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Visiting the Military Cantonment at MHOW( Military Headquarter of War) in India

Updated on December 9, 2017

The Cantonment

The cantonment was a British invention during the days of the Raj. These were garrison towns that housed the English army and were strategically located. The cantonment at MHOW (an acronym for Military Headquarter of War) was established in 1818, after the end of the third Maratha war (1817-18). This was after Holkar, the ruler of Indore and other Maratha chieftains along with him were defeated at the Battle of Mahidpur, close to Indore, which was the seat of the Holkars. The defeat of the Bhonsle and Holkar resulted in complete control of Central India by the East India Company.

Holkar signed on the dotted line and was allowed to rule so long as he accepted English suzerainty. The British then set up a cantonment close to Indore (about 22 Km away). The aim was to keep an eye on Holkar and also to fly the East India Company Flag in Central India. The cantonment at MHOW was established by General Hislop, who had led the charge against Holkar. Though the company lost about 800 dead, the Maratha were decimated with over 3000 killed.

The British housed their 5th Divison of the Southern Command at Mhow. This was a pure ethnic English division. The British went about making constructions at Mhow and also established a Fort. This is now destroyed and only a placard reminds the visitor of the fort.

The cantonment town like all other cantonment towns thrived on the East Indian Army soldiers and very soon Nautch centers with girls (Dancing girls) and shopping bazaars came up.

Sketch of the Mhow Fort
Sketch of the Mhow Fort
Welleseley barracks, home of White Soldiers
Welleseley barracks, home of White Soldiers

MHOW after 1947

With the withdrawal of the English from India, the cantonment town was occupied by the Indian army. It became a premier training cantonment and the army located 3 prestigious schools here. They were the College of Combat, Infantry school and the College of telecommunication engineering.

Mhow is an old town and has history written all over it. Not many know that Sir Winston Churchill, the great English Prime Minister was a resident of Mhow during the early 20th century. His house is now broken and does not exist. Churchill at that time had a stint with the British Indian army.

A visit to Mhow is a rewarding experience. Firstly it has a salubrious climate and is surrounded by hills and dales. These give excellent training facilities to Indian army officers. In addition, it is worth visiting the Wellesley Barracks. These housed the true blooded English soldiers and was known as the Gora barrack.

MHOW also has an excellent club with a 9 hole golf course, which is the best in Central India. The Club has an exclusive membership and only military officers can be members.

Mhow is also the birthplace of the father of the Indian Constitution Dr. BR Ambedekar. His father was a soldier in the Indian army. The Mhow cantonment is a place to relax and one can stay at the rooms attached to the Club. However, normally visitors come for a day and travel from Indore just about 22 km away. Indore has both luxury and budget hotels.

During British days MHOW railway station was a divisional headquarters, but after independence, the div headquarters is shifted to Ratlam.

Last word

MHOW still retains its old world charm. The Bazars are in existence from the days of the Raj. If one travels around the town one can see many dilapidated buildings. These have history behind them. There is also the grave of Major-general Robert Rollo Gillespie the commandant of Mhow. He never went back to England.

There is a lot see and the natural beauty around is stupendous. Mhow breathes history and a visit to this place can be a rewarding experience.

Mhow 1918
Mhow 1918


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    • emge profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Thank you Manatita. Your comments are really special. Yes, the cantonments in India are a world of their own

    • manatita44 profile image


      2 years ago from london

      History can be so fascinating! But sometimes it is also clouded by injustice. You seem to do a great job with describing it, and in telling of the British colonial ways. Hari Om!


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