Inscription on stone pillars and walls as also on metal plates have always been a source of valuable material for reconstructing ancient or medieval Indian history. One such, belonging to a fairly early period (2nd century B.C.) is the Besnagar inscription, discovered on a ‘garuḍadhvaja’ (votive pillar with the sculpture of Garuḍa, the mythical bird-mount of Viṣṇu) near Bhilsa in Madhya Pradesh.
Besnagar was the capital of the Śuṅga dynasty which ruled during the period 187-75 B.C.
The stone pillar has been dedicated to Vāsudeva (Kṛṣṇa), called ‘deva-deva’ or ‘God of gods’, by Heliodoros who was a Yavana or a Greek. In the inscription on it, he calls himself as a ‘paramabhāgavata’ (the best of the bhāgavatas or devotees of Viṣṇu). He was the son of one Diya and a native of Takṣaśilā. He had been deputed as the ambassador by the Greek King Antialcidas to the Indian King Bhaga-bhadra Kāśīputra, probably the same as the fifth Śuṅga King Bhadraka.
This inscription proves two things, viz., that the Kṛṣṇa-Vāsudeva cult or the Bhāgavata religion had already become quite popular and that even Greeks of high descent had gladly accepted it. Incidentally, this also helps us to prove the historicity of Kṛṣṇa.