This massive stupa is located at about 13 kms from Varanasi in Sarnath. The stupa dates to 500 CE, and it was constructed to replace an earlier stupa commissioned by Emperor Ashoka in 249 BCE along with several other monuments. In fact, the emperor had commissioned several stupas during his rule. These stupas contained relics related to Buddha including calcinated bones. An engraved Ashoka Pillar also stands near the site.
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The Dhamek Stupa is believed to mark the place in the Deer Park where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon to his disciples after attaining enlightenment. It is here that he revealed the eight-fold path that would lead to nirvana or salvation. Even though, the stupa was enlarged six times, the upper part remains unfinished. A Chinese traveller, Xuanzang, who visited Sarnath in the fifth century wrote that during that period the colony had over 1500 priests and that the main stupa was nearly 300 feet high.