Sarnath Travel Guide


Attractions in Sarnath

Dhamekh Stupa, Sarnath

The Dhamekh Stupa - The most impressive sight in Sarnath is the towering Dhamekh Stupa, possibly built around 500 AD. It was built at the site of many earlier constructions as excavations reveal brickwork from much earlier periods. Dhamekh Stupa is a solid cylindrical tower, 33 metres in height. The borders have delicately carved geometrical and floral patterns and the figures of humans and birds. The base of the Stupa is made of stone with the upper areas of brickwork which probably once had a carve stone fencing.

Mulgandha Kuti Vihara - Mulgandhakuti Vihara marks the site where the Buddha meditated during his monsoon retreats at Sarnath. Excavations have unearthed a statue of a Bodhisattva from the 1st century AD, and a tablet on which the name of the shrine was carved. In 1922, Anagarika Dharmapala laid the foundation of a temple named Mulgandhakuti Vihara at the site. It enshrines relics of the Buddha which were discovered at Taxila. The interior has frescoes painted by a Japanese artist in 1932-35. Outside is the Bodhi tree and its spreading branches symbolise the return of Buddhism to India.

The Main Shrine and Ashoka Pillar - The massive Ashoka Pillar, set up by Emperor Ashoka is placed at the spot where the Buddha gave his first sermon and established the Sangha. The monolithic Ashoka Pillar was once crowned with the magnificent Lion Capital, which is now kept in the Sarnath Museum. The four roaring lions face the four cardinal directions symbolising the spread of the Buddha's teachings.

The Archaeological Museum - The Sarnath Archeological Museum houses the superb Lion capital of the Ashokan Pillar. This symbol has been adopted as the national emblem of modern India. Sarnath, where the Buddha delivered his first sermon more than 2500 years ago, has a site museum whose prize exhibit is the enormous lion capital (2.31 m). Now the emblem of Independent India, this capital once surmounted an Ashokan pillar erected to mark the spot where the Buddha preached.

There are many other Buddha and bodhisattva figures to see. Among these the most outstanding is the Gupta period Buddha with hand raised in Abhaya or protection.

Events in Sarnath

The full moon day of April-May is observed as the anniversary of Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death. The full moon in the month of July-August is considered the anniversary of his first sermon. This festival celebrates the birth of Lord Buddha with traditional religious dedication. A large fair is held at Sarnath and the relics of Buddha are taken out for public display in a procession on this day.

Getting There & Away to Sarnath

Flights to Sarnath
The nearest airport is Babatpur 30 km away from where one can take daily flights to Delhi, Calcutta, Bhubaneswar, Kathmandu, and Patna.
Trains to Sarnath
Sarnath is a halt on the Northern Railway network and several of the trains, which cross Varanasi, stop here. From Varanasi direct trains are available for almost all the major cities of India.
Car and Bus Service to Sarnath Sarnath is 9.6 km by road from Varanasi, and is well-linked by road.

Getting Around in Sarnath

The stupas and other monuments are located quite close to one another and in pleasant lawns. Sight seeing is best done on foot.

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