General Information & Accomdation info on Sarnath city of Uttar Pradesh - India  
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Excursion | Getting There

The Ashoka PillarSarnath was called ISIPATNA and is situated 10 kms from Holy Hindu City Varanasi. After Lord Buddha attained enlightenment he delivered his first sermon called DHAMMA CHAKKA PAVATTANNA SUTTA to his five former companions named Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanamma and Assaji in the deer park at ISIPATNA, and soon after they attained enlightenment. Latter Yasha (the son of wealthy merchant) and fifty of his friends became monk after listening to Lord Buddha's sermon. Lord Buddha sent them far and wide to spread Dhamma. Thus from here the spreading of Dhamma commenced. Lord Buddha spent first rainy season here after enlightenment.

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.

Dhamekha StupaDhamekha Stupa
This is the most conspicuous structure at Sarnath. Colonel Cunningham bore a shaft from the top centre of the stupa and discovered a stone tablet on which an inscription is written with the word Dhamekha, and mentions 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. It is also said that at this spot the five ascetics who left Gautama Buddha in Bodh Gaya used to live in huts. 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.

The Dhamekha stupa is considered to be the sacred place where the voice of Buddhism was first heard. Many dignitaries of Buddhist countries visit this place for circumambulation of this sacred stupa and to worship the Buddha. Tibetans Buddhist circumambulate it chanting the mantra 'Om mani padme hum'. The first discourse of the Buddha was on the 'Wheel of Law'. The wheel symbolises samsara (world), the eternal round of existence which goes on and on, life after life because of ceaseless cravings and desire.

Choukhandi' Stupa
Raised by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1555 A.D., it is believed to be the place where Buddha met his five disciples. The majestic Ashoka pillar records visit of emperor Ashoka to Sarnath. It was originally adorned by a capital of four lions, now housed in the Sarnath museum. The capital became the state emblem of modern India.

The Digambara Jain Temple
The Digambara Jain temple, southwest of the Dhamekh Stupa, built in 1824, is said to be where Shreyanshnath, the 11th Jain tirthankara was born. Inside the temple are good frescoes, which depict the life of Mahavir, the founder of the present day Jain religion.

Buddhist Temples
The Mulagandhakuti Vihara is a modern temple built by the Mahabodhi Society in 1931. The silver casket in the temple is said to have the original relics of the Buddha in it. It was recovered from the ruins of the first century temple. The temple has interesting murals depicting the life story of Buddha. The murals were painted by a well-known Japanese artist, Kosetsu Nosu, in 1936. Outside the temple is a bo tree transplanted from Sri Lanka. It is said to be a descendant of the original tree under which Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment. There is a collection of rare Buddhist literature here.

The SanghaThe Sangha
At Sarnath the Buddha founded the Sangha with his five old companions as his first disciples. It was also here that Yasa, the son of a rich merchant of Kashi, renounced his life of worldly pleasures to become Sakyamuni's disciple. Kondanna, leader of the first convents, described the moment of his realisation: Lo! he hath passed with vigour out and on; Sloughed off hath he the dyings and the births, Wholly accomplishing the life sublime.

Thereafter for 45 years the Lord walked the dusty plains of northern India, touching the lives of millions with his teachings. However he did not forget Sarnath. He came back to the Deer park to meditate during the months of the next monsoon and for many other such retreats.

The Ashoka Pillar
Sarnath gained eminence during the reign of Emperor Ashoka. The Ashoka pillar and its famous lion capital were discovered in 1904. Later Saka and Kushan monarchs also patronised Buddhist monks and promoted Buddhist art in Sarnath.


Getting There
By Air
Varanasi (Babatpur) Airport is the nearest airport. Commercial flights connect Varanasi to Kathmandu, Delhi , Agra and Mumbai.

By Rail
Varanasi railway station is well connected to important cities.

By Road
It is located on the National Highway No. 29 that also connects Varanasi and Gorakhpur.

Best time to visit : May / June


General Information & Accomdation info on Sarnath city of Uttar Pradesh - India

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