Sarnath is in Uttar Pradesh, about 13kms north-east of Varanasi.
Sarnath is the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma and also where the original Sangha was formed. Consequently, it is a major Buddhist pilgrimage destination. Within the deer park complex is a large stupa (Dhamekha Stupa) constructed by the Emperor Ashoka in 249 BCE and also several other Buddhist structures that were added between the 3rd century BCE and the 11th century CE.
The town is relatively peaceful and green, and so also provides a welcome alternative to Varanasi (13kms) as a place to stay for people visiting the ghats along the Ganges.
Varanasi Airport (IATA: VNS) is 24kms from Sarnath and is the nearest airport. There are domestic flights from Delhi and Mumbai (Jet Air), and international flights from Kathmandu (Cosmic Air) and Bangkok (Thai Airways).
Nearest major station is Varanasi Cantt. (6kms). This is connected to most major cities in the country. Sarnath has a small train station, but very few trains stop here.
Buses stop at the bus station near the railway staion cantt.
From Varanasi, Sarnath is easily reached by taxi or auto rickshaw, but is too far to use a cycle rickshaw.
- Dhamekh Stupa. Constructed by king Ashoka in 249 BCE to commemorate his pilgrimage to the Deer Park. It is believed that the stupa marks the exact spot where the Buddha taught the five ascetics the Four Noble Truths, his first teaching after attaining enlightenment.
- Chaukhandi Stupa. Constructed in the the 5th century, the stupa marks the spot where the Buddha met the five ascetics. The octagonal tower is of Islamic origin and a later addition.
- Mulagandhakuti Vihara. The ruins of the temple where the Buddha spent his first rainy season.
- Ashoka Pillar. Only the base remains.
- Sarnath Archeological Museum. A small, but impressive collection of artifacts excavated from the site. The sculptures are particularly of interest.
- Mahabodi Dharmshala Temple, Thai Temple and the Burmese Temple. very cheap, but spartan.
- UPSTDC Rahi Tourist Bungalow, ☎ +91 (0542) 2595965 ([email protected], fax: +91 (0542) 259-5379). A government run establishment - drab and uninspiring, but conveniently located.
- The Golden Buddha Hotel, Sarangnath Colony (arranges pick up from Varanasi airport), ☎ +91, . probably the best hotel in town. Offers such facilities as ayurvedic massage, a restaurant serving Mediterranean dishes, a peaceful lawn, and outdoor hot tub.
In the vicinity of sacred sites:
- Wear clothing that expresses respect for the sacred nature of the site.
- Circumambulate the stupa and other sacred objects in a clock-wise direction.
- Preserve the peace and tranquillity.
- Do not climb onto statues or other sacred objects.
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