Structures > Heliodorus Pillar

Heliodorus Pillar

Alexander the Great - Dove Decoration


Coordinates: 23°32′59″N 77°48′00″E

The dedication of the Heliodorus pillar was made by Heliodorus, ambassador of the Indo-Greek king Antialcidas (here depicted on one of his coins).The Heliodorus pillar is a stone column that was erected around 113 BCE in central India in Vidisha near modern Besnagar, by Heliodorus, a Greek ambassador of the Indo-Greek king Antialcidas to the court of the Shunga king Bhagabhadra. The site is located only 5 miles from the Buddhist stupa of Sanchi.The pillar was surmounted by a sculpture of Garuda and was apparently dedicated by Heliodorus to the god Vāsudeva in front of the temple of Vāsudeva.There are two inscriptions on the pillar.Inscription on the board by ASI on the base of the pillarThe first inscription describes in Brahmi script the situation of Heliodorus and his relationship to the Shunga Empire and the Indo-Greek Kingdom.Devadevasa Va[sude]vasa Garudadhvajo ayamkarito i[a] Heliodorena bhagavatena Diyasa putrena TakhasilakenaYonadatena agatena maharajasaAmtalikitasa upa[m]ta samkasam-ranoKasiput[r]asa [Bh]agabhadrasa tratarasavasena [chatu]dasena rajena vadhamanasaThe first inscription of the Heliodorus pillar that was made by Heliodorus 110 BCE.This Garuda-standard of Vāsudeva, the God of Godswas erected here by the devotee Heliodoros,the son of Dion, a man of Taxila,sent by the Great Yona KingAntialkidas, as ambassador toKing Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Saviorson of the princess from Varanasi, in the fourteenth year of his reign.Although not perfectly clear, the inscription seems to be referring to Heliodoros as a Bhagavata, "One devoted to Bhagavan", meaning "a devotee".The second inscription on the pillar describes in more detail the spiritual content of the faith supported by Heliodorus:Trini amutapadani‹[su] anuthitaninayamti svaga damo chago apramadoThree immortal precepts (footsteps)... when practicedlead to heaven: self-restraint, charity, consciousnessContextThe pillar was surmounted by a sculpture of the eagle Garuda and was apparently dedicated by Heliodorus to Vāsudeva, called god of gods, in front of the temple of Vasudeva. He, along with Agathocles of the same period, would be one of the earliest recorded converts to the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism.Coins minted during the time period of Antialcidas depict Dios Krishna with lotus-tipped sceptre, in front of an elephant with a bell (symbol of Taxila), surmouted by Nike holding a wreath, crowning the elephant. The coins carry the inscription "BASILEOS NIKEPHOROU ANTIALKIDOU". These coins were also minted at the Pushkalavati mint and carry the same inscription in Kharoṣṭhī script.Zeus' Eagle messenger and companion Aetos Dios, was considered as Zeus himself."When you [Zeus] were an eagle, when you picked up the boy [Ganymede] on the slopes of Teukrian Ida with greedy gentle claw, and brought him to heaven." - Nonnus, Dionysiaca 10. 308 ffAetos Dios was also considered a "messenger of God (Zeus)" and adopted by the Greek and Roman military:"he put a golden eagle on his war standards and dedicated it as a protection for his valour" - Anacreon, Fragment 505d (from Fulgentius, Mythologies) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (Greek lyric 6th century BC)Professor Kunja Govinda Goswami of Calcutta University concludes that Heliodorus "was well acquainted with the texts dealing with the Bhagavata religion."Based on this evidence it has been suggested that Heliodorus is one of the earliest Westerner on record to convert to Vaishnavism whose evidence has survived . But some scholars, most notably A. L. Basham and Thomas Hopkins, are of the opinion that Heliodorus was not the earliest Greek to convert to Bhagavata Krishnaism. Hopkins, chairman of the department of religious studies at Franklin and Marshall College, has said, "Heliodorus was presumably not the earliest Greek who was converted to Vaishnava devotional practices although he might have been the one to erect a column that is still extant. Certainly there were numerous others including the king who sent him as an ambassador."

Hellenistic Greece

Ptolemaic Structures

Seleucid Structures

Indo-Greek Structures

Babylonian Structures



Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Jump up ^ up ^ Aetos DiosJump up ^ K. G. Goswami, A Study of Vaisnavism (Calcutta: Oriental Book Agency, 1956), p. 6Jump up ^ A. L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Taplinger Pub. Co., 1967), p. 60.Jump up ^ Steven J. Gelberg, ed.. Hare Krsna Hare Krsna (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1983), p. 117
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