The ruins of ancient Besnagar, known locally as Khambaba, are in a tiny village down the main road from Vidisha. During the Mauryan and Shunga empires, between the third and first centuries BC, a thriving provincial capital overlooked the confluence of the Beas and Betwa rivers. The emperor Ashoka himself was once governor here and even married a local banker’s daughter. Now, a few mounds and some scattered pieces of masonry are all that remain. Yet one small monument makes the short detour worthwhile. The sixteen-sided stone pillar in an enclosed courtyard, known as the Column of Heliodorus, was erected in 113 BC by a Bactrian-Greek envoy from Taxila, the capital city of Gandhara (now the northwest frontier region of Pakistan), who converted to the local Vaishnavite cult during his long diplomatic posting here. The shaft, dedicated to Krishna’s father Vasudeva, was originally crowned with a statue of Vishnu’s vehicle Garuda.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

In pictures: the little-visited treasures of South India

In pictures: the little-visited treasures of South India

After a week-long whistle-stop tour of central India's least-visited attractions, travel writer and photographer Lottie Gross shares her favourite photos. In…

07 Mar 2017 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
Indian trains: a traveller's survival guide

Indian trains: a traveller's survival guide

The Himalayan Queen, the Grand Trunk Express, the Deccan Odyssey… the very names of India’s trains are evocative of timeless style and old-school adventure…

09 Feb 2017 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month