Malwa Plateau is a region in west-central northern India occupying a plateau of volcanic origin in the western part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. This region of plateau had been a separate political unit from the time of the Indian tribe of Malavas until 1947, when the British Malwa Agency was fused into Madhya Bharat, also known as Malwa Union. Although political borders have fluctuated throughout the history of Malwa Plateau, the region has developed its own distinctive culture and language.
The average elevation of the Malwa plateau is 500 metres, and the landscape slopes towards the north. The Chambal River and its tributaries drain most of the Malwa Plateau. The upper reaches of the Mahi River drain the western part of this Malwa Plateau. Ujjain was the political, economic, and cultural capital of the Malwa Plateau in ancient times, and Indore is presently the largest city and commercial center. Overall, agriculture is the main occupation of the people of Malwa Plateau. The region has been one of the important producers of opium in the entire world. Cotton and soybeans are other important cash crops of Malwa Plateau, and textiles are a major industry.
Malwa Plateau primarily includes the state of Madhya Pradesh and its districts of Dewas, Dhar, Indore, Jhabua, Mandsaur, Neemuch, Rajgarh, Ratlam, Shajapur, Ujjain, and parts of Guna and Sehore, and the Rajasthan districts of Jhalawar and parts of Banswara and Chittorgarh. Malwa is surrounded in the northeast by the Hadoti region, in the northwest by the Mewar region, in the west by the Vagad region and Gujarat. Politically and administratively, the definition of Malwa Plateau is sometimes extended to include the Nimar region south of the Vindhyas.
The geology of Malwa Plateau generally refers to the volcanic upland south of the Vindhyas, which includes the Malwa region and expands in east to include the upper basin of the Betwa and the headwaters of the Dhasan and Ken rivers. Malwa Plateau experiences a tropical climate with dry deciduous forests that are home to a number of tribes, most prominent of them being the Bhils. The culture of Malwa Plateau had influences from Gujarati, Rajasthani and Marathi cultures. Malvi is the most commonly used language, especially in rural areas, while Hindi is widely understood in cities. Major places of tourist interest in Malwa Plateau include Ujjain, Mandu, Maheshwar and Indore.
The first significant kingdom in Malwa Plateau was Avanti, an important power in western India in around 500 BC, when the Maurya Empire invaded it. The 5th-century Gupta period was a golden age in the history of Malwa. The dynasties of the Parmaras, the Malwa sultans, and the Marathas ruled Malwa Plateau at various times. The region boasts some 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 Bhoja.