Madhya Pradesh, a vast province, means "Central Province" in Hindi, and indeed Madhya Pradesh is in the centre of India. Seven main rivers run through it. Tropical forests cover the area between the Chambal and Godavari rivers, almost a third of the state. There is thick forest in a rugged area to the east of the Chambal as well.
This is mainly an agricultural state. The Malwa plateau has rustic homes nestled among golden wheatfields and green mango and tamarind trees. Among the mountains of Vindhya and Satpura, a variety of local tribes farm their lands. Tribals make up 20% of Madhya Pradesh's population, and some have remained largely cut off from the mainstream.
Madhya Pradesh's climate is subtropical, its hot dry summers (April-June) relieved by the monsoon rains which last till September. Its winters are fairly cool and dry. In the north, however, it is more humid, while the central area is cool and windy.
Madhya Pradesh is very rich in major historical sites. There are, above all, the Khajuraho� temples, the Buddhist monuments at Sanchi, and the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka.
Bhopal, the capital, is the City of Lakes, with both man-made and natural lakes throughout the district of Bhopal. Bhopal is beautifully set among small hills along the shores of two manmade lakes.
The present city of Bhopal was founded by Afghan governor Dost Mohammed in the 18th century and was ruled by his family until it became part of the Indian Union in 1947. The old city with its bustling marketplaces and elegant palaces and mosques still stands, alongside the modern city which boasts wide roads, artistically-designed green spaces, and high-rise office buildings.
Bopal has many historic buildings. Shaukat Mahal blends Indo-Islamic and European architecture. Gohar Mahal has a mixture of Hindu and Mughal features. Purana Kila, a fort three centuries old, stands in the Kamala Nehru Park. There are temples and mosques, including both one of Asia's largest mosques and one of the smallest. Bhopal is also a haven for lovers of theatre, with theatre festivals organized by local cultural centres throughout the year. There are also many music and dance recitals and fairs. Silver jewelry, intricate beadwork, and embellished velvet pieces are among the best traditional products of the city.
The city became notorious following the Bhopal disaster in 1984, when the Union Carbide plant leaked deadly methyl isocyanate gas, killing thousands in the city and neighbouring areas. Thousands still suffer from the effects.
Bhopal is hot from April-June, rainy during the July-September monsoon season, and cool in November-February.