The essence of the experience
The city of Sarnath, also known as Isipatana, is located 13 kilometres (8 miles) northeast of the temple city of Varanasi, and lies near the convergence of the Ganges and Varuna rivers, in the Uttar Pradesh region. Sarnath is renowned for being the city in which Buddha preached his first ever sermon and stands as one of the four key sites on the Buddhist circuit. Witnessed by his original four devotees, Buddha explained upon the middle way to nirvana, after being enlightened at Bodhgaya, giving it the name of the law of Dharma.
Sarnath is a much loved destination for those interested in Buddhism and is home to a number of Buddhist temples, which boast a variety of architectural forms inspired by different Buddhist nations across Asia.
Visit the eclectic city during the Purnima, when devout followers of Buddha celebrate his birthday, enlightened life and death. Buddhism thrived in Sarnath due to the variety of kings and affluent traders based in Varanasi. Sarnath had become an important centre for the arts during the third century and found its pinnacle during the fourth and sixth centuries. When the Chinese Emperor Xuanzang visited in the seventh century, Sarnath boasted 30 monasteries, with 3 000 monks living within its walls.
Over the centuries, many monuments have been destroyed, but several ruins still stand proud, such as the Chaukhandi Stupa, a fifth century stone marker that memorialises the spot where the Buddha met his first disciples, and the 39 metre (128 foot) high Dhamek Stupa, a hemispherical structure used for meditation. The Sarnath Archaeological Museum is home to the famed Ashokan lion capital, the National Emblem of India, which centuries ago endured a 45 metre (148 foot) drop to the ground, testament to the tenacity and strength of the Indian nation.