Udayagiri Caves are intricately carved caves, reworked under the rule of Chandragupta II, the 5th century Gupta emperor. The caves are located between the Betwa and the Beas rivers and is 6 km away from Vidisha. They are situated in an isolated stone hill, with the numerous Buddhist remains creating the ambience. The inscriptions and carvings in the caves are dated of a great historical significance.
It is one of the most important archeological sites from the Gupta period and is under the protection of the Archeological Survey of India. Most of the sculptures found in the caves are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his incarnations. Lord Vishnu in the reclining position is a must-see sculpture in the caves.
These rock-cut cave sanctuaries are an exemplary site that illustrate the skill and imagination of the artisans from the Gupta period. It has painfully crafted capitals, columns and a breathtaking entranceway.
Khamba Baba or Heliodorus pillar is a stone column located just 4 km away from the Vidisha railway station. It is a monolithic free-standing column which bears an inscription stating that it was raised to honour Vasudeva, the God of Gods, by Heliodorus.
Heliodorus is believed to be the first and 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.
The Heliodorus pillar was erected in the early 2nd century BC. The pillar 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.
Bijamandal also known by the name Vijayamandira Temple is a must-visit in Vidisha. The 11th-century temple site 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. One can also see a small mosque made using pillars from the 8th and 9th centuries.
The mosque called the Alamgiri Masjid is believed to be constructed during the reign of the Mughal King Aurangzeb. One of the pillars of the temple holds a devotional inscription to Camunda by King Naravarman. Beside the temple is a storehouse by the Archaeological Survey of India, where a lot of sculptures collected from the neighbouring regions are preserved.
There is also a stepwell from the 17th century on the same campus which is worth a visit. The well has two tall pillars depicting scenes from Krishna's life. They are considered to be the earliest scenes from Krishna's life in the form of art in central India.
Sironj was previously known as Sironcha. It is a historically laden city that lies northwest of Vidisha. The town of Sironj was a Jain pilgrimage centre on the periphery of Bundelkhand. Sironj is about 85 kilometres from the town of Vidisha and is famous for its many shrines, temples and mosques. The Jama Masjid in Sironj is believed to be built by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century. One can also see the ruins of the observatory, built to measure the height of Mount Everest during the 18th century.
The Giridhari Temple in Sironj is assigned to the 11th century AD. Other marvels are the old and pristine temples of Jatashankar and Mahamaya. Madan Mohan Temple is one of the ancient temples in the country. Sironj is famous for textiles like muslin and calicos. It is considered to be the oldest town in India.
Gyaraspur in Vidisha has, amidst the fragments of an ancient temple, an exquisitely carved structure popularly called the Hindola Torana. The word hindola means a swing and torana refers to a portal. But this exquisite structure has nothing to do with a swing. It is called so as the huge pillars resemble the trestles of a swing. The Hindola Torana 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, one can see Dasavathara carved out in an intricate design. There is also a Buddhist sun window motif engraved on the pillars, making the Hindola Torana a rare site of mingling architecture of Buddhist and Hindu elements.
The Bajramath Temple is another rare and ancient temple located in Gyaraspur, Vidisha. The temple consisting of three shrines have Digambara Jain idols in them. The architectural structures of the shrines suggest that originally, these shrines were built to accommodate the Hindu Trinity and the temple was later occupied by the Jains of the Digambara sect.
It is assumed that the northern shrine of the temple was consigned to Lord Shiva, the central one to Lord Brahma and the shrine towards the south belonged to Lord Vishnu. The carvings on the doorways are intricately beautiful and are dated back to 10th century AD. The temple also has a shikhara with a unique and classy design. It will definitely be an onlooker’s delight. A visit to this temple is a must for travellers coming to discover Vidisha.
The Lohangi Pir is a towering rock formation which covers the town of Vidisha. Named after the saint Shaykh Jalal Chishti locally known as Lohangi Pir, the high-flying rock has its cliffs on all sides of the town. This rock formation is about 7 m tall and has a flat top with is around 10 m in diametre. There is also a tomb named after Lohangi Pir which is a small, domed building with encircling ruined structures. In this tomb one can also see two inscriptions in the Persian languages.
One of the inscriptions dates back to 1460 CE, the time when Mahmud I was the Sultan of Malwa. The other inscription was made in 1583 during the time of Akbar’s rule. One can also see a tank and a large bell capital dated from the 1st century BC. There are also the remains of a medieval temple in the surroundings dedicated to the Goddess Annapurna.
