Sarnath is a very popular place in India related to Gautama Buddha. It is located in the Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists preachers. Large numbers of tourists come here to spend a number of days in this sacred place as it is one of the four most important Buddhist pilgrimage centers of India. Many monasteries are there in other countries who also believes in Buddhism but none of them has an architecture of Sarnath type. One can experience an overview of Buddhist architecture from various sculptures only in Sarnath.
After attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, the Buddha came to Sarnath. In the Deer Park of Sarnath, he delivered his first sermon in a religious language and set in motion the Wheel of Law or Maha-Dharmachakra Pravartan. He delivered his first sermon to his five disciples namely Kaundiya, Bashpa, Bhadrika, Mahanaman and Ashvajit. It is the place where the foundation of a new order of monks and a new order of religious doctrine i.e. Dhamma laid down. Sarnath is also a sacred place for the Jains as there is a site where death of Shreyamshanath, the 11th Tirthankar took place.
The famous emperor Ashoka, spread the message of Buddha of love and compassion throughout his vast empire and also visited Sarnath to erect a stupa there that commemorate him as well as the Buddha. Many Buddhist structures were there in Sarnath but presently most of them are in ruins. This tranquil place attracts the calm environment lovers to come again and again and reside there for a long time. The ruined places, the museum and other temples all are there at a walking distance. Some of the places of interest are:-
It is an important Buddhist Stupa located in Sarnath. It was built by the famous Emperor Ashoka. It is the first monument that is encountered by anyone while entering in the Sarnath. It has evolved from burial mounds and serve as a shrine for the antiquity of the Buddha. It is surrounded by an octagonal tower.
Dhamek Stupa is the most remarkable structure at Sarnath. It is cylindrical in shape and 28 meters in diameter at the base and 43.6 meters in height. It was built partly of stone and partly of brick and thus create a unique example of this type of structure. Delicate floral carvings of Gupta origin are adorned on the stone facing the lower part.
Mulagandha Kuti Vihar
It is a modern temple and was erected by the Mahabodhi Society. Excellent frescoes by one of the foremost painters of the Japan are placed there. Rich archives of Buddhist literature are also placed there.
Sarnath Museum is the oldest museum site of Archaeological Survey of India. It contains a rich collection of the sculptures and paintings of Buddha and Bodhisattva. The finest specimens of Buddhist art and important remains can be found by anyone in this museum. Among all the sculptures and paintings, the important ones are the statue of Buddha sitting cross-legged & meditating, Dharmrajika Stupa, Magnificent Lion Capital, India’s National Emblem, etc. It also houses the figures and sculptures from the Mauryan, the Kushana and the Gupta periods. The most important attraction of the museum is the splendid Ashokan Pillar. This Ashokan Pillar has four back-to-back lions which were earlier adopted as the National symbol of India. Below the figures of lions; horse, bull and elephant are also placed there which represents the strength of the nation.
So, similar to Bodh Gya, Sarnath is also one of the famous sites of Gautam Buddha. Many people visit this place from across the globe. Jain people also increase the strength of the tourist by visiting the Sarnath.