While talking about history and culture, India is one of the most prosperous and bestowed with a diversity of heritage and culture. Amid of this, SARNATH- A Spiritual Pilgrimage Buddhist Place, holds a great place in the History of India. It (along with Bodhgaya and Kushinagar in India, and Lumbini in Nepal) is one of the four most important Buddhist pilgrimage destinations in the world. Moreover, it is the “UNESCO World Heritage Site”. It is located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh at a distance of 10 km from the holy city of Varanasi. This is the place where GAUTAMA BUDDHA gave his first sermon. He declared this place as an important pilgrimage site for his followers after attaining spiritual enlightenment. So, if you want to know more about this place just keep scrolling and get every possible information about this pilgrimage site.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME
This site has been variously known as Mrigavada, Migadaya, Rishipattna and Isipatna throughout the history. The name SARNATH is derived from The Sanskrit word SARANGANATHA, “which means Lord of the Deer”, and relates to another Buddhist story in which Bodhisattva is a deer and offers his life to a king instead of the doe the latter is planning to kill. The king is so moved that he creates a park as a sanctuary for the deer. The park is also active in modern times too.
HISTORY OF SARNATH
Sarnath was an important spot in ancient India too, where holy men lived. After attaining enlightenment on BODH GAYA, Lord Buddha visited Sarnath to get back to his fellow monks. Buddha had preached five of his companions and this was his first-ever sermon at Sarnath. After Buddha, many elite monks lived in Sarnath. About 500 monks studied in Hinayana, a learning center at Sarnath.
In 389 BC, King Ashoka visited Sarnath where he built many stupas. He also built a pillar which holds an emblem of our country. By the end of 3 AD, Sarnath became a center of learning, art, and culture. Also, by the end of the 12th century Turkish invaders destroyed the place.
Sarnath is also the birthplace of Jain monks and eleventh Tirthankara.
WHY SARNATH IS FAMOUS?
Sarnath is one of the most famous archaeological sites in our country. It is famous because of its history but this is not a single reason. Also famous for its architecture and sculptures and several unique things that enhance its beauty and attracts the tourists. Moreover, this is the first monument you would find when you enter Varanasi. It is also known as “The Gateway to Buddhist Pilgrimage”.
Some of the structures that make it famous and even more beautiful are:
- THAI TEMPLE: It is a monastery built in Thai architecture. The Buddha statue in the temple is the most predominant attraction. A lush green garden is located outside the temple. It is known for its calm and peaceful surroundings.
- ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM: Another thing that enhances the beauty of the place is the archaeological museum. The museum holds the artifacts from 3rd century to 12th
- AHOKA PILLAR: It is one of the most important things to see in Sarnath as it marks the visit of great King Ashoka to the place. The pillar has four lions which is now the emblem of our country and there are also four animals: bull, lion, elephant, and horse just below the emblem which represents four phases of Lord Buddha’s life.
- TIBETAN TEMPLE: This shrine is built in Tibetan style. The temple has a statue of Shakyamuni, a form of Buddha. Prayers wheel are also there outside of the temple. On rotating the wheel, you can find the paper scrolls releasing from the wheels. The scroll contains the prayers.
- MULAGANDHAKUTI VIHARA: This is the main attraction of Sarnath. It is a large tower temple of almost 110 ft tall. This is the place where Lord Buddha lived when he visits Sarnath.
- BODHI TREE: This tree is grown from a cut taken from the original Bodhi tree from Bodh Gaya. There is also a Sri Lankan monastery near the tree.
Sarnath has been developed as a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists both from India and abroad. Pilgrims from the number of countries that follow Buddhism as a major religion such as Thailand, Japan, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, have established temples and monasteries in Sarnath in the style of their respective country. Thus, pilgrims and visitors from different cultures have the opportunity to experience the overview of Buddhist architecture.
I just hope that you all got the information you needed and now you are going to plan a visit there. If you have already visited then don’t forget to share your experience with us in the comment section below.
- Penned by: Mansi Sethi