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Solo in MP: Vidisha and Gyaraspur

By Anamika Mukherjee

I had at last achieved a long-standing desire to visit the ancient caves at Bhimbetka and see for myself the prehistoric paintings that adorn the rock walls. I had re-visited Sanchi and spent a thoroughly relaxing day at the stupas. Now I had two whole days to spend and no fixed itinerary. I decided to spend a day at Vidisha, and a day at Gyaraspur – both somewhat off the beaten track of tourist attractions in this area.

My day began unusually - with a hearty breakfast. Once an aloo paratha, two toasts and a huge omelette had found their way down my gullet, I marched out and down the road to wait for the bus. It’s only 9 km from Sanchi to Vidisha. There’s a train at 9, but I was ready to roll by 8.20, so I waited for a bus, which was supposed to come at 8.30. In the event, it came only after 9.

Vidisha, somewhat to my surprise, was much bigger than Sanchi. How would I find my way around? Nowhere had I seen even a rudimentary map of this place, such as the one that Lonely Planet has for Sanchi. I decided that the railway station was my best bet: easy to find (I hoped) and most likely to have a tourist information booth (I hoped). I shooed away the crowd of auto drivers who wanted to take me for a ride, and set off with a determined step, seeking directions as I went.

When I arrived at the railway station, no tourist booth did I find. I asked around, but in vain. LP, my trusty guide, had let me down by giving the impression that all anyone would to see in Vidisha would be immediately visible and easy to find. Enquiries revealed a different picture. It would be at least 9 km to various monuments, which were not even obligingly clustered together. My information was garnered slowly, from several sources. To always cross-check information and never accept it as the gospel truth until it is corroborated by three independent sources is a lesson I had learnt the hard way – as has any seasoned traveler.

Advice, of course, was easy to come by. Hire an auto for the day, someone suggested. Estimated cost: Rs 100. Armed with this information, I bargained an auto down from Rs 200 to Rs 150 for 4 hours. We set off through a maze of narrow, chaotic bazaar streets. My knight in shining auto drove me around without complaining. Heliodorus pillar I found to be unremarkable. The guide books that noted its historical importance ought also to mention its singularly uninspiring aesthetics. Udaygiri Caves was the next stop. This was where my 150 bucks and 4 hours would be entirely justified. I could easily have spent half a day there – or more. But it was 3 km down a lonely country road and another 6 km after that to get back to the station, so I dared not dismiss my chauffeured limo.

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Vidisha on the Map

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Copyright 2008 Amit and Anamika Mukherjee. All rights reserved.