MALWA, an historic province of India, which has given its name to one of the political agencies into which Central India is divided. Strictly, the name is confined to the hilly table-land, bounded S. by the Vindhyan range, which drains N. into the river Chambal ; but it has been extended to include the Nerbudda valley farther south. Its derivation is from the ancient tribe of Malavas about whom very little is known, except that they founded the Vikrama Samvat, an era dating from 57 B.C., which is popularly associated with a mythical king Vikramaditya. The earliest name of the tract seems to have been Avanti, from its capital the modern Ujjain. The position of the Malwa or Moholo mentioned by Hsuan Tsang (7th century) is plausibly assigned to Gujarat. The first records of a local dynasty are those of the Paramaras, a famous Rajput clan, who ruled for about four centuries(8oo-i2oo), with their capital at Ujjain and afterwards at Dhar. The Mahommedans invaded Malwa in 1235; and in 1401 Dilawar Khan Ghori founded an independent kingdom, which lasted till 1531. The greatest ruler of this dynasty wasHoshang Shah (1405-1435), who made Mandu(?.t>.) his capital and embellished it with magnificent buildings. In 1562 Malwa was annexed to the Mogul empire by Akbar. On the break-up of that empire, Malwa was one of the first provinces to be conquered by the Mahrattas. About 1743 the Mahratta peshwa obtained from Delhi the title of governor, and deputed his authority to three of his generals Sindhia of Gwalior, Holkar of Indore, and the Ponwar of Dhar who claims descent from the ancient Paramaras. At the end of the 18th century Malwa became a cockpit for fighting between the rival Mahratta powers, and the headquarters of the Pindaris or irregular plunderers. The Pindaris were extirpated by the campaign of Lord Hastings in 1817, and the country was reduced to order by the energetic rule of Sir John Malcolm. Malwa is traditionally the land of plenty, in which sufferers from famine in the neighbouring tracts always take refuge. But in 1899-1900 it was itself visited by a severe drought, which seriously diminished the population, and has since been followed by plague. The most valuable product is opium.
The Malwa agency has an area of 8919 sq. m. with a population (1901) of 1,054,753. It comprises the states of Dewas (senior and junior branch), Jaora, Ratlam, Sitamau and Sailana, together with a large portion of Gwalior, parts of Indore and Tonk, and about 35 petty estates and holdings. The headquarters of the political agent are at Nimach.
Malwa is also the name of a large tract in the Punjab, south of the river Sutlej, which is one of the two chief homes of the Sikhs, the other being known as Manjha. It includes the British districts of Ferozpore and Ludhiana, together with the native states of Patiala, Jind, Nabha and Maler Kotla.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)