Sarnath, city of Buddha
Sarnath is the town where Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha, gave his first
sermon after obtaining enlightenment (at Bodhgaya), probably sometime
in the 5th century BCE. It became a center of Buddhist study and
worship, profiting greatly from the conversion of Ashoka, emperor of
the Mauryan Empire from 273 BC to 232 BC.
Sarnath is located 10 km northeast of Varanasi and is easily reached by
bus or by renting a car with driver for the day. There is a beautiful,
green park with various archeological remains, where one can spend a
restful half day away from the crowds in Varanasi. There is also
an archeological museum with some fine statues of
Buddha. Unfortunately, photographs are not allowed in the museum.
In the park is the stump of a pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka,
with an inscription by him on its side. The most striking monument,
though, is the 34m-high stupa, a huge column of a kind frequently
erected by Buddhists, with some beautiful stonework on its sides
|Carvings on stupa
||The sacred tree
Nearby is a shrine enclosing a tree with an interesting history.
The Buddha is said to have given his first sermon under a tree in Sarnath, a
shoot of which was later taken to Sri Lanka. After the original
tree died, a shoot of the shoot was brought to Sarnath and planted in
its place. So this tree is a sort of "grandson" of the original
tree under which Buddha preached his sermon.
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