Maharajas' Express Blog

Ruins of Sarnath: A Revered Place for Buddhist

The underlying abundances of India lie in its history and diversified culture. India’s gratifying past portraits how the land of Sages, Gurus and Acharyas once showed the path to the world. The land is the root of several religions that later dispersed across the globe, making billions of followers. Such is a religion of peace and non-violence – The Buddhism. Sarnath is one of the four holy places associated with the life of Lord Buddha – the founder of Buddhism.

Sarnath is a holy city located at a distance of about 13 kilometers from Varanasi which is believed to be one of the oldest cities in the word. Sarnath is the place where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon to his five erstwhile companions after he attained enlightenment at Bodhgaya. This event is called as Dharma-Chakra-Parvartana (The Turning of the Wheels of Law) in the Buddhist texts. In Buddhist literature, the place has got mentioned by multiple names, such as – Rishipattna, Isipatana, and Mrigadava. Sarnath is equally sacred for the Jain-another religion that originated in the Indian subcontinent- as being the death place of the eleventh Tirthankara Sreyansanatha.

Although the history of the city roots back to 5th Century BC, the archeological importance of the city was first brought to light in late 18th Century by Duncan and Cole Mackenzie. During the period, the site was excavated several times that unearthed umpteen stupas, monasteries, temples, and superscription sculpture, along with several antiquities that belonged to 3rd Century BC to 12th Century AD. The most significant of all them are Dharmrajika Stupa, Chaukhandi Stupa, Dhameksh Stupa, Mulungandha Kuti, an Ashokan Pillar and the Lion Capital, Dharma-chakra, and Jin-Vihara.

The site museum where the sculptures, superscription and other objects recovered from the excavations are showcased, is being maintained by the archeological survey of India.

Sarnath is visited by a numder of tourists from around the world to explore the sacred ruins of Buddhism. People having interest in history or are religious, no matter which religion they follow, must visit once in their lifetime. Sites that you must not miss during your visit to the city are:

Dharmarajika Stupa

Dharmarajika Stupa was built by emperor Ashoka with a view to preserve the relics of Lord Buddha as sacred. Although the original height of this stupa was 13.49 meters in diameter when it was excavated, but afterwards it was increased in six different phases. As per record, the imposing staircases at four key directions to climb over it, was destroyed by Jagat Sing – a Diwan of then king of Banaras Raja Chet Singh – in 1794 AD just for the sake of building materials.

During your visit to Dharmarajika Stupa, you can also get to see a statue of seated Buddha in Dharma-Chakra-Pravatana mudra recovered from excavation during the Gupta.

Mulagandha Kuti

Mulagandha Kuti is the vestige of a monolithic temple which is considered as the place where Lord Buddha used to sit in meditation. According to Hiuen-Tsang, also called Xuanzang or Hsuan Tsang, the original height of this Kuti was 61 meters. Hiuen-Tsang was a famous Chinese Buddhist monk, traveler, and scholar who visited India during the reign of king Harshavardhan.

The walls of Mulagandha Kuti temple were thick to support elevated structure, and was raised on a square platform with each side admeasuring 18.29 meters.

Based on the design structure, brick molding, and other cosmetic patterns, the temple is believed to be built during the Gupta period.

Imposing Railing

Made of Chunar Sandstone bearing the typical Maurvan polish, this grandiloquent railing was discovered by Oertel in 1904-05 during excavation. Originally placed atop the Dharmarajika Stupa, each side of this squared railing is 2.54 meter long and 1.45 meter high.

Ashokan Pillar

Built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka the great during 272-232 BC, these are the fragment of a 15.25 meter high massive pillar, made of Chunar Sandstone. The diameter of this cylindrical monument at the base is 0.71 meter and at the top is 0.56 with a marginal narrowing. This pillar is now included in the national emblem of the Government of India.

All you can experience by touring with The Indian Panorama itinerary of the Maharajas’ Express.

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