Madhya Pradesh, known as the 'Heart of India' because of its central location on the map, has been the home of several majestic dynasties including the Mauryas, the Guptas, the Rajputs (Paramara, Bundela, Chandela and Tomara), the Sungas, the Andhras, the Satavahanas, the Ksaptrapas, the Nagas, the Mughals and the Marathas. The advent and downfall of such diverse empires has made Madhya Pradesh a pluralistic state with religions like Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Jainism flourishing side-by-side.
Several rock paintings and metal implements that have been unearthed from this region suggest that the area has been under habitation since the prehistoric age. The earliest known kingdom is the Avanti dynasty which arose in the 6th century, with Ujjain as its capital city. The whole of Northern India was united with the formation of the Mauryan dynasty under the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, making Ujjain a major commercial centre. When Ashoka the Great came into power, a high degree of control was exerted on the whole state. As the Mauryan Empire started to dwindle, the Sakas, Kushanas, Satavahanas and other smaller empires took over the region. The Heliodorus pillar was erected by Heliodorus, the Greek ambassador to the Sunga king, Bhagabhadra.The state was then held captive, divided into several small fragments and ruled by the British. The state now encompasses the area of the ancient Avanti Mahajanapada.
In light of the significance that these dynasties have, even today, The Khajrao Group of monuments (1986), the Buddhist monuments at Sanchi (1989) and the Rock shelters at Bhimbetka (2003) have been declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
The government of Madhya Pradesh has been making serious efforts to promote tourism in the state. It is also encouraging bamboo and cane work, carpet-making, zari embroidery and folk paintings - techniques that the inhabitants are traditionally skilled at. In fact, zari embroidery work has been practiced by local artisans for the past 300 years. In the capital city of Bhopal and the surrounding areas of Gwalior and Indore, indigenous zari has been patronised by several emperors because of its grandeur.
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