SARNATH, VARANASI, UTTAR PRADESH
Sarnath is the sacred place where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kodanna. Sarnath is located 13 kilometers north-east of Varanasi near the confluence of the Ganges and the Gomati rivers, in Uttar Pradesh, India. Sarnath is one of the four most vital Buddhist pilgrimage centers of India. Buddha, the great sage, after attaining illumination at Bodh Gaya came to Sarnath at 528 BC and delivered his first sermon to five disciples (Koudanna, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Asvajita) for redeeming humanity.
Isipatana is the name used in the Pali Canon, and means the place where holy men landed. While in Sanskrit it was known as Rishipattana Mrigadava. In Deer Park (means Mrigadava ), Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon, set in motion the Wheel of Law (Maha-Dharmachakra Pravartan).
PLACES TO VISIT IN SARNATH, VARANASI
Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD, and today it presents the most expansive ruins amongst places on the Buddhist trail. The ruins, the museum and the temple are all within walking distance.
- Dhamekha Stupa: The stupa is the most impressive structure in Sarnath. Built around 500AD,Dhammeka Stupa is a solid, cylindrical, brick structure, 43.6 m high and 28 m in diameter.
The original foundations laid by the Emperor Ashoka are still intact, though the stupa itself was re-built in the 5th century and has seen modifications and additions from time to time.The stupa is consider a place where one can see the devoted Buddhists circumambulating the structure.
2. Chaukhandi: The Chaukhandi Stupa is thought originally to have been built as a terraced temple during the Gupta period between the 4th-6th Century, to mark the site where Lord Buddha and his first disciples met traveling from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath. Later Govardhan, the son of a Raja, modified the stupa to its present shape by building the octagonal tower to commemorate the visit of Humayun, the powerful Mughal ruler.
3. Asoka Pillar – This Pillar is the national emblem of India, presents a splendid representation of art during Ashoka’s period. The pillar also records the visit of Ashoka to Sarnath. It is interesting to note that at one time, the Ashoka Pillar of Sarnath stood over 17 meters in height. Its capital with the four lions back to back that has been adopted as the official emblem of modern India can be seen in the museum at Sarnath.
4. Sarnath Archaeological Museum: It is a treasure trove of awe-inspiring Buddhist art as well as many images and sculptures of Hindu Gods collected during excavations in the area. Some of the more stunning artifacts include a life-sized image of a standing Bodhisattva, a panel depicting Shiva slaying Andhakasura, and of course the Lion Capital. There are many Buddhist temples built by various countries in Sarnath, with each one of them reflecting the architectural style of that country.