Johnsturn who says that Scandinavians came from India. According to James Tod Scandinavia is derived from Sanskrit word ‘Skandhnabh’.

Visit by Xuanzang in 640 AD

Alexander Cunningham[10] writes that The capital of Mo-la-po, or Malwa, is described by Hwen Thsang as situated to the south-east of the river Mo-ho, or Mahi, and at about 2000 li, or 333 miles, to north-west of Bharoch.[11] In this case both bearing and distance are erroneous, as Malwa lies to the north-east of Bharoch, from which the source of

[p.491]: the river Mahi is only 150 miles distant. I would there-fore read 1000 li, or 167 miles, to the north-east, which corresponds almost exactly with the position of Dharanagara, or Dhar, one of the old capitals of Malwa.

The present town of Dhar is about three-quarters of a mile in length, by half a mile in breadth, or 2½ miles in circumference ; but as the citadel is outside the town, the whole circuit of the place cannot be less than 3½ miles. The limits of the province are estimated at 6000 li, or 1000 miles. To the westward there were two dependencies of Malwa, named Kheda, with a circuit of 3000 li, or 500 miles, and Anandapura, with a circuit of 2000 li, or 333 miles, besides an independent state, named Vadari, with a circuit of 6000 li, or 1000 miles. All these have to be squeezed into the tract of country lying between Kachh and Ujain, on the west and east, Gurjara and Bairat on the north, and Balabhi and Maharashtra on the south, of which the extreme boundaries are not more than 1350 miles in circuit. It seems probable, therefore, that the dependencies must have been included by the pilgrim within the limits of the ruling state. I would accordingly assign to Malwa and its dependencies the southern half of the tract just mentioned, and to Fadari, the northern half. The limits of Malwa would thus be defined, by Vadari (वडरी) on the north, Balabhi on the west, Ujain on the east, and Maharashtra on the south. The circuit of this tract, extending from the mouth of the Banas river, in the Ran of Kachh, to the Chambal, near Mandisor, and from the Sahyadri mountains, between Daman and Maligam, to the Tapti river, below Burhanpur, is about 850 miles measured on the map, or nearly 1000 miles by road distance.

[p.492]: According to Abu Rihan,[12] the distance of the city of Dhar from the Narbada was 7 parasangs, and thence to the boundary of Mahrat-das, 18 parasangs. This proves that the territory of Dhar must have extended as far as the Tapti, on the south.

Hwen Thsang mentions that there were two kingdoms in India that were specially esteemed for the study of the Buddhist, religion, namely, Magadha in the north-east, and Malwa in the south-west. In accordance with this fact he notes, that there were many hundreds of monasteries in Malwa, and no less than twenty thousand monks of the school of the Sammatiyas. He mentions, also, that 60 years previous to his visit, Malwa had been governed for 50 years by a powerful king, named Siladitya, who was a staunch Buddhist.

प्रदेश का नाम मालवा क्यों पड़ा

ठाकुर देशराज लिखते हैं कि इस प्रदेश का नाम मालवा क्यों पड़ा? ऐसा प्रश्न होना स्वाभाविक है। हमारे मत से तो मल्ल लोगों के कारण इसका नाम मालवा पड़ा है। मल्ल गण-तन्त्री थे और वे महाभारत तथा बौद्ध-काल में प्रसिद्ध रहे हैं। ये मल्ल ही आगे चलकर, सिकन्दर के समय में, मल्लोई के नाम से प्रसिद्ध थे। इस समय इनका अस्तित्व ब्राह्मण और जाटों में पाया जाता है। ‘कात्यायन’ ने शब्दों के जातिवाची रूप बनाने के जो नियम दिए हैं, उनके अनुसार ब्राह्मणों में से मालवी और क्षत्रियों (जाटों) में माली कहलाते हैं ये दोनों शब्द मालव शब्द से बने हैं। मल्ल लोग विदेहों के पड़ौसी थे। इधर कालान्तर में आये होंगे। पहले यह देश अवन्ति के नाम से प्रसिद्ध था। राजा विक्रमादित्य इसी देश में पैदा हुए थे। मालवा समृद्धिशाली और उपजाऊ होने के लिए प्रसिद्ध है। पंजाब और सिन्ध की भांति जाटों की निवास भूमि होने का इसे सौभाग्य प्राप्त है। जाटों का इस धन-धान्य के सम्पन्न भूमि पर राज्य ही नहीं, किन्तु साम्राज्य रहा है। खेद इतना है कि उनके राज्य और साम्राज्य का पूरा हाल नहीं मिलता। अब तक जो सामग्री प्राप्त हुई है, वह गौरवपूर्ण तो अवश्य है, किन्तु पर्याप्त नहीं है।

ईसा से चार शताब्दी पूर्व का इतिहास अंधकार में है और जो मिलता भी है, वह क्रमबद्ध नहीं। महाभारत काल में उज्जैन में बिन्दु और अनुबिन्दु नाम से राजा राज करते थे। उनका राज्य द्वैराज्य-प्रणाली पर चलता था। वे अवश्य ही दो जातियों की ओर से चुने हुए होंगे। इस तरह उनका राज्य ज्ञाति-राज्य था। वर्तमान में जिस देश को मालवा कहते हैं, उसमें दशार्ण, दशार्ह, मालवत्स्य, कुकर, कुन्ति, भोज, कुन्तल और चर्मन् आदि अनेक जाति-समूह रहते थे। धारानगर के निकटवर्ती प्रदेश में भोज और मन्दसौर के आसपास दशार्ण और दशार्ह लोगों का राज्य था।

जाट इतिहास:ठाकुर देशराज,पृष्ठान्त-706

आज के मन्दसौर का पूर्व नाम दशपुर अथवा दसौर था।1 चम्बल के किनारे पर चम्पानगरी में चर्मन्वत लोगों का राजा था। भारत के राष्ट्रीय इतिहास में (जिसे कि श्री विजयसिंह जी पथिक लिख रहे थे) दशार्ण लोगों को दस जातियों का समूह माना गया है। किन्तु प्राचीन ग्रन्थों में वे एक ही जाति के माने गए हैं।

इन जातियों के अलावा इस देश पर मौर्य, गुप्त, अन्धक और पंवार लोगों का भी राज रहा है। ये जातियां मालवा-प्रदेश से बाहर की थीं और इन्होंने ऊपर लिखे प्रजातंत्रों को नष्ट करके अपना राज्य जमाया था। इनसे पहले यहां मल्लोई जाति का प्रजातंत्र बहुत बड़ा था। सिकन्दर के समय के साथ क्षुद्रक लोगों का भी पता इनके ही पड़ौस में लगता है। इन सब जातियों में से कुछ न कुछ समूह जाट और राजपूत दोनों में पाए जाते हैं। किन्तु दशपुरिया, भोज और कुन्तल केवल जाटों में ही मिलते हैं। मालवा में बांगरी लोगों का भी आधिपत्य रहा था और उनके नाम से एक हिस्से का नाम बांगर प्रसिद्ध हो गया था। उनका निशान ब्राह्मण और जाट जातियों में मिलता है।


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