Indore owes its early growth to trade and commerce, which is still a dominant feature of the city. It is the commercial capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The present city is about 500 years old. Till the end of 15th century, its original nucleus was a river side village which occupied the bank of river Kanh & Saraswati. This area is now known as Juni Indore.
Indore was a part of the Kampel pargana (administrative unit) during the Mughal Empire. Kampel was administered by the Ujjain sarkar (government) of Malwa Subah (province). The area was controlled by the local zamindars (feudal landlords), who accepted the suzerainty of the Mughal empire. The zamindars received the title of Chaudhari, which established their claim to the land.
The settlement was developed by Rao Nandlal Chaudhary, the chief local Zamindar, who had an army of 2000 soldiers. Under the Mughal rule, his family enjoyed great influence and was accorded confirmatory sanads by the Emperors Aurangzeb and Farrukhsiyar, confirming their jagir (land ownership) rights. When Nandlal visited the Mughal court at Delhi, he received a special place in the emperor’s court along with two jewel studded swords (now on display in the Royal British Museum under the family’s name) and confirmatory sanads.
By 1720, the headquarters of the local pargana were transferred from Kampel to Indore, due to the increasing commercial activity in the city. In 1733, the Peshwa assumed the full control of Malwa, and appointed his commander Malhar Rao Holkar as the Subhedar (Governor) of the province. Nandlal Chaudhary accepted the suzerainty of the Marathas. During the Maratha rule, the Chaudharis came to be known as “Mandloi”s (derived from Mandals meaning districts). The Holkars conferred the title of Rao Raja upon Nandlal’s family.
The respectability and influence of Nandlal’s family in the region was instrumental in the ascent of the Peshwas and Holkars to rulership of this region.
On 29 July 1732, Bajirao Peshwa-I granted Holkar State by merging 28 and half parganas to Malhar Rao Holkar, the founder ruler of Holkar dynasty. His daughter-in-law Ahilyabai Holkar moved the state’s capital to Maheshwar in 1767, but Indore remained an important commercial and military centre.
In 1818, the Holkars were defeated by the British during the Third Anglo-Maratha War, in the Battle of Mahidpur by virtue of which the capital was again moved from Maheshwar to Indore. A residency with British resident was established at Indore, but Holkars continued to rule Indore State as a princely state mainly due to efforts of their Dewan Tatya Jog. During that time, Indore was established the headquarters of British Central Agency. In 1906 electric supply was started in the city, fire brigade was established in 1909 and in 1918, first master-plan of city was made by noted architect and town planner, Patrick Geddes.
During the period of Maharaja Tukoji Rao Holkar II (1852–86) efforts were made for the planned development and industrial development of Indore. With the introduction of Railways in 1875, the business in Indore flourished till the reign of Maharaja Shivaji Rao Holkar, Maharaja Tukoji Rao Holkar III and Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar.
After India’s independence in 1947, Holkar State, along with a number of neighbouring princely states, acceded to Indian Union. In 1948, with the formation of Madhya Bharat, Indore became the summer capital of the state. On 1 November 1956, when provinces were reconfigured, Indore was included in the newly formed state; Madhya Pradesh. Indore; today is a city of nearly 2.2 million residents, has transformed from a traditional commercial urban center into a modern dynamic commercial capital of the state.