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 mesmerising. The temple is located on an enormous platform cut out on the side of the hill, leaving the tourists 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 Tirthankara.
Again, this idol could be a statue of Buddha because it does not have any symbol typical to the 24 Tirthankaras. There is also a circular passage and a lofty Shikhara. The Shikhara 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.
Popularly known as the Dashavatara Temples, they are a cluster of small Vaishnava shrines, each dedicated to one or the other ten incarnations of Vishnu. It is locally popular as the Sadhavatara Temple and lies to the north of a local lake in the town of Badoh in Kurwai near Vidisha. The scenic beauty of the alignment makes these ancient temples worth a visit.
These temples are built between the 8th to 10th centuries AD. There are also ruins of several Sati pillars from the 9th or 10th century in the western bank of the lake. Out of these several pillars, one has carvings on four sides with faces that show Hara-Gauri in a seated position with dancers and a band of musicians. A male sculpture can also be seen that holds up both its hands in utter devotion.
The Udayeshwara Temple is located in Udaipur village at Basoda. There are many old Sanskrit inscriptions found from the temple which show that the temple was founded by the Paramara King Udayaditya from the 11th century AD, sometime between 1059-1080. The temple is well connected by road to Vidisha and buses are aplenty connecting Basoda to many parts of Vidisha.
Udayeshwara Temple is made out of sandstone and is fenced by a short wall that has exquisite carvings on its exterior. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple has a sanctum sanctorum, a mandapa and three entrances. The mandapa or the main hall has intricate carvings, and there are porches on three sides of it. The shikara of the temple is embellished with richly cut stonework. The design of the temple is in Bhumija style of architecture.
Salabhanjika is a rare and unique stone figure of a woman standing in a tribhanga posture. The sculpture is said to have dated between the 8th and 9th centuries AD and was discovered at Gyaraspur. The exquisite sculpture is said to be of a wood nymph or vrishaka. The word "salabhanjika" is derived from Sanskrit that means “breaking a branch of a sala tree.” The salabhanjika is currently preserved in the Archaeological Museum in Gwalior.
The beauty of the sculpture is unparalleled as the nymph is found in a rare position - bending her body in triple flexion, even while keeping an intense and beautiful expression on her face. Some critics say that the salabhanjika is closely related to Buddhism as the posture of this lady is similar to the position in which Queen Maya gave birth to Gautam Buddha under an ashoka tree. Some critics hold the opinion that Salabhanjika is an old deity related to fertility. Miniature figures of Salabhanjika are seen on the Hindola Torana.
Gadarmal Temple is situated about 84 kilometres away from Vidisha but can be accessed from the city with ease. There are regular buses available from Vidisha to Pathari, connecting the travellers to the Gadarmal Temple. The town of Pathari itself has the ruins of many other medieval temples amongst which Gadarmal holds utmost importance. The temple is visible from a long distance due to his enormous height.
The temple looks like a two-part structure since it has two different basements. Moreover, the two different basements appear to belong to two different periods. The temple is believed to belong to the 9th century AD. It is believed that a lot of heterogeneous pieces from the ruins of the Jain and Hindu temples in the surroundings were used to build this temple. The Gadarmal Temple has an entrance porch without a main hall for prayers. This temple is reminiscent to the Teli Ka Mandir in Gwalior city. This temple is encompassed by seven other shrines, which are in ruins.
The Sola-Kambi Temple is believed to be from the age of the Guptas; it is located in the town of Badoh in Kurwai. The temple, located at the northern side of the lake, contributes to a calming picture.
The temple structure is flat-roofed and consists of sixteen pillars and hence, got the name Sola-Kambi. The temple structure is almost 8 sq m standing on a 1.5 m plinth. The Dashavatar Temple and Sat-Madhi Temple are close by and visitors can visit them.
The Jain images are found at Dharampur in the vicinity of Sironj in Vidisha district. The most important amongst the various images are that of the oldest-known monument idol of Chandranath, the eighth Jain Tirthankar. This image is about two metres in height and is roughly one metre broad. An inscription on the image dates it back to AD 155.
The image was found half buried underground, and before the excavation, it was locally known by the name Kali Telan. Another object of historical significance found in the environs is the Nisaiya, a sacred object for Jains. One can also see the broken, old statue of Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankar of Jains.