Sarnath

Sarnath, about 10 km from the holy city of Varanasi, is the place where Buddha chose to deliver his first sermon. The celebrated Mantra, 'Buddham Sharanam Gachhami', owes its origin to Sarnath. On the day before his death Buddha included Sarnath along with Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar as the four places he thought to be sacred to his followers. It makes Sarnath one of the most venerated Buddhist places. Besides Buddhism, Sarnath is also connected with Jainism.

There are many Buddhist monuments and edifices in Sarnath. Some of the important Buddhist monuments at Sarnath are the Dhamekha stupa, the Chaukhandi stupa and monasteries and temples of different schools of Buddhism from Japan, China, Thailand, Burma and others. The Indian Buddhist society called Mahabodhi Society maintains a park around the Buddha temple. The Mahabodhi Temple within the park has a tooth relic of the Buddha.

There is also a vast expanse of ancient ruins at Sarnath. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD, and today it presents the most expansive ruins amongst places on the Buddhist trail. The Ashoka pillar of Sarnath is the National emblem of India.

Dhamekh Stupa
Built in 500 AD, the stupa marks the exact place where Buddha first taught Dharma after receiving Bodhisattva. The structure of the stupa was built in 500 AD and was commissioned to replace an earlier 249 BC structure by King Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire. The Dhamekh Stupa is a massive 43.6 meter tall cylindrical building with a diameter of 28 meters and is built with bricks and stone. The various stone carvings and sculptures in the building are exemplary of the Gupta artisans and the inscriptions are also amazing.

Chaukhandi Stupa
Another important Buddhist stupa in Sarnath, the Chaukhandi Stupa marks the exact location of the spot where Lord Buddha met his first disciples. The building was given an octagonal edifice to welcome the visit of the Mughal Ruler Humayun and was originally built during the 4th and the 6th centuries by the Gupta Kings.

Sarnath Archeological Museum
Maintained by the Archeological survey of India, the Sarnath Archeological Museum is one of the oldest sites of the organization. The museum houses the famous Lion Capital of Ashoka which is also India’s national emblem. The various antiquities stored at this museum date between the 3rd century BC and 12th century AD. Many of the artifacts and manuscripts housed here are important archeological findings that are related to Buddhism.
Sarnath being a small town has fairly lesser amounts of attractions for the tourists. Nevertheless, the site is the birthplace of the world religion Buddhism and is thus one of the most important pilgrim spots for the Buddhists in India. The town has been mentioned several times in the writings of the Chinese traveler Hsuan-tsang and is considered an important historical town in India.