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Bhopal To Vidisha- An Offbeat Excursion

By Atul Malhotra (15th July, 2008)

Most of the travelers who visit Bhopal, and if they have a day to spare, probably go to more famous Sanchi. But most of them easily overlook the seemingly small village of Vidisha, a well preserved and less explored by tourists, displays some very amazing vestiges of Sankyan architecture. The tiny hamlet lies 60km from Bhopal and 10km from Sanchi, in the fork of the Betwa and Beas rivers. It is among one of the ancient cities of India.

It is a treasure trove of rich historical artifacts dating back to thousands of years. The famous Udaigiri Caves bestows the glory of Vidisha, just 5km drive from desolate Vidisha railway station. These amazing extravanganza of ancient architecture had been carved out of a towering sandstone hill. There are total 20 such caves, mostly dedicated to various Hindu deities. These caves are like small chambers enshrining idols or images of God and Goddess. According to inscription on wall of the caves, the probable time of establishment of these caves was during 1st century BC under powerful dynasty of Cheti. Later on Chandragupta II cut these caves for his personal use. The caves are therefore vital and rich expression of Gupta art. pillars bear the 'vase and foliage' pattern typifying a renewal of faith - one of the most graceful forms in India.

Most interesting is cave 5, which has carefully preserved a 4m tall image of Lord Vishnu in his boar incarnation lies practically undamaged. Other important relic is a Brahmanical shrine dating back to before a 2nd century BC. Other important nice place to visit in Vidisha is Heliodorus Pillar popularly known as Khamb Baba, a rather strange tall monolithic free standing column. The inscriptions on the pillar says that it was a Garuda Pillar raised by Heliodorus, a resident of Taxila, in honour of Vasudeva. It bears that Greek ambassador turned a Lord Vishnu devotee. The inclusion of the name Antialkidas dates the pillar to 140 B.C.

One can also visit the lonely Lohangi Rock, rests on an isolated sandstone hill, paradoxically at the centre of the city. It is about 7km high with a flat top. After the not so difficult climb, one is rewarded with a startling view of the whole town, practically laid out at one's feet.

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