Sarnath is intrinsically linked with the birth and evolution of Buddhism in India. It is here that Buddha delivered his first sermon to his first five disciples and gave the world the principle of dharma, the four noble truths and the eight-fold path. Later, Emperor Ashoka embraced Buddhism and commissioned several pillars and stupas in north India some of which were built in Sarnath.
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The Archaeological Survey of India has since 1930 carried out excavations here and unearthed several monuments, structures and artefacts in what is known as the Archaeological and Excavation Area. The artefacts found here are displayed in the Sarnath Museum. These include antiquities ranging from the 3rd century BCE to 12th century AD including the finest specimens of Buddhist art. The museum comprises five galleries and two verandahs.