Sarnath: History, Attractions, Best Time to Visit, How to Reach & Travel Tips


Considered as an important pilgrimage center for Buddhists, Sarnath is a quite popular tourist spot in Varanasi. Known as the place where the Lord Buddha came to give his first sermon after he attained enlightenment at Bodhgaya, Sarnath is definitely a must-visit place. A trip to Sarnath will definitely boost your spiritual beliefs and leave you in a peaceful state of mind. Sarnath is considered as one of the four holy Buddhist sites for pilgrimage.

A historical brief:

Located near Varanasi, Sarnath is a sacred place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon speech and preached to his five former companions. It is believed that Lord Buddha arrived in Sarnath in 528 BC after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya.

The event is described as Dharamachakra-Pravartana (meaning turning the wheel of law).  The first preaching delivered by the Buddha at Sarnath is known as Dhammacakkhapavathana Sutta. After the preaching, a community of monks was established here.

Sarnath developed as a center for arts and Sammatiya School of Buddhism by the 3rd century B.C. Later in the 12th century, it was ransacked by Turkish Muslims and lay in ruins for years. During excavations, it was found by British and restored.

Which place to visit in Sarnath?

  • Main Shrine:

The main Shrine at Sarnath is called as Mulagandhakuti and it is believed to be hut where Buddha used to sit in meditation during his visit to Sarnath.

  • Ashoka Pillar:

Ashoka Pillar, the National Emblem of India is a major tourist attraction in Sarnath. It is 50 m high pillar made out of stone built to mark the visit of Emperor Ashoka in Sarnath.

The pillar has four lions at the top, facing back to back and a wheel called Ashok Chakra placed beneath the lions. Also, you will find a bull, a lion, an elephant and a horse depicted on the base of the Ashoka Pillar symbolizing four phases of Gautam Buddha’s life.

  • Chaukhandi Stupa:

It is one of the most important monuments of the Buddhist culture and built to mark the rise of the teachings and religion of Buddhism. It serves as a shrine to Lord Buddha as it built at the place where he preached his five former companions. It is the holiest spot and is visited mostly by tourists.

  • Thai Temple:

Built in Thai architectural style, Thai Temple located amidst gardens near Sarnath. The temple is managed by Thai monks and you will feel the calmness here.

  • Archeological Museum:

It was established in 1910 and consists of artefacts related to Buddhism art. Inside it has five galleries and two verandahs displaying antiques, a collection of Buddhist cultures.

  • Deer Park / Isipatana:

It’s a major tourist spot in Sarnath and attracts nature lovers here. It also holds religious significance as it is the site where Lord Buddha preached the first sermon.

  • Jain Temple:

Jain Temple in Sarnath is quite famous and was built in 1824. It is also called as a spot where Shreyanshnath, the 11th Jain Tirthankara was born.

  • Dhammek Stupa:

It is one of the major attractions of Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh. It is made up of stone and brick and has floral carvings.

  • Mulagandha Kuti Vihara:

It is a Buddhist temple and is known for murals and frescos made up by a famous Japanese painter.

How can you reach Sarnath?

Sarnath is located in close proximity to Varanasi, which has an airport along with a railway station. By air, you can take a flight to Varanasi Airport at Babatpur. Also, Sarnath is well connected through roads with major cities.

What is the best time to visit Sarnath?

The best time to visit the place is between the months of October and March. The summers are hot in Northern India and winters are enjoyable.

Smart tips if travelling to Sarnath:

  • Maintain the peace and tranquillity in the area
  • Do not touch the sacred objects
  • Try to wear proper clothing and take care of children while moving around

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