Sarnath Travel Guide – Why it should be on your bucket-list!

Sarnath Museum

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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.

Related Read: How we road tripped from Delhi to Kolkata, via Varanasi & Sarnath

Places To Visit in Sarnath – One Day Tour Plan of Sarnath

Monastery Ruins

Dhamekh Stupa Sarnath Monastery Ruins Site
Here, The Stupa is captured from the Monastery Ruins. Behind the stupa, the Mulagandha Kuti Vihara can also be seem partially.

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.

Ashoka Pillar Sarnath Archaeological Monuments in Uttar Pradesh

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.

Buddhist Prayer Flags at Sarnath

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.

shopping in Sarnath

 Dhamek Stupa

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.

Dhamekh Stupa Sarnath Varanasi

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.

Chaukhandi Stupa Sarnath Places to visit

This complex has an intricately carved giant bell sitting adorned right next to the Buddha statue.

Dhamek Stupa Sarnath

 

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.

Mulagandha Kuti Vihara Buddha 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.

Buddha Carvings Sarnath

Japanese Temple & Monastery

Japanese Temple & Monastery Sarnath

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.

Japanese Temple Monastery Sarnath

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.

Dharmachakra Indo-Japan Buddhist Cultural Society japanese Temple Sarnath

Up on close look, the statue looks wonderfully kept and gleaming somehow offering peace to the beholders as well.

Sarnath Japaneses Temple Monastery

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.

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29 Comments

  1. Wow! Such a wonderful and beautiful pictures, very nice blog. I really like your post, it is very beautiful city and and there have many places to visit for sightseeing.

  2. Wow! Love these pictures and the place seems to be amazing. Will soon plan a trip to Sarnath 🙂

    1. I am very sure, Tripti, that you will not be disappointed. This place is an epicentre of heritage for us.

  3. WOw I have always longed to visit Sarnath but hadnt got the opportunity for the same. WHenever I am visiting in future will surely refer your blog to understand the places more in detail.

    1. Sure do so, and I am pretty sure you are going to love this place.

  4. Never heard about this place .Looks so serene. Specially the Japanese temple. Adding this place to my bucket list

    1. Sad but true. Sarnath never features in the top places to visit. However, it has so much offer. I am happy to forgo Varanasi temples for a quite stroll in Monastery remains in Sarnath!!

  5. Well Sarnath has never been on my travel list but now I want to visit it. I have been missing on so much. Thanks for sharing all the details. Very helpful

    1. Pack your bags and get going. It is an amazing place to visit in winters. I always skip temple visits in Varanasi for Stupas in Sarnath.

  6. Such heritage sites always intrigue me. Sarnath looks so beautiful and on my bucket list for sure.

    1. Plan a trip and you will not be disappointed at all. That’s my guarantee.

  7. Visiting Sarnath is like a literal treat to all the history lovers this spot never fails to amaze me whenever visited

    1. Absolutely true!! I have been there thrice and each time I felt like a child in a candy store. SO much to explore!!

  8. These are the places we have been reading in history and geographical books all this while. You have captured the real glimpse.

    1. I am so glad you feel that I did justice to this place, Dipika. Much gratitude!!

  9. I have visited this place 2 years back and this post refreshed all my memories .. This place is a must visit for all the travel lovers.

    1. Can’t agree anymore with you. Very few people know about this place although it has so much historical importance!

  10. What a beautiful place and I have to still visit this calm and peaceful place

    1. I insist then. DO add it to your must-visit list!! Thank me later…

  11. Wow! The place looks really nice and really authentic. I would definitely want to visit here sometime.

    1. Absolutely, Prerna. Go there and enjoy the serenity of unadulterated peace offered by Buddha shrines and stupas

  12. Wow! It seems like such a peaceful place in your pictures and words. Have never thought of visiting Sarnath but putting it in the list now!

    1. Varanasi or Benaras has its charm but Sarnath brings ultimate peace. Its a definitely must-visit for those planning to go to Varanasi.

  13. I loved this place when I had gone there. Its well kept and easily navigable. Loved the vicinity and lawns

    1. That is what appeals to us for going back again and again! Cleanliness with peace has got us hooked to Sarnath

  14. Historical sites always excite me as we gwt to learn a lot about our past. Sarnath is rich in them as you rightly shared here.

    1. True. Sarnath is a historical as well as an Archaeological heritage of our country.

  15. Very beautifully captured the essence of the ruins and the temples of Sarnath, we are planning a trip where I have VarNasi and Sarnath on the list.

    1. Thanks Akash. I would suggest a winter trip to Varanasi-Sarnath. The weather would be ideal for exploring more about the ghats of Kashi and ruins of Sarnath.

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