We hired a car and left Bhopal for Sanchi early on the second day, headed for Sanchi. We took the route via Raisen, and had good views of the fort atop a hill overlooking Raisen fort. However, the stretch from Raisen to near Sanchi was one of the worst I have ever experienced anywhere! There was just no road! Just a stretch of red gravel and dust, which continued for some 10 kms.
We were fortunate to reach Sanchi before the crowds, and could appreciate the splendour of the monuments in relative peace. The stupa, and other structures, are situated on top of a wooded hill, giving great views out over the countryside. The weather was just perfect with the fresh air and the warmth of the sun, to walk around and appreciate the intricate carvings over 2,000 years old. The museum at Sanchi has some nice sculptures recovered from around the area. A good exhibit is a photograph colllection which traces the 'discovery' of Sanchi.
After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we proceeded to Udaigiri, to view some caves containing carvings. After viewing the cave sculptures in Maharashtra (Ellora, Aurangabad, Kanheri, Karla), this came as a big disappointment. The only notable sculpture being one of Vishnu in the Varaha avataar.
Our last halt was at Vidisha. Some time back I had read in a book ont Indian architecture about a pillar erected at Vidisha bu Heliodoros - a Greek. It somehow fascinated me, and I had always wanted to view this. Not surprisingly, the place was not known to our driver, and neither was it to the travel agent who arranged for the car. It is locally known as "Khambha Baba", and is prayed to by some of the local folk. Vidisha is not a big town, so we managed to locate the place without any hassle. The pillar is not very big, but, standing as it does, on a square pedestal in a clearing amidst leafy trees, has its own charm.
We still had time on our hands, and a friendly driver, so we decided to check out a few more sights of Bhopal city. Our first halt was at a cave temple in Lalghati, situated mid-way up a hill on the north of the Upper Lake. Nothing spectacular. We then proceeded to Taj-Ul-Masjid, reportedly the largest stone mosque in South Asia. The mosque exuded an incredible air of peace, helped by the fact that there were only about half a dozen people when we visited. The large pink structure, flanked by towering minarets, in the warm evening light, made for a wonderful experience. We reluctantly pulled ourselves out of the mosque, and made for Arera colony, where we were staying.