Sarnarth: Ancient Buddhist Capital

We visited Sarnarth which was 6 miles from Varanasi. This is where Buddha preached his first discourse in the deer park to set in motion the “Wheel of the Dharma.” It is one the four main holy sites of the Buddha. The other four being where Buddha was born (Lumbini), reached enlightenment (Bodhgaya), gave his first sermon (Sarnarth), and where he passed (Kushinagar).

The height of Sarnarth was in 640 AD where they had 1500 priests and stupas nearly 100 meters, this was until Muslim invaders destroyed and raided the city’s buildings. It was not until 1835 when British excavations happened and now though it remains in ruins is now a major destination site. We saw many Buddhists from around the world practicing their various ceremonies.

There was a giant stupa here (dome shaped sculpture) at the point where Buddha gave his first talk and we could see the foundation of the room where Buddha meditated in.

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There’s also an Archaeological Museum on site that has an Ashoka symbol of four lions sitting back to back, which has been adopted as the symbol of India. No cameras allowed in the museum

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There was Mulgandha Kuli Vihar a modern Buddahist building with series of giant frescos depicting the Buddha’s life. We sat in to hear the chiming of the bells and some chants. In the courtyard behind A Bodhi tree growing here was transplanted in 1931 from a sapling of the original Bodhi tree which the Buddha attained enlightened. 

There was also a mini zoo in back, but it was closed by the time we got there. We could see some deers and peacocks from the side though. 

Our driver brought us to a shop that sold Benares silk, but we are so over shopping and it felt so rough compared to the silks from Suzhou. Tomorrow we head off to Bodhgaya!