Sarnath is a Buddhist pilgrim spot located near Varanasi. The city is famous for being the first place where Lord Buddha preached for the first time after gaining enlightenment. Later, kings who followed Buddhism like King Ashoka built a lot of stupas and structures here that are focused on Buddhism. Buddhist pilgrims from various parts of the world visit Sarnath every year. Sarnath is also famous for the Ashoka pillar, which is now the country’s national emblem. It is also a pilgrimage spot for Jains.
Sarnath is a city that is located around 13 km from Varanasi. It is located in the Northeast direction from Varanasi. Sarnath comes under the border of Uttar Pradesh. Sarnath was also called as Isipatana.
This structure houses numerous sculptures of Buddha. The stupa is surrounded by lawns and gardens that are beautiful to enjoy during winter. Strolling along the garden is an important activity. From the stupa, one can get a good view of Buddha Statue in Thai Monastery. This is the first monument you would find when you enter Sarnath from Varanasi. Thus, this monument is called as the gateway to Buddhist pilgrimage. The stupa was built in 4th century by brick. The octagonal structure on top of the stupa was built in 16th century.Thai temple :
Thai temple is a monastery that is built in Thai architecture style. The Buddha statue in the Thai temple is the most predominant attraction. This statue is the one that you can spot from Chaukhandi Stupa. A lush garden is located outside the temple. It is know for its calm surrounding.Archeological museum of Sarnath :
This museum holds Artifacts from 3rd century to 12th century. The museum was inaugurated in 1910. The museum is open from 9 in the morning until 5 in the evening.Ashoka Pillar :
Ashoka Pillar marks the visit of King Ashoka to Sarnath. This 50m long pillar has four lions on top of it. This is the emblem of the country. Below the lions, there are four animals; bull, lion, elephant and horse. These four represent the phases of Lord Buddha’s life. There is another pre-Ashokan pillar which marks the spot of the first sermon of Lord Buddha.Tibetan Temple :
This shrine is built in Tibetan style. The temple has a statue of Shakyamuni, a form of Buddha. Prayer wheels are found outside the temple. On rotating the wheel, you can find paper scrolls releasing from the wheels. The scrolls contain the prayers.Mulagandhakuti Vihara :
This is the main attraction of Sarnath. It is a large tower temple which is 110 ft tall. This is the place where Lord Buddha lived when he visits Sarnath. A Buddha Walk made with blue stone and a small lake that borders a park are some of the attractions near this temple. A small zoo is also found near the temple.Bodhi tree :
This tree is grown from a cut taken from the original Bodhi tree of Bodh Gaya. There is a Sri Lankan monastery near the tree.
Sarnath is interesting throughout the year. During winter (October to March), the climate will be mild and suits sightseeing.
Sarnath was an important spot in ancient India where holy men lived. After attaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, Lord Buddha visited Sarnath to get back to his fellow monks in Sarnath. Buddha and preached five of his companions. This was his first ever sermon. Lord Buddha spend the next rainy season in Sarnath where the number of holy men gathering grew to 60. After Buddha, many elite monks lived in Sarnath. About 500 monks studied in Hinayana, a learning center in Sarnath.
In 389 BC, King Ashoka visited Sarnath where he built many stupas. He built a pillar which holds the emblem of the country. By the end of 3 AD, Sarnath became a center for art, culture and learning. By the end of 12th century, Turkish invaders ransacked the place, took away the building materials and destroyed many monuments.
Sarnath is also the birthplace of many Jain monks and 11th teerthankar. A 2200-year-old pillar stands in the place of kalyanak of Shri Shreyansnath Bhagwan.
There are numerous restaurants to enjoy Chinese, Indian, Tibetan and other cuisines here. Best dish to enjoy here is Tibetan dumplings.