Sarnath

Sarnath is considered, as one of the richest place to have antiques from the Ashoka period, to the 12th century. After attaining enlightenment, the Buddha came to Sarnath, where he gave his first sermon preaching the middle path for attaining Nirvana. In the sylvan surroundings of a deer park, he initiated his first five disciples into the Buddhist monk hood. Here began one of the greatest religions of the world. Realising the sanctity of the site, Emperor Ashoka erected the magnificent Dharmarajika stupa surmounted by the pillar. This pillar with four lions today forms the national emblem of India. Sarnath has many more ruins of monasteries and stupas of which the 34-metre-high Dhamekh stupa is the most imposing with intricate and delicate floral motifs. Forgotten for centuries, Sarnath was excavated by British archaeologists in 1836.

History
Sarnath derives its name from Saranganatha (Lord of the Deer). On the day before his attaining Nirvana, the Buddha named Sarnath, along with Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar as the four places that his followers should consider sacred. Sarnath was at its peak when the indefatigable Chinese traveller Fa Xien, visited it in the 5th century AD. When Hiuen Tsang, another Chinese traveller, dropped by in 640 AD, Sarnath had 1500 priests, a stupa nearly 100m high, mighty stone pillar of Ashoka and many other wonders. The city was known as the Deer Park, after the famous sermon of Buddha. Soon after, Buddhism went into decline and when Muslim invaders destroyed and desecrated the buildings of the city, Sarnath became little more than a shell. It was not until 1836 when British archaeologists started excavations that Sarnath regained, some of its part glory. It is now a major Buddhist centre.

Culture
On the day of Buddha Purnima, which is the new moon day in April/May, a big fair is held both in Sarnath and nearby Varanasi. It is to celebrate the day of the birth of Buddha, Nirvana and Death.

Climate & Geogaphical Location
It is very hot and humid during summers and extremely cold in winters. Sarnath lies at an altitude of 80.71 metres in Uttar Pradesh.

How to Reach
Sarnath is well connected by rail, road and air. By air, Babatpur airport at Varanasi is the nearest airport connecting it to Delhi, Calcutta, Bhubaneswar, Kathmandu, and Patna. By rail, Sarnath is a halt on the Northern Railway network and several of the trains, which cross Varanasi, stop here. But Varanasi railway station is the convenient railhead and is well connected to Mumbai, Delhi, Patna, Kolkata, Mumbai and other important cities. By road, Sarnath is located on National Highway No. 29 that connects Sarnath to Varanasi and Gorakhpur.

Tourist Places
Dhamekh Stupa
In ancient Sarangnath or Sarnath, Buddha set the great Wheel of Law (Dharmachakra) in motion here, more than 2,500 years ago by revealing to the world his Eight fold path - the path to end sorrow, achieve inner peace, enlightenment and ultimate Nirvana. Built in the 5th-6th century AD, the Dhamekh Stupa is the tallest of the stupas (hemispheric Buddhist funerary mound). The fine quality of brickwork is more than evident in this stupa, which has a high cylindrical dome. The region once housed 3,000 monks. Remains of the Dharmarajika Stupa set up by Asoka; his Sarnath pillar edict and ruins of temples and monasteries and the spot where the Emperor meditated in seclusion; takes one back to the heydays of the Mauryan empire. The remains of an ancient monastery can still be seen here.

Mulagandhakuti Vihara Temple
The Tibetan Buddhist shrine, Mulgandha Kuti Vihara, built in 1930, enshrines sacred relics from various places and a lifesize golden statue of the Buddha. Decorated with brilliant frescoes by Japanese artist, Kosetsu Nosu, the temple has fine mural paintings depicting the Buddhas life-story. The Chinese and the Tibetan temples are also very beautiful. A Bodhi tree growing on the campus is believed to be the offspring of one under which Buddha had attained enlightenment.

Others
Ashoka Pillar : Standing in front of the main shrine are the remains of Ashoka's Pillar. At one time this stood over 20 meters high, but today the capital has been removed and can be seen in the Sarnath museum.

Ashoka's Column : Not far from the Dharmarajika Stupa is the highly polished Ashoka's Column, with the four lions that are a sculptural delight to behold. These lions have been removed to the Archaeological Museum near Sarnath, and adopted as the emblem of the Indian Union.

Chandrauri : 18 Km from Sarnath, a Jain temple has been built at Chandrapuri that was the birthplace of the 8th Jain Tirthankar, Chandraprabhu.

Choukhandi Stupa : Raised by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1555 AD, it is believed to be the place where Buddha met his five disciples. The majestic Ashoka pillar, records the visit of Emperor Ashoka to Sarnath.

Chunar : The northern extreme of the Kaimur hills affords an impressive view of the invincible sandstone battlements of Chunar, that overlook a bend in the Ganges. Vikramaditya of Ujjain is said to be its earliest occupant, way back in 56 BC.

Deer Park : The Deer Park at Sarnath is sacred to the Jains, as it is the birthplace of the 11th Jain Tirthankar, Shyeyanshnath.

Dharmarajika Stupa : At a short distance from the Dhamekh Stupa, is the Dharmarajika Stupa, yet another important architectural marvel here. Built by Ashoka in the 3rd century BC, it underwent several alterations till the 12th century AD.

Jaunpur : Feroz Shah founded this dusty city 65 Km northwest of Varanasi,, in 1930. River Gomti bisects Jaunpur into two sectors. The massive Akbari Bridge is a landmark of the region. Other attractions include Feroz Shah Fort and Atala Mosque.

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