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Sarnath, located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, is famous for its Buddhist temple. It is located near the joining of the Ganga and Varuna rivers. This place is 10km away from Varanasi. It is believed that Gautam Buddha came to this place to preach his first teachings to his disciples after getting enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. It is also thought to be where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence. According to Buddhist tradition, there are four principal pilgrimages, one of which is Sarnath. The name Sarnath translates to Lord of the Deer. That is why a deer park in Sarnath has been built as a sanctuary for the deer. There are different stupas built that signify Lord Buddha and Buddhism.

Places To Visit In Sarnath

Here are a few places to visit near Sarnath for a memorable trip.

1. Dhamekha Stupa

A view of the Dhamekh stupa

Image Credit: GONG JIE for Wikipedia

Dhamekh Stupa is a famous archaeological site in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh. It is a huge stupa that signifies where Buddha preached his first teachings to his five disciples after enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. This was known as Sangha. It is believed that after the death of Lord Buddha, his ashes were buried under eight stupas, and the Dhamek stupa is one of them. The Dhamek stupa that we see now was reconstructed in the 5th century. This stupa is the largest structure in Sarnath. The stupa is in a cylinder shape with 43.6 metres high rock. The basement of this stupa was recorded to be from Ashoka’s time, but the top part is left unfinished. There are many human and animal carvings and inscriptions in Brahmi script on the walls of this stupa. Along with the Dhamek stupa, Emperor Ashoka built a monolithic pillar of lions. This stupa is a very sacred place for the followers of Buddhism.

This stupa is located in the deer park, which was crucial to Lord Buddha because he taught his first lessons here and also made it into a deer sanctuary. The Dhamek stupa is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entry fee is Rs. 2 for Indians and Rs. 100 for foreigners. The entry ticket is Rs. 25 if the tourists carry a camera.
Address: Dhamekh Stupa, Dharmapala Rd, Singhpur, Sarnath, Varanasi
Timings: 6 am to 5 pm

Must Read: Places To Visit In Sarnath

2. Mulagandha Kuti Vihar

The beautiful architecture of Mulagandha Kuti Vihar near Sarnath

Image Credit: Yusuke Kawasaki for Wikipedia

Mulagandha Kuti Vihar, located in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, is one of the most important Buddhist sites. This place is a temple and a monastery built in 1931. It is famous for its beautiful architecture. A bodhi tree inside the temple was bought from Sri Lanka, which signifies the tree from which Gautam Buddha was enlightened in Bodh Gaya. Inside the temple, there are beautiful gardens and prayer flags aligned. Lord Buddha’s remains in this temple are taken out only on the Buddha Purnima.

This vihar was constructed under the guidance of Mahabodhi society, Anagarika Dharmapala, and the beautiful paintings on the walls were done by famous Japanese painters. There is a golden statue of Lord Buddha inside the temple, representing him preaching his first teachings. Many people visit this place to worship. There is also a massive bronze bell gifted by the Japanese royals of those times.
Address: 92JG+7MJ, Sarnath, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Timings: 8 am to11:30 am, 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm

3. Manikarnika Ghat

A glimpse of Manikarnika Ghat near Sarnath

Image Credit: Dennis Jarvis for Wikipedia

Manikarnika Ghat, located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, is one of the holiest places for cremations. It is believed that when a person’s cremation is done here or death happens in Varanasi, they attain moksha and break the cycle of life and death. Sati’s body, wife of Lord Shiva, was divided into 51 parts and fell in different places of India, known as Shakti Peeth. Her earrings fell in this place, which is how this ghat got its name. This ghat is one of the oldest in Varanasi and has been mentioned in the inscriptions of the Gupta period.

