Sarnath-The Ancient Buddhist Site

A short trip to one of the most ancient and sacred sites for Buddhists and Jains! and the sacred site is Sarnath. One of the most ancient settlements in India, located 10km north-east of the holy city Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh…

Sarnath is one of the 4 pilgrimages for Buddhists. A place where Lord Buddha gave his first Sermon to his 5 followers after getting enlightenment. Not only for Buddhists but it is a holy place for Jains also. Really…a very few people knew that Sarnath is a holy place for Jains also!!! HOW? About 1km from the main site of Sarnath there is a village named Singhpur, the birthplace of Shreyansanath. The eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism.

Origin of the Name Sarnath

Sarnath derives from Sanskrit word Saranganatha, which means “Lord of the Deer”. There are many stories behind the name of the place. But one of the most realistic stories is, once the king of Varanasi went for hunting. There was a deer who offered his life instead of Doe. On this King was moved emotionally and dedicated the area to the deers. Where they can live without getting molested.

Sarnath is also known as Isipatana. It means the place where holy men landed. According to the legends, when Lord Buddha was to be born, some holy men came down from heaven to announce this to 500 rishis. The rishis rose into the air and disappear.

Attractions in Sarnath

We landed in the ancient city of Varanasi in the morning with very limited time. But the curiosity to see the ancient and holy site of Sarnath, made us take a taxi and reach the site. The area is well developed by the government and has a great connectivity from Varanasi. Nearby the main site there are various monasteries made by different countries.

We had purchased the tickets to enter the main site. The place was well inhabited by monks who came here from different corners of the world. It was once the cultural center and glorified the work of different dynasties from Mauryan to Gupta. The place was the cultural hub for Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus. Emperor Ashoka constructed various monuments during his tenure after that ruler of different dynastic gave their contribution to make it the hub for art and culture. The golden age came during the time of Chandragupta II(376-414AD). The prosperity continued till 1017AD when Mahmud of Ghazni destroyed the place. Today the ruins are only available…strange!!!

While entering the complex, you will find a big cylindrical structure. And is known as Dhamek Stupa

Dhamek Stupa

The Dhamek Stupa is constructed at the same place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon to his 5 followers. In its current shape, the stupa is a solid cylinder of bricks and reaching the sky up to the height of 45.6m with the diameter of 28m. Its construction was initiated by Emperor Ashoka and rulers of different dynasties gave their contribution to beautifying the structure. With close observation, you can find that the basement seems to have survived from Ashoka’s structure. The stone facing is chiseled and displays the delicate floral carvings of Gupta origin. The walls have inscriptions of Brahmi script.

People can be seen to revolve around the stupa and worship.

Chaukhandi Stupa

Chaukhandi Stupa (source)

On the way to Sarnath Chaukhandi Stupa is the first monument you will encounter. The stupa is constructed at a place where Lord Buddha first met with his 5 companions when he came from Bodh Gaya. The traces of the stupa speaks that it was constructed during Gupta time. Later on, an octagonal tower is added on the stupa to commemorate the visit of Mughal ruler Humayun. Now the monument is preserved by the Archeological Survey of India.

Ashoka Pillar

The ruins of the pillar or can say the base of the pillar is present at its original site and the 4 lion symbol which is India’s National emblem also is preserved in the Museum near the deer park. The pillar was built by Emperor Ashoka and was the symbol of his empire.

Original Ashoka Emblem in Sarnath Museum
Ashoka Pillar

There are a lot of small and big things you can find out from the ruins present at the site related to Lord Buddha. Every brick present in the premises reminds us of the teachings of Lord Buddha.

Sarnath Archeological Museum

The museum is present adjacent the deer park. Many people find the museum quite boring, but in actuality, it is a place where you can do a complete research. It is a place where you will see the outstanding art which generate life in the stones. The mindblowing statues in damaged form of different times can be seen here. And it is great to know that, the artifacts resemble how!! all the religions like Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism nourished at the Sarnath under the supervision of different dynasties at different times.

We recommend you to spend proper time in the museum. You will definitely feel the glory and prosperity of the place and also feel sad, by seeing how the artifacts get damaged. The Sarnath Archeological Museum is a great place to know about the prosperity and richness of our history. You can see the original Ashoka emblem in the museum which becomes the National emblem of India after independence.

NOTE: Photography is not allowed in the Museum.

After visiting the museum we moved back to the Varanasi city. Sarnath not only reminds us of the teachings of Lord Buddha but also make us feel proud on our ancestors. It reminds us of the glory of our past. Generates enthusiasm to bring the lost glory of your past with the spread of spirituality.

Come on! Tell us what you think of this article on Sarnath. Do mention in the comment box below. Thanks!

About the author

A passionate traveler and blogger, always curious to travel to new places and explore them. Travelling provides inner satisfaction to the sole and give pleasure to me. Always curious to introduce with new culture and people.


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