The majority of the inhabitants are Hindi-speaking Hindus, but Urdu and other languages are also spoken. A large aboriginal population (c.5 million), principally Gonds, inhabits the forested regions. There are four major universities and numerous colleges in the state. Madhya Pradesh is governed by a chief minister and cabinet responsible to a bicameral legislature with one elected house and by a governor appointed by the president of India.
Nominally within the Mughal empire, the area was ruled during the 16th and 17th cent. by the Gonds and in the 18th cent. by the Marathas. The British occupied it in 1820. Berar, originally belonging to the domain of the Nizam of Hyderabad, was incorporated in 1903; from then until 1950 the state was called Central Provinces and Berar. In 1956 it greatly increased its area with the addition of Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, and Bhopal. That area was decreased significantly in 2000 when Madhya Pradesh's southeastern portion, the subject of separatist movements since the 1920s, became the new state of Chhattisgarh.
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