Sarnath is a city which is located at a distance of 13 km from Varanasi near the convergence of the Ganges and Varuna rivers in Uttar Pradesh. Sarnath is believed to be the place where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon.
The deer park located here is where Gautam Buddha is said to have first taught the Dharma, and from where Buddhism started. Sarnath is not only an important place for the Buddhists but also equally important for the Jains.
Also Read : Dhamek Stupa In Sarnath
It is the birthplace of Shreyansnath, the 11th tirthankara of Jainism and a temple dedicated to him is a major pilgrimage site for the Jains. It also is home to the Ashoka pillar, which has been adopted as the National Emblem of India.
At present, it is one of the four main sites of the Buddhist circuit along with Bodhgaya, Kushinagar and Lumbini in Nepal, which attracts followers from across the world.
By Air: The nearest airport is Varanasi which is about 24 km away from Sarnath. The airport has flights operating from all the major cities in the country.
By Train: The nearest major railhead is Varanasi Cant which is about 6 km from Sarnath. It is connected to most of the major cities in the country.
By Road: Sarnath is well connected by road; it is located at a distance of 10 km from Varanasi, 311 from Lucknow and 132 km from Allahabad.
The best time to visit would be during the winter months which is from October to March; the weather remains cool and makes it a comfortable experience to walk around the place.
Sarnath is also known as Mrigadava, Migadaya, Rishipattana and Isipatana as per its long history. Mrigadava means deer park. Isipatana is the name which was used in Pali Canon and denotes the place where the holy men landed.
Sarnath originates from the Sanskrit word Saranganatha, which means Lord of the Deer. It relates to another old Buddhist story which says that Bodhisattva, a deer offers his life to a king, instead of the doe, which the king was planning to kill. The king was so moved that he created the park as a sanctuary for the deer.
The monastery in ruins is the impressive 34 m stupa, which marks the spot where Buddha gave his first sermon. The stupa has floral and geometric carvings which date back to the 5th century AD; one can also notice that some of the brickworks date back to 200 BC.
Nearby is the 3rd century Ashoka Pillar, which has edicts engraved on it. It once stood at 15 m and the famous four-lion capital atop it, which is now housed at the archaeological museum; what remains of it are only the five fragments of its base.
PC: Official site
This 100-year-old museum made out of sandstone houses the findings and excavations from Sarnath; the museum has 6823 sculptures and artefacts. Now fully modernised, it also houses the well-preserved 3rd century lion capital from the Ashoka Pillar, which has been adopted as India's national emblem.
3. Thai Temple And Monastery
The Thai Temple is one of the major attractions here, built in the Thai architectural style. With its unique red walls and white-roofed design it is something worth to look at. It is surrounded by gardens which offer you a peaceful atmosphere.
This fort temple was completed in the year 1931 by the Mahabodhi Society and is well known for its unique wall paintings which resemble animation stills. Buddha's first sermon is chanted here every day from 6 PM to 7 PM depending on the season.
A bodhi tree can be seen outside which was transplanted in 1931 from the tree in Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, which happens to be the offspring of the original tree in Bodhgaya.
The large stupa which remains in ruins dates back to the 5th century AD and stands at the spot which is believed to be the place where Buddha met his first disciples.
The unsuited tower on top of the stupa in the Mughal style of architecture was constructed in the 16th century to commemorate the visit of Emperor Humayun.
The temple constructed in the Japanese style of architecture looks simple on the outside. The temple houses a reclining Buddha which is carved out of sandalwood and can be seen at the main shrine.