The Place Where Buddha Gave His First Sermon
One of the most revered Buddhist pilgrimages in India, Sarnath is the famous site where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Besides, Lumbini in Nepal is famous as the birthplace of Buddha, Bodhgaya in India in the place where he attained enlightenment, and Kushinagar is the site where he finally gave up his mortal self. Sarnath is a major Buddhist pilgrimage in India as the celebrated Mantra, 'Buddham Sharanam Gachhami', owes its origin to Sarnath. The place lies about 10 km to the north east of Varanasi, the cultural capital of India. One can see several stupas, excavated ruins of age old monasteries, the deer park and various other interesting sites here.
Most of these Buddhist structures were constructed between 300 B.C. and 11th century A.D. Even in terms of natural beauty, Sarnath is perhaps the most lovely Buddhist pilgrimage.
Ashoka Pillar- It is the national emblem of India and depicts the wonderful art patternS of Ashoka's period. The inscription on the pillar reads, "No one shall cause division in the order of monks". The Ashoka Pillar consists of a canopy representing an inverted bell-shaped lotus flower, a short cylindrical abacus with four 24-spoked Dharma wheel with four animals (an elephant, a bull, a horse, a lion).
Dhamekha Stupa- Built around 500 A.D., the stupa is the most impressive structure in Sarnath. The stupa is 31.3 m high and 28.3 m in diameter and is covered completely with beautifully carved stones. The devotees can be seen chanting the mantra 'Om mani padme hum' and circumambulating the stupa. The stupa is believed to be built to earmark the Dharmachakra-pravartana to five ascetics.
Chaukhandi- This ancient Buddhist monument was built to mark the meeting of Lord Buddha with his five companions. Later an octagonal tower was added to the structure to celebrate the arrival of Emperor Akbar to the city in 1588.
The Digambar Jain temple - Sarnath is also a holy place for the Jain community. The temple is associated with Shreyanshnath, a Jain Tirthankar and dedicated to Lord Mahavira. One can see several paintings and sculptures depicting the life of Lord Mahavira in this temple.
Mulagandhakuti Vihara Monastery- This is a modern Buddhist temple built in 1931, by the Mahabodhi society. The temple claims to have Buddha's real antiques and evidences. Along with a rare collection of the Buddhist literature, the temple is famous for extraordinary mural paintings depicting the story of Buddha's life. These murals were painted by a well-known Japanese artist, Kosetsu Nosu, in 1936.
Sarnath, set in well maintained gardens, is the place where Lord Buddha preached the path to attain 'Nirvana'.
Vaisakh Poornima, (the full moon day of Vaisakha in April-May, according to the Hindu calender) in the first month of the Nepalese calender, is celebrated with full enthusiasm as the anniversary of Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death. Besides, the full moon day in the month of Asadh (July-August) is also celebrated by the Buddhists as the anniversary of his first sermon.
How To Reach
Situated in close proximity to Varnasi, Sarnath is easily accessible from all the major cities of India by road. Varanasi is the nearest airport and railway station, at a distance of 10 km. One can also reach Sarnath by flight from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.