28 Jan 2013

A Day in Saranath

Varanasi is not just the oldest city of India but also, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities of the world. It’s known by the names Banaras and Kashi as well. Located on the banks of the river Ganga, this is the holiest city in both, Hinduism and Jainism. Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings moksha, or salvation. While many of the earliest temples in this city were destroyed by Mohammed Ghauri in the twelfth century, the remaining religious structures as well as the ones of eighteenth century B.C. remain to make the city a very picturesque one.
Sarnath Museum (Photo Courtesy:AsiaExplorers)
Chaukhandi Stupa (Photo Courtesy: touristplaces.org)
 Not far from Varanasi, thirteen kilometres to be precise, is Sarnath. Sarnath is the deer park where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon on Dharma. This is also where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna. Sarnath, or Isipatana, is one of the four pilgrimage sites designated by Gautama Buddha. The other three pilgrimage sites he has named are Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya and Lumbini.
Dhamek Stupa (Photo Courtesy: studenthandouts)
Sarnath has been developed as a pilgrimage destination for visitors from all over the world, particularly for Buddhists. The city hosts monasteries of architecture styles from each of the countries that follow Buddhism, such as Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Thailand, giving visitors an opportunity to see architecture styles from all these countries in one place.

Besides these spots of religious and historical significance, when in Sarnath, one should not miss seeing the following sights:

- The Ashoka Pillar  
- Sarnath Museum
- Chaukhandi Stupa
- Dhamek Stupa
- Dharmarajika Stupa
- Mulagandhakuti Vihar
Dharmarajika Stupa (Photo Courtesy:panoramio)
Mulagandhakuti Vihar (Photo Courtesy: asiaexplorers)
No doubt, it would take an entire day to visit and see all the sights and places of religious significance that Sarnath has to offer. Home to defining moments in history, right from the structure from which the national emblem of India has been adapted to the deer park and various other religious monuments, the city is rich in culture and heritage. Make sure to visit this place - take any of the Varanasi flights and then drive down to Sarnath, for a visual as well as spiritual treat.