September 28, 2014

Sarnath

Site Name: Sarnath
Site Type: Buddhist religious town; sacred site for Buddhists
Location:  Uttar Pradesh state, India
Highlights: Buddha taught dharma for the first time in this site; the national emblem of India is kept
Nearest Railway Station: Varanasi, 13  kms from Sarnath
Nearest Airport: Lucknow
How to reach: Well connected by road from Varanasi
Hotel: A lot of options including low cost hotels/ashrams and free accommodations in Varanasi; very few options in Sarnath
Restaurants: Varieties of options in Varanasi but very limited options in Sarnath

Sarnath is a small village located near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state of India. It is the site where Buddha started preaching dharma for the first time. It is the site where the national emblem of India is kept. It is considered as one of the four most important Buddhist pilgrimages. The village is dotted with Buddhist shrines of various countries. Let us explore all the important places of this historical village in this article.



Museum:

The Sarnath Museum is the mostly visited site in Sarnath. The museum has antique sculptures and artifacts ranging from the 3rd century BCE and 12th century CE kept in five galleries and two verandahs. All of them represent Buddhist art and culture. The highlight of the museum is the Lion Capital of Ashoka. This is the most famous sandstone sculpture erected around 250 BCE atop an Ashoka Pillar in Sarnath. It has been adopted as the National Emblem of India. Also, the museum houses a lot of sculptures from the Mauryan, the Kushana, the Sungas and the Gupta periods. 

Dhamekh Stupa:

Near the museum, Dhamekh Stupa is located. It was built between the 5th to 6th century CE. It is the only ancient structure left intact by Qutb-ud-din Aibak. The stupa has a 33.5 tower with a stone plinth measuring 28 m in diameter that dominates the site. Lord Buddha preached his famous first sermon in this site. (There is another site called Dharmarajika Stupa which also has a similar claim). I appears that the stupa might have been rebuilt as the current structure belongs to 5th/6th century CE. The excavations revealed the brickwork form the Mauryan period. The floral patterns of the stupa belong to the Gupta period. The Brahmi scripts date from the 6th to 9th century CE.



Chaukhandi Stupa:

Chaukhandi Stupa is the 5th century CE structure. It is the first monument that can be visited while entering into Sarnath. Here, Buddha reunited with the five ascetic companions (the Panchavargiya Bishus) who had deserted him. The octagonal tower found in the site is a later addition and is believed to be built by Akbar.
Dharmarajika Stupa:

It was built in the 3rd century BCE with a lot of later additions. It was reduced to rubble to Jagat Singh, Dewan of the Maharaja of Benaras in 1794 CE. It is the site where Buddha delivered his sermon for the first time.


Mulagandhakuti Vihara:

Mulagandhakuti Vihara, which is presently maintained by the Sri Lankan Government, is in ruins. It is believed that Buddha spent his first rainy season here. A large gold plated idol of Buddha is kept here. There is a Bodhi tree which is believed to be related to the original tree from Bodh Gaya.

Tibetan Temple:

Tibetan temple has a very big idol of Buddha. There are hundreds of miniature idols of Buddha found all over the temple complex.

Burma Temple:

The temple of Buddha which is maintained by the Burma government is one of the main attractions. This temple is architecturally beautiful. 

Japan Temple:

Buddha is in the reclining posture in Japan Temple.

China Temple:

Three big idols of Buddha are kept in China temple.

Saranganath Temple:

Saranganath temple is small but beautiful and important site of Buddha.

Digamber Jain Temple:

Digamber Jain Temple was built in 1824 CE. It is the birthplace of the 11th Jain Tirtankara Shreyanshnath. 

There are even more temples of Buddha maintained by several governments such as Thai temple, Korean temple, etc.

Happy travelling.




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