Top Tourist Spots At Sarnath, near Varanasi
Barely 30 minutes from the hustle & bustle of Varanasi, Sarnath presents an absolute contrast picture. Situated around 10 kilometers from the city limits, it is one of the important pilgrimage sites for the Buddhists. This place came into its prominence for the first time in the history when Gautam Buddha himself visited and preached a sermon after receiving enlightenment at Bodhgaya. The architectural heritage we witness here owes its existence to the great Emperor Ashoka who directed for construction of massive Stupas and Buddhist Monasteries.
Places To Visit in Sarnath – One Day Tour Plan of Sarnath
It is being estimated that at one point of time, these monasteries housed over thousand monks. The famous Ashoka Pillar with the Lion Capital head was also erected here. Today the base of the column remains at the monastery site, while the Lion Capital has been preserved at the Sarnath Museum. India adopted its National Emblem from the Lion Capital and the Ashoka Chakra found its place at the center of our National Flag.
In the later centuries, Sarnath was brutally plundered by Muslim invaders and it got buried under layers of civilization’s empathy. Later in the 19th century, British Archaeologists brought back this place into life and Sarnath once again found its prominence among heritage sites of our country.
Right outside the main entrance of this archaeological site, you will find a bevy of stalls selling replicas of Ashokan Pillar, Buddha statues, etc. If you can strike a good deal then it is a good place to shop for Buddhist relics and souvenirs. Strike a good bargain if you want to buy Buddhist Singing Bowls as the sellers often tend to overcharge from the tourists.
The 34m tall Dhamek Stupa offers itself as a massive structure, surrounded by peaceful ground housing the ruins of the Monastery, one which was a thriving residence to over thousand Buddhist monks and nuns. Today you can find several base structures of the erstwhile buildings jotting out of the ground, offering a peak into the architectural marvels of the Ashokan era through intricate stone carvings.
One of the major tourist attractions of Sarnath, this 5th Century Stupa is believed to be the place where Buddha met his disciples (Kaundinya, Bashpa, Bhadrika, Mahanaman and Ashvajit) and delivered his first speech after attaining enlightenment about Nirvana. Today, this complex has a relic that depicts Buddha sitting with five of his disciples around him in a meditative pose while listening to their master’s wise words.
This complex has an intricately carved giant bell sitting adorned right next to the Buddha statue.
Mulagandha Kuti Vihara
It is a Buddhist temple constructed by the Mahabodhi Society in a modern architectural pattern. It houses different relics of Lord Gautam Buddha which attracts a large number of tourists. The walls inside are beautifully adorned with frescos depicting various milestone of Buddha’s life. The main stage where the relics of Buddha’s body are kept, has been carefully cordoned off from the public, however, if you get lucky then you might get invited by the Buddhist priests to cross over and catch a peek into the carefully preserved casket believed to contain pieces of Buddha’s calcined bones.
Here’s a glimpse of the inside of this temple.
All the temples and buildings show intricate craftsmanship in the form of stone carvings where Buddha’s life has been charted during different period of time. Even modern structures like these, shows beautifully carved outer temple walls with Buddha in various poses adorning the facade.
Japanese Temple & Monastery
Built by Dharmachakra Indo-Japan Buddhist Cultural Society, this temple houses Buddha in a reclined position, made entirely out of exotic Sandalwood. Offering an unparalleled ambiance of peace and serenity, you would often find this temple empty and peaceful.
The inside of the Japanese Temple presents a glorious view with the majestic Sandalwood carved statue of Buddha reclining right in front with various Japanese Buddhist relics in behind.
Up on close look, the statue looks wonderfully kept and gleaming somehow offering peace to the beholders as well.
How To Reach Sarnath:
Since we stayed at Varanasi, we planned a day-long tour to Sarnath. The best way to go about this is leave behind your personal vehicle and hire an auto-rickshaw for this purpose. They are the best people who can swiftly navigate through the congested city roads of Varanasi as you exit to move towards the outskirts. Often these drivers know a lot about these places, so if you can manage to strike a conversation with them, you might get to know some tid-bits about these places.
Do not plan to have lunch there at Sarnath. Not many options are available. If you can, then pack your lunch or wait till you return back to the city of Varanasi to grab a bite.