Sarnath is a place located 10 kilometres north-east of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The deer park in Sarnath is where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence through the enlightenment of Kondanna. Singhpur, a village approximately one kilometre away from the site, was the birthplace of Shreyansnath, the Eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism, and a temple dedicated to him, is an important pilgrimage site.

Sarnath has been variously known as Mrigadava, Migadāya, Rishipattana and Isipatana throughout its long history. Mrigadayavan means “deer-park”. “Isipatana” is the name used in the Pali Canon and means the place where holy men landed.

History: Before Gautama (the Buddha-to-be) attained enlightenment, he gave up his austere penances and his friends, the Pañcavaggiya monks. Seven weeks after his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, Buddha left Uruvela and travelled to Isipatana to rejoin them because, using his spiritual powers, he had seen that his five former companions would be able to understand Dharma quickly. Gautama Buddha found and taught his five former companions, they understood and as a result, also became enlightened. This is the site of the Buddha’s Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which was his first teaching after attaining enlightenment, in which he taught the four noble truths and the teachings associated with it. At that time the Sangha, the community of the enlightened ones, was founded. The sermon Buddha gave to the five monks was his first sermon, called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. It was given on the full-moon day of Asalha Puja. Buddha subsequently also spent his first rainy season at Sarnath at the Mulagandhakuti. By then, the Sangha had grown to 60 in number (after Yasa, the son of a rich family and his friends had become monks), and so Buddha sent them out in all directions to travel alone and teach the Dharma. All 60 monks were Arahants, the ones who have been enlightened and received Nirvana.

Buddhism flourished in Sarnath in part because of kings and wealthy merchants based in Varanasi. By the third century, Sarnath had become an important centre for the arts, which reached its zenith during the Gupta period (4th to 6th centuries CE). In the 7th century by the time Xuanzang visited from China, he found 30 monasteries and 3000 monks living at Sarnath.

*(All the above information are from Wikipedia)


Airport: Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport in Varanasi is the nearest airport located at a distance of 25 km from Sarnath.

Rail: Varanasi Cant. is the nearest major railway station connected to many major cities across India. Sarnath has a small railway station but with little connectivity.

Road: Again the major bus terminal is near Varanasi Cant. and local buses can be availed to reach Sarnath which is connected by road.

Local: Auto Rickshaw, taxi, local bus and other vehicles for hire has good connectivity in Sarnath.

Tourist Interest:

Dhamek Stupa: Constructed by king Ashoka in 249 BCE to commemorate his pilgrimage to the Deer Park. It is believed that the stupa marks the exact spot where the Buddha taught the five ascetics the Four Noble Truths, his first teaching after attaining enlightenment.

Chaukhandi Stupa: Constructed in the 5th century, the stupa marks the spot where the Buddha met the five ascetics. The octagonal tower is of Islamic origin and a later addition.

Mulagandhakuti Vihara: The ruins of the temple where the Buddha spent his first rainy season.

Sarnath Archeological Museum: A small, but impressive collection of artefacts excavated from the site. The sculptures are particularly of interest, including the Lion Capital of Ashoka- the national emblem of India. Remains closed on Fridays.

The other places of interest are the Jain Temple, the Wat Thai Temple, Sri Lankan Temple and many others.

Read my story on Sarnath.