This massive Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath is a major tourist attraction. It is believed to be the first place where Lord Buddha gave his sermon after attaining enlightenment. Today, the place is visited by many travellers and Buddhist followers who come here to pay their respects. Here is a travel guide to let you know more about this religious place.
The stupa is said to date 500 CE and was later renovated by Emperor Ashoka in the year 249 BCE. Along with this stupa many other Buddhist monuments and relics were commissioned by the emperor at Sarnath. It is believed to be the most religious place for Buddhists and sees many devotees flocking here all the year around.
Photo Courtesy: Ken Wieland
Dharma Chakra Stupa
According to an inscription dated 1026 A.D, the original name of the stupa was Dharma Chakra Stupa. An excavation expedition led by Alexander Cunningham found a slab here that read 'Ye Dharma Hetu Prabhava Hetu' in the Brahmi script that is believed to be the reason for the original name of the temple. There are many more relics that were found here and is now displayed for the people to observe. Not much is known when the stupa got its present name, but it is perceived that it was given its new name by a Buddhist monk who was held in high regard by Emperor Ashoka.
Photo Courtesy: Simon Stephen
There are many mini stupas that can be seen around the Dhamek Stupa and is believed to have been built by Emperor Ashoka as a mark of respect to Lord Buddha. Though these stupas are in a sorry state, they still hold importance and devotees coming here can be seen offering their respects to them. Travellers coming here can marvel at the architecture of these mini stupas.
Photo Courtesy: Varun Shiv Kapur
There is also a Buddhist monastery here that presently lies in ruins. Built by Emperor Ashoka, this monastery was the rest-house used by the Buddhist monks who came here. There is a huge chamber within this monastery that is believed to have been the emperors hall. It is said that Ashoka himself stayed here at times in order to gain more knowledge from the monks.
Photo Courtesy: R. M. Calamar
The spot where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon to his disciples after attaining enlightenment is marked with a sculpture of the Lord. The spot earlier held the footprints of Lord Buddha but with time it is said to have vanished. Emperor Ashoka had a sculpture of Lord Buddha placed here to mark its importance. Today, devotees coming here seek blessings to this sculpture as they believe that this place has a holy vibe.
Photo Courtesy: Simon Stephen
Rules and Timings
Travellers coming to this stupa have to follow a certain code of rules and regulations here. You are requested to keep silent near the main temple and slippers are completely forbidden near the sanctum. Also mobile phones are strictly prohibited inside the main stupa. The visiting time inside the main stupa is as follows:
December to January - 11:30 am to 12:30 pm
February to November - 11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Photo Courtesy: Sudiptorana