Sep 10, 2012

Off the beaten track- Vidisha

(Udayagiri Caves- Varaha saving Bhoo Devi)
Known as Bhelsa during the medieval era, Vidisha is now a small city 76KM from Bhopal. The ancient town Besnagar, ruled by Emperor Ashoka is 3KM north of present day Vidisha. All interesting ruins, monuments and historical structures are around this area. Udayagiri Caves, at a distance of 4KM from the Vidisha city,  are the major attraction here. These caves are extensively carved and have the inscriptions dating back to Gupta period.

I took a shared taxi from Sanchi to Vidisha. Guys, one has to be very skinny to travel in these taxis. They stuff around 16 people in a Tata Sumo or alike! Ha ha ... what a ride! Then took an autorikshaw to Udayagiri caves. Much expensive ride ever! Will come back to this later.
(Udayagiri Caves- Withering sculptures)
From the guide I heard there were 22 caves altogether but, only 18 are existing now. Some of them are withered and hardly look like caves and some are kept locked to protect from locals. The guards will open the doors for visitors and also give some info. The magnificent one is Cave-5 which has the scene of Varaha (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu with boar head) saving Bhoo Devi (Earth) while rest of the gods and goddesses watched. Per Hindu Mythology, a demon Hiranyaksha acquired powers, attacked gods and pulled Bhoo Devi to the bottom of Pathala Loka (a cosmic ocean or netherworld). To save her Lord Vishnu took a form of a boar which is depicted as a man with boar's head. He defeated the demon and lifted Bhoo Devi to her place in the universe. See the Boar lifts Mother Earth (in human form) with his tusks. Interesting huh?

Cave-4 has another interesting sculpture with another interesting story from Hindu Mythology. This beautifully carved Shivalinga on a rock platform is believed to depict the tale of Holy Ganga Devi (River Ganges) falling from heavens. Ganga Devi, the daughter of King Meru (The Himalayas) was once requested to move to heaven by Indra (King of Gods). Then there was a need Ganga to return back to Earth. But, force of descending Ganga would devastate Earth. So, Lord Shiva was requested to take the first plunge of Ganga from heaven in his tanged locks and then release her to Earth!

There are many other sculptures of Kartikeya (God of Wars), Ganesha, Parvati, and Dwarapalas (guards), Apsaras (celestial women). Some of them are withering due to natural forces and some are damaged by a species called Homo sapiens.

Cave-13 (is more like a cliff face) has a huge sculpture of Lord Vishnu in his Ananthashayana (Resting on a Serpent Anantha) pose. This sculpture is locked behind shutters and hence picture is in bits and pieces. The scupture is very beautifully carved. The kneeling man is believed to be Chandragupta-II who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. 

(Udayagiri Caves- Ananthasayana Vishnu)
One can climb up and walk to the other end which takes about 15-20 mins, on the way you will find a temple ruin. The views are beautiful from here. After finishing my visit I was back at the gate to see my autorikshaw missing. He had taken full payment for the trip saying he had to buy something. And he left me there! I saw a guy from China in the same situation. It looked like a common scene. Then a guard helped us to get on a private vehicle of locals who were on the way to a mela (festive gathering) in the city. The locals thought the chinese guy was my boyfriend, and they asked me to confirm their doubt. Through-out the journey back they kept giggling and asking me too many questions about the chinese. How would I know?! The Chinese too kept on laughing, poor guy! It was funny- everyone in the Sumo was laughing! Very good people indeed, otherwise I had to walk back at least 5-6KM.
(Udayagiri Caves- Withering sculptures)
It was already 4PM and I took another auto, made sure I would not pay a single paisa before completing my trip, to Bija Mandal. A newly excavated site. The massive high platform with intricate carvings and the architectural pieces scattered around indicate that this might have been a glorious and imposing Hindu shrine which was destroyed by foreign invaders. And a small mosque is built over it. The Archaeological Department is doing its best to restore it. 

Then few KM from Bija Mandal is Khamb Baba, the locals call it so. It is free standing monolith Heliodorus Pillar errected by Heliodorus, a Greek Ambassador during the reign of Bhagabhadra, a Sunga King around 140BC. It was Garudasthambha dedicated to Vasudeva (Lord Vishnu), when Heliodorus adopted Hinduism. I reached a bit late and the gates were closed. I took pictures from outside. Actually it took me some time to make the autorikshaw driver understand what Heliodorus pillar was. The locals worship and call it Khamb Baba.
Vidisha is a small city, few KM away is the ancient city of Besnagar. There are many more things to see here including a museum. But, only few foreigners and not many Indians visit these interesting sites. It was a wonderful day-long outing! My next destination was very less known Gyaraspur.

Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts :)

Click HERE to read more articles about Madhya Pradesh. Click HERE to read complete Backpacking India series.

If you want pictures please ask me :)

References- The MP Tourism Guide Book, Wiki, the guide at the caves and tales told by locals.
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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Thanks Kusum for bringing such gems of history on your blog:)

  2. Very interesting sculptures! You are on a less-beaten path indeed. :)

    1. Thanks Gowri :) Less traveled paths are always interesting!

  3. Interesting place with beautiful carvings. Nice find Kusum.

  4. Very interesting place, and a lot of history and rich culture there. Sad this is not all that famous. Loved the stories of ganga and bhoo devi.

    1. Thanks Jenny! Yes unfortunately there are many places that are not popular!


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