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 near Vidhisha

Heliodorus Pillar alias Khamba Baba or Kham Baba is situated around four kilometers from the Vidisha town, on SH-14 towards Ganj Basoda. It is a 20-foot and 7-inch tall stone column, believed to have been 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 tell us that it was built to pay homage to Lord Vishnu.

Emperor Ashoka, the Great of the Maurya Dynasty, served as the governor of Vidisha during his father’s regime. His first wife and Buddhist Empress Vidisha Devi were 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 in the city has sculptures from the 9th to the 10th century CE. There is also terracottas and coins belonging to the first millennium. Harappan art also finds a place in this heritage museum.


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 most massive ancient temples in India.

Lohangi Pir Rock Tomb

Lohangi Pir Rock Tomb is a large rock tomb of Lohangi Pir.  It has Persian inscriptions on it, which date back to 1460 BC and 1583 BC. Locally known as Lohangi Pir, he was a saint officially known as  Shaykh Jalal Chishti. Moreover, the 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.


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., the 4th and 5th century AD). More than twenty caves exist here. It is believed that Tirthnkara Sheetal Nath attained nirvana here. Nirvana means enlightenment, liberation, salvation, etc.

Maladevi Temple

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

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


Vidisha City is considered one of the sacred Puranakshetras.  Puranakshetras are linked to the lives of the great Jain saint savior or spiritual teacher. For example, 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 around 60 kilometers from Bhopal city, the state capital of Madhya Pradesh. It is situated at a distance of approximately 9 kilometers from Sanchi.

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

014 Men riding Elephants (33927154385)

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.


  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.

    1. Avatar for George admin

      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?

    1. Avatar for George admin

      Thank you for the feedback. I have added a photo of a Sculpture seen at Sanchi Stupa.

  3. Avatar for George Ana

    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?

    1. Avatar for George admin

      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. 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.

    1. Avatar for George admin

      You are welcome to visit these marvelous architectural wonders.

  5. Avatar for George daniel

    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.

    1. Avatar for George admin

      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.

    1. Avatar for George admin

      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. Avatar for George Yukti Agrawal

    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.

    1. Avatar for George admin

      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. 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 |

    1. Avatar for George admin

      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. 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 🙂

    1. Avatar for George admin

      You will never regret for that decision.

  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!

    1. Avatar for George admin

      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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