Nicknamed the "heart of India" due to its geographical location in India, Madhya Pradesh is the second largest state in the country by area. With over 75 million inhabitants, it is the sixth largest state in India by population. It borders the states of Uttar Pradesh to the northeast, Chhattisgarh to the southeast, Maharashtra to the south, Gujarat to the west, and Rajasthan to the northwest.
The area covered by the present-day Madhya Pradesh includes the area of the ancient Avanti mahajanapada, whose capital Ujjain(also known as Avanti) arose as a major city during the second wave of Indian urbanization in the sixth century BCE. Subsequently, the region was ruled by the major dynasties of India, including the Mauryans, the Mughals and the Marathas. By the early 18th century, the region was divided into several small kingdoms which were captured by the British and incorporated into Central Provinces and Berar and the Central India Agency.
After India's independence, Madhya Pradesh state was created with Nagpur as its capital: this state included the southern parts of the present-day Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. In 1956, this state wasreorganized and its parts were combined with the states of Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh and Bhopal to form the new Madhya Pradesh state with Bhopal as its capital. This state was the largest state of India by area until 2000. In 2000, the Chhattisgarhregion was split to create a new state, and Rajasthan became the largest state of India.
Madhya Pradesh is home to a large tribal population, which has been largely cut-off from the mainstream development. This makes MP one of the least developed states in India, with an HDI value of 0.375 (2011), which is below the national average. The state's per-capita gross state domestic product (nominal GDP) is the fourth lowest in the country (2010–11). MP is also the lowest-ranked state on the India State Hunger Index.
In the recent years, the state's GDP growth has been above the national average. The state is rich in mineral resources, and has the largest reserves of diamond and copper in India. More than 30% of its area is under the forest cover. Its tourism industry has seen considerable growth, with the state topping the National Tourism Awards in 2010-11.
Madhya Pradesh is home to 9 National Parks, including Bandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National Park, Satpura National Park, Sanjay National Park, Madhav National Park, Van Vihar National Park, Mandla Plant Fossils National Park, Panna National Park, and Pench National Park. There are also a number of natural preserves, including Amarkantak,Bagh Caves, Balaghat, Bori Natural Reserve, Ken Gharial, Ghatigaon, Kuno Palpur, Narwar, Chambal, Kukdeshwar, Narsinghgarh, Nora Dehi, Pachmarhi, Panpatha, Shikarganj, Patalkot and Tamia. Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve in Satpura Range and Amarkantak biosphere reserve are two of the 17 biosphere reserves in India.
Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Panna, and Satpura National Park are managed as project tiger areas. Sardarpur sanctuary in Dhar and Sailana are managed for conservation of kharmor or Lesser Florican. Ghatigaon sanctuary is managed for Great Indian Bustard or Son Chiriya. The National Chambal Sanctuary is managed for conservation of gharial andmugger, River dolphin, smooth-coated otter and a number of turtle species. Ken-gharial and Son-gharial sanctuaries are managed for conservation of gharial and mugger. Barasinghais the state animal and Dudhraj is the state bird of Madhya Pradesh.