The Medieval City in Madhya Pradesh – Vidhisha alias Besnagar or Bhelsa

Vidhisha is an ancient city in Madhya Pradesh state in India. It is also the administrative capital of the district with the same name. It was known as Besnagar in ancient times. Vidhisha city was known as Bhelsa during the medieval period.

Heliodorus pillar near Vidhisha

Heliodorus Pillar alias Khamba Baba or Kham Baba is situated at around four kilometers distance form the Vidisha town, on SH-14 towards Ganj Basoda. It is a 20 feet and 7 inches tall stone column, believed to be erected by the Greek ambassador of King Antialcidas, the Indo-Greek King of ancient times. It is located on the northern banks of River Vais. The inscriptions on this stone pillar tells us that  it was built to pay homage to Lord Vishnu.

Emperor Ashoka the Great of Maurya Dynasty, served as the governor of Vidisha during his father’s regime. His first wife and Buddhist Empress Vidisha Devi was brought up in Vidisha. (Great Emperor Ashoka was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Dynasty.)

There are many ancient Hindu temples in this city.

Vidhisha Museum or Vidhisha District Museum

The museum at the city has sculptures from the 9th to the 10 th century CE. There is also terracottas and coins, belonging to the first millennium. Harrappan art also finds a place in this heritage museum.

Bijamaṇḍal

Bijamaṇḍal is an eleventh century temple ruin in the city. Archaeological Survey of India has a store on one side of this ancient temple, where sculptures collected from the neighborhood are stored. A seventh century step-well is also there in the same temple compound. It is one of the massive ancient temples in India.

Lohangi Pir Rock Tomb

Lohangi Pir Rock Tomb is a large rock tomb of Lohangi Pir.  It has got Persian inscriptions on it, which  dates back to 1460 BC and 1583 BC. Locally known as Lohangi Pir, he  was a saint who was officially known as  Shaykh Jalal Chishti.  Remains of a medieval temple, dedicated to Goddess Annapurna, can be seen very close to this rock tomb. Both of these are  situated close to the Vidhisha railway station.

Udaygiri

At around 10 kilometers from this ancient city lies Udaygiri. Gupta Era rock cut sculptures of Hindu and Jain gods can be seen here (i.e. period between the 4th and 5th century AD). More than twenty caves exists here. It is believed that Tirthnkara Sheetal nath attained nirvana here. Nirvana means enlightenment, liberation, salvation, etc.

Maladevi Temple

Maladevi Temple is at a round 40 kilometers distance from the city of Vidisha. It is massive temple situated on the eastern slope of a hill, which gives superb view of the valley. NH-86 passes close to this ancient 9th century temple.

There are many many other ancient temples in and around Vidisha city.

Jainism

Vidisha city is considered as one among the sacred Puranakshetras.  Puranakshetras are linked to the  lives of great Jain saint or savior or spiritual teacher. Shitalanatha, the 11th tirthankar is believed to have been born here. Ttirthankar  means a savior and spiritual teacher.

There are 14 Jain temples in the city.

How Do I Go to Vidhisha or Bhelsa or Besnagar?

Vidhisha city is at around 60 kilometers from Bhopal city, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is situated at a distance of around 9 kilometers from Sanchi.

Vidhisha railway station is situated in the town. It is on the main line connecting Delhi to Chennai and Mumbai. The railway station is at around 54 km from Bhopal.

Sculpture at Sanchi Stupa

Sanchi railway station on the Jhansi-Itarsi section is another nearby railway station.

Bhopal airport is the nearest airport to Vidhisha city.

20 Responses

  1. When I read your article mentioned about Emperor Ashoka the Great. I am thinking about my school time when I study about Buddhism. All the great name appear on the book.

    • admin says:

      True. The city and the state have lot of connection with Buddhism. Many historic Buddhist places and pilgrimage places are found in the state of MadhyaPradesh.

  2. Sounds very interesting. But I wish you would have put more photos here. Visuals really make everything super nice and lets viewers immerse into the experience. Can you put some photos of Vidhista here?

  3. Ana says:

    I had only heard of Vidhisa but not Besnagar and Bhelsa before. Are there hotels near the area and how much time would you recommend to explore these landmarks?

    • admin says:

      Bhopal city is a major nearby cities with lot of hotels. I recommend a minimum of 2 days to explore the areas mentioned in the post. there are many other Buddhist historic places like Sanchi Stupa, which has got relics of Gautham Buddha. Bhimbetka Rock Shelters and Rock Paintings, UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest Indian petroglyph archaeological site, dating back to the Paleolithic Era is also situated near to Bhopal. 5 days would be ideal if you want to explore Bhopal and surrounding areas.

  4. Heena says:

    Glad to know about the medieval city of Vidisha and its historic connections. Lohangi Pir Rock Tomb and Bija Mandal step well seems to be famous and would like to visit there to see the unique architecture design.

  5. daniel says:

    Great post!! India is such an incredible country with so many diversity and history. It is a bummer that I never visited Madhya Pradesh yet. But it seems like a really beautiful place. It is always so fascinating to see an ancient city’s ruins.

    • admin says:

      Madhya Pradesh is really a heaven for those looking into the medieval history. It’s also a beautiful state with a log of
      tigers and ancient temples.

  6. Since I started practicing yoga and being interested in Indian culture I have dreamed of going to this country one day. You’ve written some useful information here. I will definitely use them when I plan my trip to India.

    • admin says:

      You are welcome to visit India. It’s a ast country with lot of religions, languages, culture, etc. You need to plan well and spend at least a few months to get the real feel of her beauty.

  7. Yukti Agrawal says:

    I visit every year to Bhopal and have passed so many times from Vidisha too. But shame on me that I did not knew that Vidisha has some architecture by King Antialcidas, the Indo-Greek King of ancient times. I think MP tourism focus only on wildlife and there are many other things to be focused too. It is great that through your blog I came to know some hidden facts about ancient India.

    • admin says:

      Yes; it’s true that MadhyaPradesh state tourism department focus mainly on their wildlife, especially tigers. The state is rich in culture and religious places and are often ignored.

  8. Emma says:

    It sounds like there’s a lot of interesting things to see in Vidhisha. I especially like the sound of the tombs, very fascinating. And 14 temples? I bet they are beautiful.

    Emma | https://geekytourist.com

    • admin says:

      True; there are many interesting and historic places to see in Vidhisha. Yes; there are a group of 14 Jain temples in this historic city.

  9. Anna says:

    Oh I didn’t know this city existed. Thanks for putting this together, hopefully, I’ll get to visit it next time I am in India 🙂

  10. It’s incredible to me just how many places in India that I’ve never heard about but seem totally worthwhile to go to. Bijamaṇḍal, for example, looks like a great spot to snap a few photos. I’m also happy eating food wherever I find myself in India!

    • admin says:

      India is so vast that it is very difficult to cover all the places even in an year. Bijamaṇḍal is a great place to be in and have some good snaps. I also agree that street food needs to be explored to experience the diversity in food across the country; though it may be spicy.

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