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Sarnath Travel Guide


Sarnath - The Destination

Sarnath, also know as Mrigadava (deer park), situated 10 kms north east of Varanasi, is one of the holiest places of the Buddhists. It is here that Buddha came, after attaining enlightenment at Bodhgaya and gave his first sermon or preached, 'Maha-Dharma-Chakra Pravartan' (in Buddhist terminology) which literally means, “set the 'wheel of dharma' or law rolling”, more than 2,500 years ago. In this sermon, he preached the doctrine of Buddhism, by revealing to the world the middle way (the way of life of a monk on the path to enlightenment), the four noble truths and his Eight fold path - the path to end sorrow, achieve inner peace, enlightenment and ultimate Nirvana.


There are a number of twentieth century Buddhist temples in Sarnath, built and maintained by monks from Tibet, China and Japan, but the main attraction is the Deer Park with its ruins of several monuments. On the way to the deer park is Chaukhandi Stupa, the spot where the Buddha met the five ascetics, dating back to the fifth century or earlier. During Emperor Akbar's time, an octagonal tower was built on top of the stupa by his Governor Govardan to commemorate Humayun's visit to the place. Inside the deer park is the Dharmekha Stupa  which is believed  to be the  spot where  Buddha gave  his first

sermon. It is a cylindrical tower rising over one hundred feet exposed at the top, with the upper portion and the inside composed of Mauryan brick and the outer lower section with large stones decorated with 5th century Gupta reliefs. Around it lies the ruins of a monastery in all directions. Then there is the Dharmarajika Stupa built by the great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273-232 B.C.) later turned devout Buddhist, which is in complete ruins. The stupa was enlarged five times by different empires during different centuries. In the eighteenth century, during the reign of Raja Chet Singh of Benaras the stupa was pulled apart by his Dewan Jagat Singh. Near the stupa stood the smooth glistening Ashokan Pillar unearthed in 1905 topped by the splendid capital of four seated lions facing outwards measures 2.3 m in height and has a bell-shaped base with lotus leaves, a round abacus with an elephant, a horse, a bull, now kept in the Sarnath museum. The lion capital is today the National emblem of India.

The main shrine (vihara) called the Mulagandakuti dating from the sixth century, is the hut where Buddha used to stay during his visits to Saranath. There is a carved sandstone railing inside. Then there is the Buddha walk made with blue stones and a small lake at the edge of the park bordered by the zoo.

One of the most-visited sites, Sarnath today, despite the crowds, radiates a serenity that comes from being the cradle of one of the gentlest creeds ever propounded.
Sarnath - Facts at a Glance

State : Uttar Pradesh
Area : 2. 80 sq km
Temperature : 30°C - 41°C (Summers)
6°C - 17°C (Winters)
Altitude : 80.71 mts
Language : Hindi, English
Best Season : August – March

History of Sarnath

Sarnath derives its name from Saranganatha (Lord of the Deer). After the Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, he came to Sarnath. Here in the Deer Park, he delivered his first sermon or set in motion the Wheel of Law (Maha Dharmachakra Pravartan.). On the day before his death, Buddha named Sarnath along with Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar as the four places that his followers should consider sacred.

The Emperor Ashoka, who spread Lord Buddha's message of love and compassion throughout his vast empire, visited Sarnath around 234 BC and constructed a stupa here. Several Buddhist structures were built at Sarnath between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD and today this place has the most expansive ruins among the places related to the Buddha.

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