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Excursions

Sonari and Satdhara:
There is a group of eight Stupas at Sonari, 10 km, on one of which numerous relics are recorded. At Satdhara, 11 km West of Sanchi, there are two stupas.

Vidisha:
Vidisha or Besnagar, as it is called in the Pali scriptures, once the prosperous capital of the Western dominions of the Sungas, contains some remarkable antiques that throw light on the considerable architectural development of the period.

Situated in the fork of the Betwa and Bes rivers, Vidisha, 10 km from Sanchi, occupies an important place among the ancient cities of India. In the 6th and 5th centuries BC, it became an important trade centre and a bustling city under the Sungas, Nagas, Satvahanas and Guptas. The Emperor Ashoka was governor of Vidisha and it finds mention in Kalidasa's immortal Meghdoot. Deserted after the 6th century AD, it came into prominence again as Bhilsa during the medieval period (9th to 12th centuries AD). It later passed on to the Malwa Sultans, the Mughals, and the Scindias. The ruins of a Brahmanical shrine at Vidisha dedicated to Vishnu reveal that the foundation bricks were cemented together with lime mortar, the first known example of the use of cement in India. The ruins are what remain of possibly the oldest known Brahmanical stone structure, dated not later than 2nd century BC.
Vidisha Museum has a superb collection of Besnagar's earliest antiques, dating from the Sunga period. 9th century sculptures and terracotta objects, representing the art that flourished under the Parmara patronage, are also well represented here. Highlights of the collection from Besnagar are the Surya Chamundi figures, the Yakshi and Ramagupta inscriptions. The Lohangi Rock, Gumbaz-ka-Maqbara and Bijamandal Mosque, are also worth a visit.


Udaygiri Caves:
13 km from Sanchi and 4 km from Vidisha are a group of rock-cut cave sanctuaries carved into a sandstone hill that stands sentinel-like on the horizon. An inscription in one of these states that it was produced during the region of Chandragupta II (382-401 AD), thus dating these caves to 4th-5th century AD.

The caves possess all the distinctive features that gave Gupta art its unique vitality, vigour and richness of expression; the beautifully moulded capitals, the treatment of the intercolumniation, the design of the entrance way and the system of continuing the architrave as a string-course around the structures. They have been numbered probably according to the sequence in which they were excavated, beginning with Cave 1, which has a frontage adapted out of a natural ledge of rock, thus forming both the roof of the cave and its portico. The row of four pillars bear the 'vase and foliage' pattern of which the eminent art historian Percy Brown so eloquently says: "the Gupta capital typifies a renewal of faith, the waternourishing the plant trailing from its brim, an allegory which has produced the vase and flower motif one of the most graceful forms in Indian architecture". The shrines are progressively more spacious and ornate. Cave No.9 is remarkable for its large ceiling and massive, 8 feet high pillars, its long portico and pillared hall. Throughout, there is evidence that the master craftsmen of Besnagar practised their art with skill and artistry under the Guptas, four centuries later. In Cave No.5, a massive carving depicts Vishnu in his Varaha avatar, aloft one tusk. Yet another stupendous sculptures is of the reclining Vishnu.
Taken as a whole, this group is a rich representation of the vitality and strength of Gupta art and architecture. Gyraspur: 41 km north-east of Sanchi, Gyraspur was a place of considerable importance in the medieval period. Here in the ruins called Athkhamba (Eight Pillars) and Chaukhambe (Four Pillars) are what remain of the columned halls of two temples belonging to the 9th and 10th centuries AD. The faceted shafts of Athakhambe, with their extreme delicacy of carving, testify to the high degree of craftsmanship during the period. Other monuments of note at Gyraspur are of the early 10th century: Bajra Math and the Mala Devi Temple, the latter distinguished by its carved pillars with foliate motifs, representative of the richest post-Gupta style.


Andher and Mural Khurd:

17 and 12 km respectively. Ruins of ancient stupas can be seen here.


Udaypur:
93 km from Sanchi via vidisha and ganj basoda. The colossal Neelkanteshwar temple here is an outstanding example of Parmara art and architecture of the 11th century AD.

The crowning beauty of this temple is its well-proportioned and gracefully designed spire and delicately carved medallions adorning its sides. Built of fine red sandstone and standing on a lofty platform, the temple consists of a garba-griha (shrine room), a sabha mandap hall) and three pravesha mandaps (entrance porches). Bijamandal, Sahi Masjid and Mahal, Sher Khan-ki-Masjid and Pisnari-ke-Mandir are some of the other monuments in Udaypur.


Rahatgarh:
Situated on the Sagar-Bhopal road is Rahatgarh, 82 km from Sanchi. It has a medieval fort and a picturesque water fall.


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