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.
Sarnath - Facts at a Glance
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
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
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
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.
||2. 80 sq km
|| 30°C - 41°C
6°C - 17°C (Winters)
||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.