Hin: आम्बेडकर नगर āmbēḍakara nagar, महू  mahū

‘Ambedkar Town’ [Mhow-gaon, Mow]  Cantonment Town, Madhya Pradesh

From B. R. Ambedkar and Skt: nagar, ‘town’, ‘city’; Hin: mahuā, ‘mahua/mahwa tree’ and Skt/Hin: grama/gaon, ‘village’.

Ambedkar Nagar is the official name and Bhimrao Ramji (Babasaheb) Ambedkar (1891-1956), the Dalit lawyer and activist responsible for drafting the Indian Constitution, was born here.

Mhow is an interesting one. Some have suggested it  is actually an acronym: Military Headquarters of War because the British had a cantonment here. This is highly unlikely because the name pre-dates the British and it is a little too contrived anyway.

The name is not uncommon (there are ten other villages and towns with the same Mhow place name element in Madhya and Uttar Pradesh). This suggests that it is more likely to be the English spelling that is strange and that there is no need to resort to an acronym.

Hobson-Jobson lists Mohwa, Mhowa and Mowa as Anglo-Indian renditions of Hin: mahuā; and Skt: madhūka [Madhuca longifolia]. And this matches closely the Hindi version of the name [Hin: mahu].

The Mahua is a tall, tropical tree, similar in some ways to an oak. It is valued for its fruit and  oil (used for soap, fuel, butter and skin care).

Mahua flowers, moreover, are about 70% sugar and while they are a popular food item with tribal people their

‘… main use is in the distillation of ardent spirits, most of what is consumed being Mhowa. The spirit, when well made, and mellowed by age, is by no means of despicable quality, resembling in some degree Irish whisky’ [Forsyth (1889) p. 80].

 

Ambedkar Memorial (Mhow)       Aamin