SARNATH FACTS & FIGURES
- Location: 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India.
- Best time to Visit: Throughout the year
- Significance: Here Buddha delivered his first sermon, Dhamekha Stupa, Ashoka Pillar.
Sarnath (also Mrigadava, Migadaya, Rishipattana, Isipatana) is the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna.
Sarnath is, perhaps, the naturally most beautiful Buddhist pilgrimage, with a calm and cool atmosphere that silently preaches tranquility and peace.
Lord Buddha had visited Sarnath looking for his five companions who abandoned him in Rajgir while they deviated from the viewpoint of Lord Buddha on self-mortification.
The earliest remains here at Sarnath are from the Mauryan period ascribed to Emperor Ashoka the great. The Lion Capital is the national emblem of India. The Dharmarajika Stupa was built by Ashoka, and it was expanded and enlarged several times upto the 12th century CE. The structures here were destroyed by repeated invasions – and by gradual neglect – and what are seen today are the results of repeated reconstruction efforts. The Dhamekh stupa is a cylindrical tower, 143 feet high, and 93 feet high. The stones in each layer were bound together by iron clamps. This tower dates back to the Gupta period. The Chinese traveller Hsuen Tsang who visited India in the 7th century CE, speaks of the glory of Sarnath and of the structures that existed then.
Pilgrim/Tourist Attractions in Sarnath
The stupa is the most impressive structure in Sarnath. From the top of the stupa a stone tablet with an inscription “Dharmekha” was found which points out that this is the spot where the Buddha delivered his first sermon. Dhamekha seems to be a distorted form of Dharma Chakra which means turning the wheel of the Dharma. The original stupa was constructed by Ashoka. The present size of the stupa is 31.3 m high and 28.3 m in diameter. The lower portion of the stupa is covered completely with beautifully carved stones.
Dhamekha is believed to be the sacred place where the voice of Buddhism was first heard.
This Pillar is the national emblem of India, presents a splendid represntation of Art during Ashoka’s period, and the Asoka Wheel down the base adorns the Tricolour national flag. This pillar records the visit of Emperor Ashoka to Sarnath, in the 3rd century BC. The lion symbolises both Ashoks’s imperial rule and the kingship of the Buddha. The four-lion capital was adopted as the emblem of the modern Indian republic.
The brick remains of the Stupa, dates from the Gupta period, and is said to be the site, where the Buddha was reunited with his five disciples, who had previously deserted him. Standing on a terraced rectangular plinth, the Stupa is capped by an octagonal Moghul tower, built by Emperor Akbar to commemorate his father’s visit to the place.
MULAGANDHA KUTI VIHAR
This is a modern temple built by the Mahabodhi society in 1931. The entrance of the vihara, is dominated by a huge bell, a gift from Japan, and the interior contains a beautiful life-size golden image of the Buddha, and colourful murals and frescoes painted by a Japanese artist Kosetsu Nosu. One can also see the bodhi tree whose sapling was brought from a tree in Sri Lanka, which in turn originated from the original tree under which Buddha sat in Bodh Gaya and gained enlightenment 2,500 years ago.
The full moon day of Vaisakha (April-May) is observed as the anniversary of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. The full moon in the month of Asadh (July-August) is considered the anniversary of his first sermon.
How to Reach Sarnath
- Air: Varanasi is the nearest airport, at a distance of 10 km from Sarnath.
- Rail: Varanasi is a major station in Broad gauge network and is well connected to most of the stations of India.
- Road: Well-laid motorable roads connect Sarnath with varanasi and other important cities.