It is believed that the Manikarnika Kund in the ghat was built by Lord Vishnu. Many people from all over the country perform their beloved ones last rights or cremations in this ghat. It is believed that the fire here never stops burning because it was created by Lord Shiva and has been around for nearly 3500 years. As soon as one enters this ghat, they can feel the chantings and the smell of the Vibhuti of the deceased. It is a very sacred place for Hindus.
Address: Near Rajendra Prasad Ghat, Garawasi, Jugul Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Timings: 24 Hours

Suggested Read: Things To Do In Sarnath

4. Sarnath Museum

A view of the Sarnath museum

Image Credit: सत्यम् मिश्र for Wikipedia

Sarnath Museum, located in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, is one of the oldest museums in India. This museum has a collection of many findings and excavations. This museum has nearly 6,832 artefacts and sculptures. When these antiques were found, it was decided in 1904 that a museum would be constructed to secure them, as decided by the government. This place is half a monastery and half a museum. This museum has 5 galleries and 2 open spaces displaying the antiques found in Sarnath from the 3rd century to the 12th century.

Sarnath is home to many Buddhist sculptures, images, scripts and inscriptions. The major displays are a sculpture of Lord Buddha in the 5th century and Ashoka’s lion capital. There are many sculptures of other Hindu gods found in the 9th century. This museum also has sculptures from the Mauryan and Gupta periods. This museum is open from 9 am – 5 pm except on Fridays when it is closed. The entry fee for Indians is Rs. 5 and for foreigners, it is Rs. 100.
Address: Museum, Sarnath, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Timings: 9 am to 5pm (Friday closed)

5. Chinese Buddhist Temple

The peaceful Chinese Buddhist Temple

Image Source: Pexels

The Chinese Buddhist Temple, located in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, is a famous destination that was built by Tao-Kai from Beijing and Fa-Yuan-Tsu in 1939. It is a Chinese temple that signifies the journey of Lord Buddha and his life. Many statues and wall hangings of Lord Buddha in Chinese style inside the temple. There is a huge map in this temple that talks about the route map taken by Hiuen-Tsang, who was a Chinese scholar in the 7th century. That was the time when the king Harshavardhana was ruling.

The writing and photos of the life of Lord Buddha inside this temple are in Chinese, Hindi and English and displayed on a huge board. This temple is relatively smaller compared to the other Buddhist temples in Sarnath, but it is known to be very peaceful and pleasant in this temple. Many people visit this temple to meditate and spend their leisure time peacefully. This temple is right beside Mulagandha Kuti Vihar. The entire temple is painted in red and yellow with various beautiful Chinese designs. This temple is open from 6 am – 6 pm.
Address: Sarnath, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Timings: 9 am to 7 pm

Further Read: Places To Visit In Varanasi

Now that you have a list of things to remember while travelling to Sarnath, plan your trip to Varanasi to experience the fantastic mixture of various cultures and customs. Do visit the places mentioned above. Whether you are a follower of Buddhism or just a curious traveller, this place will give you a lifelong memory to hold onto! 

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Cover Image Source: Yusuke Kawasaki for Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions About Sarnath

What is Sarnath famous for?

Sarnath is famous for many Buddhist temples and monasteries representing the first preachings of Lord Buddha. There are also many stupas, which are from ancient times, signifying Lord Buddha.

How to reach Sarnath?

Sarnath is nearly 10 km away from Varanasi. By air, Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport near Varanasi is the nearest one. By rail, there are two railway stations. By road, there are many buses, taxis and autos available from various places.

Why is Sarnath important for Buddhists?

Sarnath is important for Buddhists because this place is considered to be one of the four principal pilgrimages where Lord Buddha, after his enlightenment, preached his first teachings to his disciples, forming a Sangha.

Is there accommodation in Sarnath?

Yes, there are many hotels, lodges and restaurants with basic facilities available at budget-friendly prices. Many tourists prefer to stay in this place while visiting Varanasi.

What is the best time to visit Sarnath?

October - March is the best time to visit Sarnath because during the rest of the months it is very crowded with thousands of tourists, but during these months it is relatively less crowded and the climate is pleasant to roam around.

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