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Sarnath is a famous Budhist Shrine located 10 kms north of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state of India.It is among one of the four major Buddhist pilgrimage destinations.Sarnath was previously known as Mrigadava, "deer park," and Isipatana, meaning the place where holy men fall to earth According to legends Gautama Buddha imparted training on Dharma to his disciples for the first time in 528 B.C and thus marked the start of the Buddhist Sangha at Sarnath.
On the day before his death Buddha included Sarnath along with Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar as the four places he thought to be sacred to his followers.Sarnath became a major center of the Sammatiya school of Buddhism, one of the Nikaya or Hinayana schools. The presence of images of Heruka and Tara indicate that Vajrayana Buddhism was also practiced here.
The name Sarnath is derived from Saranganatha, meaning “God of Deer”.Every year thousands of tourists from all corners of the world visit Sarnath in pursuit of serenity.
On the day of Buddha Purnima, which is the new moon day in April/May, a big fair is held both in Sarnath and nearby Varanasi to celebrate the day of the birth of Buddha, Nirvana and Death.
Dhamekha Stupa signifies 'the seat of the holy Buddha' and occupies the space of the most prominent structure at Sarnath. This is the spot where the Buddha delivered his first sermon. The size of the Stupa is 31.3 meter in height and 28.3 meter in diameter, while its lower part has been beautifully carved with stones.
The Choukhandi Stupa is believed to be the place where the Buddha met his five disciples, including his favorite, Anand.
The great Indian emperor, Ashoka, when converted into a Buddhist, paid a visit to the holy place of Sarnath. A smooth glistening stone pillar, known better as the Ashoka Pillar, commemorates Ashoka's visit of Sarnath. The lion capital that was found on the top of the Ashoka pillar is now the National Emblem of India.
The Sarnath museum is the proud owner of the Buddhist artifacts, manuscripts, and statues.
This is a modern temple built by the Mahabodhi society and has excellent frescoes by a famous Japanese painter, Kosetsu Nosu.
Bodhi tree is another sacred place for the Buddhists as it originated from the sapling of the Sri Lankan Bodhi tree, which is also a branch of the original Bodhi tree (Bodh Gaya) under which the Buddha attained enlightenment in 528 BCE.
Digambara Jain Temples :
Besides Buddhist temples and monasteries, the holy city of Sarnath boasts of the Digambara Jain temples, a sacred place for the Jains. Besides, a statue of Lord Mahavira, there is a museum related to the life of the Jain 'teerthankars' in the temple's premises.