The Sarnath Buddhist Pilgrimage
A short car ride from Varanasi, Sarnath is the spot where Buddha gave his first sermon and set the Dhammachakka – the wheel of law in motion. Buddhist structures were erected between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD and the ruins that remain are among the most extensive Buddhist relics across India. The museum there has on display a number of excavated findings. Modern day temples that have been built are the other places to visit in Sarnath.
The Sarnath Buddhist Pilgrimage will begin at your hotel. After pickup from the hotel, we will make the 30 minute drive to Sarnath before we hit the main highlights:
- Chaukhandi Stupa: is a stupa built on the exact spot where Buddha, returning after his enlightenment, met the five ascetics who had left him earlier and would now become his first disciples.
- Dhamek Stupa: is the site of Buddha’s first sermon at the deer park (Migadaya). You will see visitors walking around the great Stupa in what is considered the auspicious, clock-wise manner. There is a Jain temple in the complex, dedicated to Shreyansanath, and the foundations of a pre-Ashokan Dharmarajika Stupa.
- Mulgandha Kuti Vihara: is where Buddha meditated during the first monsoon after he attained enlightenment. Also visit the modern Mulgandha Kuti Vihar temple, built by the Sri Lankan Mahabodhi Society, which features beautiful frescoes by Japanese artist Kosetsu Nosu. Don’t miss the sacred Bodhi Tree in the compound, which has grown out of a sapling of the original Bodhgaya tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. You will also see the Deer Park, an open animal park where deer still come in.
- The Archaeological Museum – This is a must-visit museum, where findings from the site have been displayed. Highlights include the Lion Capital of Ashoka, the Ashoka Chakra, colossal standing images of Bodhisattva, statues of Tara, etc. Statues of several Hindu deities found at the same site are also displayed here.