Vidisha, or Bhilsa as it was called during the medieval period, is a city of ancient remnants and monuments of historical significance in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The remains of the ancient town of Besanagar is an example of the long lost glory of the ancient Gupta Empire.
Tourism in Vidisha forms the major part of economic activity. It has many places of religious and historical importance to offer to its travelers. There are many noted sculptures and inscriptions, ruins and archaeological sites too. Here is a guide to the ruined town of Vidisha.
Bijamandal also known by the name Vijayamandira Temple is a 11th century temple site that contains the remains of a large temple from the late Paramara period. The incomplete architectural design and the foundation stones suggest that the construction remained unfinished. You can also see a small mosque made using pillars from the 8th and 9th centuries.
One of the pillars of the temple holds a devotional inscription to Camunda by King Naravarman. Beside the temple is a store house by the archeological survey of India where a lot of sculptures collected from the neighbouring regions are collected and preserved. There is also a step well from the seventh century on the same campus which is worth a visit. The well has two tall pillars with scenes from Krishna's life depicted.
Sculptures at the ruins of Bijamandal
Photo Courtesy: Raveesh Vyas
Heliodorus Pillar is a monolithic free standing column which bears an inscription stating that it was raised to honour Vasudeva, the God of Gods, by Heliodorus. Heliodorous is believed to be the first the earliest foreigner to be converted into Vaishnavism. During the reign of Greek King Antialcidas, he sent Dion's son Heliodorus as a personal ambassador to the Sunga court at Vidisha. This information is included in the inscription on this Garuda Pillar locally known as Khamba Baba.
The pillar is a favourite deity of the Bhois and Dhimars in the region. It was erected in the early 2nd century BC. and has a sculpture of Garuda surmounted on it. The light brown pillar has three parts: a faceted shaft, a bell-capital and the sculpture of Garuda that stand over a damaged abacus.
A view of the pillar
Photo Courtesy: Asitjain
Gyraspur in Vidisha has amidst itself an exquisitely carved structure popularly called the Hindola Torana. The word Hindola means a swing and Torana refers to a portal. It is so called as the huge pillars resembles the framework of a swing. It was an entrance gateway to the now ruined temple.
The remains of the entrance consist of two pillars and a beam on top of them. There is also a small ornamental beam joining the two pillars at the end. Both the beams have ornamental capitals with mythical creatures sculpted on them. On the sides of the pillars, you can see dasavathara carved out in an intricate design. There is also a Buddhist sun window design engraved on the pillars, making the Hindola Torana a rare site of mingling architecture of Buddhist and Hindu elements.
Ruins of Hindola Torana
Photo Courtesy: Arnold Betten
Maladevi Temple in Vidisha can be found in a picturesque location on the slope of a hill. The view of the valley from the temple is mesmerizing. It is located on an enormous platform cut out on the side of the hill, leaving the tourist to wonder at the brilliance of the architecture of this temple.
The temple has an entrance porch, a hall and a shrine. The sanctum sanctorum has a statue which is considered to be of a Jaina Trithankar. There is also a circular passage and a lofty Shikhara which is intricately and painstakingly carved out to form an awe-inspiring sight in itself. The intermingling of the Jain images and the dedication blocks to a Goddess suggest that the temple was previously dedicated to a Goddess before it was appropriated by the Jain community.
How to Reach Vidisha
By Air: Raja Bhoj Airport in Bhopal is the closest airport to reach Vidisha. Bhopal airport is well connected with all major Indian airports like Delhi, Mumbai, Gwalior and Indore.
By Train: To reach Vidisha by rail, the easiest way is to get down at the Vidisha Railway Station itself. It is a major station in the Delhi- Chennai track. The Vidisha station is connected to all the major railway stations in India.
By Road: Vidisha is well connected with all the neighboring cities and town via road. There are taxi services available and also a plenty of private and state government bus services. There are also frequent bus services available from Bhopal to Vidisha and back. Buses also ply from Udaipur to Vidisha.