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Best Time: Oct-Mar Read More

Ideal duration: 1 day

Nearest Airport: Varanasi Check Flights

"One of the four holiest places to the Buddhists"

Sarnath Tourism

A quiet and spiritual town set amidst the otherwise densely populated state of Uttar Pradesh, Sarnath is a city of historical marvel with numerous Buddhist stupas, museums, excavated ancient sites and beautiful temples that prove to be a source of immense wonder and astonishment to tourists due to their mystical and serene setting. Being just 10 kms from Varanasi, Sarnath is often flocked with devotees is the perfect pilgrimage site for Buddhists, Jains and Hindus, alike.  

A pilgrimage place for Buddhists, Sarnath features a number of temples and completely serene surroundings with its various historically significant, architectural marvels. Being the place where Lord Buddha preached his first sermon, Sarnath has since been a popular tourist attraction and is well known for its cultural significance as well as the mystical setting. To name a few attractions contributing to the spiritual significance of Sarnath, we have, Ashoka's Pillar, Dharma Stupa built by Emperor Ashoka and many more.

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History of Sarnath

Buddhism, as a philosophy of life and as we know of it today, is followed in many countries with over 400 million followers worldwide - yet, very few know that inside of Sarnath is in fact, the place called the Deer Park where Buddha came to give his first sermon, after receiving enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, at Bodhgaya. Sarnath derives its name from Sarangnath or the Deer God, and hence the place becomes truly special in symbolism. Since then, it has become part of the four key sites in the Buddhist circuit. It is also an important Jain pilgrimage site as it is the birthplace of Shreyansanath, the Eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism, and there is a temple dedicated to him here. After this, Sarnath went through a series of historical upheavals, right from 3rd Century BC, when Emperor Ashoka took special interest in this place and built magnificent structures like giant stupas, a well engraved Ashokan pillar and Buddhist monasteries for monks to reside in peacefully to approximately 10th to 12th Century BC, when a series of prolonged invasions by foreign invaders annihilated the cities of modern-day Uttar Pradesh, and left Sarnath in crumbles. It was only in the mid 19th Century when Sarnath was preserved again for its historical significance by some British archaeologists and Sarnath regained its position of being one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhism.

The City of Enlightenment

Located close to the confluence of rivers Ganges and Varuna, Sarnath is one of the major Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world. An ancient city, dating back to 528 BC, Sarnath is believed to be the first place where Lord Buddha started preaching and laid the foundation of Buddhism. An example of rich cultural heritage and spiritual legacy, Sarnath is also the origin of our national Emblem, sourced from one of the most significant contributions of Emperor Ashoka-the Lion Capital.


The name 'Sarnath' is derived from the Sanskrit word "Saranganatha", meaning "Lord of the Dear". The name originated from a Buddhist story in which a Bodhisattva (a being who is on his way to attaining Buddhahood) who was in the form a deer offered his life to a KIng who was about to kill a doe. Moved by this, the King created a sanctuary for deers, which exists even today.

Sarnath is known by other different names such as Mrigadava, Migadaya Rishipattana and Isipattana. While Mrigadava translates into "deer-park", 'Rishipattana' and 'Isipattana' mean the abode of holy mean, in the Pali Canon. (Isi and Rishi mean sage in Pali and Sanskrit, respectively).

Ancient buildings and structures

While most of the buildings at Sarnath were destroyed by the Turks who invaded the country, there are still some that stand and exhibit the beauty and charm of the periods before us.

1. The Dhamek Stupa: An astounding structure which is 128 feet high and 93 feet in diameter, the Dhamek Stupa can be traced back to its Sanskrit origins when it was called Dharmarajika Stupa, meaning The Stupa of Reign or The Stupa of Dharma. This stupa was built in 500 CE and is said to mark the spot where the Buddha preached his first sermon to his first five disciples after attaining enlightenment.

2. The Chaukhandi Stupa: A high earthen mound with a brickwork edifice as a covering and an octagonal tower, the Chaukhandi Stupa is presently under the supervision of the Archeological Survey of India. It was originally built as a terraced temple under the Gupta period between the 4th and 6th centuries to mark the area where Lord Buddha met his first disciples on his way from Bodhgaya to Sarnath. Later, a king by name, Govardhan is believed to have modified the structure to its present-day shape to commemorate the visit of King Humayan of the Mughal Empire.

3. The Sarnath Archeological Museum: The museum homes the famous Ashokan Lion Capital, which is the National emblem of India. The museum also has the refined Buddha image in the Dharmachakra posture.

There is also a famous Bodhi tree which was planted by Anagarika Dharmapala, a Buddhist revivalist which was cut from the Bodhi Tree and Bodh Gaya and grown in Sarnath. Other sites of interest are the Ashoka Pillar, the Mulagandhakuti Vihara and the Dharmarajika Stupa.

Restaurants and Local Food in Sarnath

Sarnath does not have too many restaurants but the handful that it does offer delicious food. The food is mainly North- Indian, with some of its most popular delicacies. One can also enjoy typical and popular bits of Chinese cuisine in the area. Along with these one can also find some instances of Tibetan cuisine here such as Momos. There are also some joints serving traditional snacks.
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Suggested Itinerary

Day 1: Start off your tour with a visit to the Buddhist temples like the Thai temple, Dhamekh Stupa, the Chaukhandi Stupa and the Archaeological Museum.

NOTE: It is best to stay at Varanasi and spend a full day at Sarnath.

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Holidify's Opinion

What's Great?

Peaceful environment and surroundings.

What's Not So Great?

Scalding in summers. Not much to explore.

For Whom?

Sarnath is one of the major Buddhist pilgrim centres in the world. Apart from pilgrims, Sarnath is a major attraction for historians, architects and linguists.

How To Reach Sarnath

The Varanasi airport (24 km) is the nearest to Sarnath. The main railway station is also at Varanasi as only a few trains halt at the Sarnath railway station. Government owned, as well as private buses, are available to reach here.

Ask a Question

Ask a question from the travellers who have experience.

Q. What kind of Lord Buddha's possessions are on display at the museum here?

Pallavi Siddhanta 2 months ago
The Sarnath Museum houses artifacts that have been dug up at Sarnath, their age ranging from the first century BC to 12th century AD. Sculptures, edifices and remains of Buddhist art have been found and housed at the museum.

Sarnath Reviews

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Kovid Kapoor 1 year ago
- As Sarnath is a religious place, certain points must be noted by tourists while on a visit here. Circumambulation must be done in a clockwise direction and also one must not step onto any statues or holy items. Peace and quiet must be maintained by visitors.
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