Vidisha, the administrative headquarters of the Vidisha District is a historically important city in the state of of Madhya Pradesh. Situated in the fork of the Betwa and Bes rivers, only 9 kms away from Sanchi, Vidisha was once an important trade centre. It was a major commercial and religious center during the 5th and 6th centuries B.C. and prospered lot under Sungas, Nagas, Satavahanas and Guptas. It is exceptionally rich in ancient monuments and religious spots. Emperor Ashoka is directly connected with Vidisha where he served as Governor. The city also finds mention in Kalidasa's immortal Meghdoot.
Origin of the name
Ramayana by Valmiki contained the earliest reference to Vidisha. Shatrugati, son of Shatrughan was the then in-charge of Vidisha.As per the Brahmanical religion, the town was also called Bhadravati and served as home place to Yuvanashva a main supplier of the famous horse for Ashvamedha sacrifice to Yudhishthira. During the medieval period, the city was also known as Bhilsa.Vidisha was also called Besnagar and found mention in Buddhist, Jain and Brahmanical literature as Vessanagar, Vaisyanagar, etc. Tradition has it that Raja Rukmangada neglected his wife for an Apsara Visva and therefore named the town Vishvanagar. After Besnagar was destroyed sometime after the 7th century A.D.,a new town called Bahilaswamin or Bhillaswamin was formed, which was later popularly called Bhilsa. This name may have been given as there is a famous Suryamandir in the town dedicated to the Sun God. Once during the rule of the Mughals, Aurangzeb had tried to rename the City as Alamgiri Nagar but was not successful in this endeavor.
Evolutionary History of Vidisha
The evolutionary history of Vidisha is intriguing and interesting. Samrat Ashok, at the age of 18, was appointed Viceroy at Ujjain by his father, Bindusaar. During his travel from Patliputra, he happened to meet a lady named Devi, the daughter of a banker of Vidisha of the Sakya clan. Some time later, the two married. Their children Mahendra and Sanghmitra were religious ambassadors of their father to Ceylon. By carrying a twig of the original 'Bodhi' tree, they led a Buddhist Mission to that country. Devi, it is told, never visited Patliputra, but rather stayed in Besnagar or Vidisha only and embraced Buddhism. Once when Mahendra came to visit his mother before setting sail for Ceylon, she is said to have taken him to 'Chaitya Giri' or now known as Sanchi Stupa.
Post Mauryan Periods
After the Mauryas the Sungas, the Kanvas, the Nagas, the Vakatakas, the Guptas, the Kalchuris of Mahishmati the Parmars, the Chalukyas made their appearances on the canvas of Vidisha, enriching its culture and heritage. Idols, sculptures and monuments related to these dynasties can be found scattered all across the regions of Vidisha and also in the District Archaeology office.
During medieval period this region saw the rule of the Mughals, the Marathas and the Peshwas and post that was a section of Scindia's Gwalior state and a Tehsil of Isagarh Pargana. Till the formation of Madhya Bharat in 1948, Vidisha was raised to a district having two Tehsils of Vidisha and Basoda. In 1949, the small states of Kurwai were merged to enlarge the District.
The Sironj Sub-Division which was once part of Kota District of Rajasthan State along with Piklone of Bhopal State were added to the district leading to the formation of new Madhya Pradesh. It was at this time that the district was renamed as Vidisha. Even today, the available antiquity found in the region reflects the grandeur in the form of Besnagar, Udaypur, Gyaraspur, Udaygiri, Badoh-Pathari etc.
Archaeological and Devotional Places in Vidisha
The remnants found in Vidisha are testimony to the rule of great dynasties and kingdoms that once flourished over the land. A lot of these spots have now emerged as a famous and most visited tourist destinations in Vidisha. Archeologically relevant is the State Museum which houses several relics from Vidisha, Sanchi and nearby areas. Majority of these relics were discovered during excavation of Sanchi by Sir John Marshall, the most attractive relic being the Ashoka Pillar.
Khamba Baba or the Heliodorus Pillar, dedicated to Lord Vishnu are the ruins of a shrine of a period prior to 2nd century B.C.
Bijamandal is a famous temple and houses remains of the late Paramara period. The building is estimated to have begun during the second half of the 11th century
Lohangi Pir is a prominent rock that towers over the town with sheer cliffs on all sides. A local saint, Shaykh Jalal Chishti, known as Lohangi Pir gives the rock its name
Udayagiri Caves are very ancient caves extracted when Vidisha was the regional capital of the Gupta kingdom
Apart from these there are many other famous secular and religious monuments in and around Vidisha. The famous one includes Sola-Kambi Temple, Dashavtar Temple, Gardarmal Temple etc. There is no denying about the rich historical background of the Vidisha city which today stands as a major tourist spot near state capital Bhopal.