Uttar Pradesh - Sarnath, Near Varanasi



Sarnath is only 10 kilometers from Varanasi, and can be coupled with Ramnagar trip, if you have taken a hired car. It lies in the North East of Kasi. Sarnath is an important buddhist pilgrimage destination. It also commands huge archeological importance as a lot of excavations have taken place here, revealing ancient structures and artifacts.

Sarnath is the place where Buddha gave his first sermon. He created his first sangh with 60 followers. It is these 60 followers that went in different directions, spreading Buddha's teachings.

Sarnath was subject to attack by the Hunas. But it was the repeated attacks by the Muslim invaders between 11th and 17th century that destroyed Sarnath and pushed it into oblivion.

It was later discovered by Dewan Jagat Singh of Varanasi's royal court in 1794 AD. But it was Major General Sir Alexander Cunningham Who commenced extensive excavation work and brought back Sarnath to public view again. He carried out excavation work from 1838 to 1905 AD.

The prime emblem of Sarnath is the Dhamek Stupa. It is about 46 meters high. Built at an estimated 500 B.C, the lower part of the Stupa is more old and is built of Stone. The upper part is built of bricks. The stupa has an octagonal base, in line with the eight paths taught by Buddha. The lower part is thicker (28meters), while the middle part is thinner (13 meters). The height of the middle part is 31 meters. It is said that the Stupa houses the holy relics of Buddha. The lower part also has carvings of flowers and leaves. The carvings hail from the Gupta period.

Asoka the Great had built the Dharmarajika Stupa here, to preserve different Buddhist relics, in the 3rd century BC.

He had also built the Ashoka pillar, which has four lions facing the four directions at its top. The four lions has been selected as the national emblem of India. The lions are preserved at a nearby museum. The pillar is mostly destroyed by Kutub Ud Din Aibak, the Slave King, but still, a part of it can still be seen.

Beside the Dhamek stupa, the Mahabodhi Society has built the Mulagandha Kuti Vihar. The inside walls of the Vihara are adorned with paintings depicting the life of Buddha. It was painted by the Japanese artist KOSETSU NOSU, over a period of 4 years. There is a grand library too. On the left of the temple there is a peepal tree. It was grown by bringing a branch of the 288 B.C Bodhi Tree, under which Buddha gained enlightenment. Statues of Buddha's 5 disciples are also here. On the full moon every November, there is a Buddhist congression here, that is attended by Buddhists worldwide.

There is a China Mandir too, right next to the area. It was built in 1939. The temple has the signatures of chinese architecture. The Deity of Buddha is also very good.

The Museum has a large number of artifacts, from the Mauryan age, Kushan age and Gupta age. Hindu deities from the 9th to 12th century has also been kept at the museum. There is a stone box too, and it is fabled that once it contained a golden box inside, which in turned contained Buddha's bones. The bones were submerged in the Ganges, but the golden box never returned.
On the opposite of the Museum is the Excavation Site. One ticket will entitle you to visit both the places.

There is a deer park too, at Sarnath. Beside deer park is the Digambar Jain Temple. The aviary is also a tourist attraction here.

How to Reach: You can take shared autos from Godhulia crossing of Varanasi, or take hired car for the journey, from Varanasi.

Where to Stay: You can stay at UPSTDC's guest house, or at guest houses of Birla, Mahabodhi or Burmese Vihar. But if not for religious reasons, then it is better to stay at Varanasi. Check our hotel booking lins below for pictures, price, comparison and online booking.

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