Located at just 12 kilometers from the holy city of Varanasi, the Sarnath is a site that holds special importance for Buddhist pilgrims all over the world. As this is the site where Lord Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon after being enlightened. The Sarnath temple is one of the four most important pilgrimage sites for the Buddhists. The other three being Lumbini, Bodhgaya, and Kushinagar. Apart from being a significant Buddhist pilgrimage site, Sarnath also holds special importance for Jains as the 11th Jain Tirthankara Shreyansnath was born in a village called Singhpur which is near Sarnath.
Sarnath was also known as Mrigadeva (deer park) and isipatana (the location where the holy man was born). The current name Sarnath has derived the Saranganath meaning the Lord of the Deer. According to the old tale from the Lord's life. In this story, the Bodhisattva is a deer and offers his own life to save the life of the pigeon whom the king was going to kill as hunt. The king was so moved by this gesture that he created a sanctuary for deer at this very place.
The Mulagandha Kuti Vihara is the place in Sarnath Varanasi where Lord Buddha spent his first rainy season in Sarnath. After getting enlightened with the true knowledge Buddha, he went in search of his five former disciples whom he found at Sarnath. After finding his 5 disciples, Lord Buddha enlightened them by sharing the knowledge which he gained. This is an important event in Buddhist history which is known as the turning of the wheel of the Dharma. This is also the event after which the first community of monks was formed, starting a tradition that is continued today.
The Dhamek stupa holds a special place as it marks the exact spot where Lord Buddha gave the sermon to his disciples. This Buddha stupa in Sarnath is a huge circular mount is erected at the Dhamek stupa which is surrounded by stones. You will experience tranquillity and equanimity here as the place still holds vibes from the times when Buddha used to stay in the area. Dhamek stupa is the most massive structure in entire Sarnath.
The base of the structure still holds the remnants of the Gupta period which consists of the beautiful stone with the floral design carvings. Exquisitely designed intricate carvings of humans, birds, and animals adorn the wall of the Dhamek stupa.
The Ashoka pillar in Sarnath is a must-visit site for the history buffs. An Ashoka pillar is situated in the ruins of the Sarnath. Although it survived the Turkish invasion it couldn't survive the archaeological excavations. The famous four-lion inscription of the pillar lies in a nearby museum which is said to be around 100 years old.
The landscape of Sarnath is adorned with various monasteries established by different countries. The most prominent monasteries are of Sri Lanka and Tibet. There is a beautiful tall standing Sarnath Buddha statue in the Thai monastery in which the lord is seen giving out blessings to one and all.
There is a huge arena for deers in Sarnath, it is known as the Deer Park. As the place is historically involved with deers, it is apt to have a deer park here. Just behind the park, you will find the Vajra Vidya Institute, which is a study institute of higher Buddhist monastic studies. It was established by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. The institute was established with the sole purpose of preserving the oral Buddhist traditions by training new monks.
The Sarnath stupa is a place where you will find peace and inner strength which will help you in relieving worldly tensions.