places to visit in sarnath

Nestled near the confluence of the Ganges and Varuna rivers, Sarnath is a sacred pilgrimage site that holds immense historical and spiritual significance. As the place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon, Sarnath is a haven for those seeking enlightenment and tranquility. In this detailed travel guide, we’ll embark on a journey through the cultural, religious, and archaeological wonders that Sarnath has to offer.

Introduction to Sarnath:

Spiritual Echoes of the Past:

Sarnath, located just 13 kilometers from the bustling city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India, resonates with the echoes of Lord Buddha’s teachings. This serene town is a pivotal center for Buddhism and a testament to the profound impact of the Buddha’s enlightenment on the world.

Historical Significance:

Sarnath and Buddha’s First Sermon:

The historical significance of Sarnath lies in its association with Lord Buddha’s first sermon, also known as the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. It was in Sarnath, at the Deer Park (Rishipattana), that Buddha set the Wheel of Dharma in motion, revealing the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to his first five disciples. This event, referred to as the “Turning of the Wheel of Dharma,” marked the beginning of Buddha’s mission to spread his teachings.

Places to Visit in Sarnath:

  1. Dhamek Stupa:
    • Symbol of Buddhist Architecture: The Dhamek Stupa stands as a majestic symbol of Buddhist architecture and devotion. Believed to mark the spot where Buddha gave his first sermon, this cylindrical structure is adorned with intricate carvings and serves as a focal point for pilgrims and tourists alike.
    • Spiritual Atmosphere: Surrounding the Dhamek Stupa is an aura of tranquility. Pilgrims often circumambulate the stupa, offering prayers and reflecting on the profound teachings that echo through the ages.
  2. Chaukhandi Stupa:
    • Gateway to Sarnath: The Chaukhandi Stupa, with its distinctive octagonal shape, is a historical monument that serves as a gateway to Sarnath. It marks the site where Lord Buddha is believed to have met his first disciples upon his return from Bodh Gaya.
    • Architectural Marvel: The stupa’s intricate carvings and ornate design showcase a blend of various architectural influences, reflecting the cultural richness of the region.
  3. Mulagandha Kuti Vihar:
    • Buddhist Temple: Mulagandha Kuti Vihar is a modern Buddhist temple built in the 1930s. It houses a golden statue of Buddha in the sanctum and exquisite frescoes depicting scenes from Buddha’s life.
    • Lush Gardens: The temple is surrounded by lush gardens, providing a peaceful setting for meditation and contemplation. Visitors can immerse themselves in the serene ambiance and appreciate the beauty of Buddhist artistry.
  4. Sarnath Archaeological Museum:
    • Preserving Artifacts: The Sarnath Archaeological Museum is a treasure trove of artifacts dating back to the 3rd century BCE. It houses an impressive collection of sculptures, inscriptions, and relics unearthed from various excavations in and around Sarnath.
    • Buddhist Art and Iconography: The museum is a visual journey through the evolution of Buddhist art and iconography. Visitors can witness the skillful craftsmanship of the artists who conveyed the essence of Buddha’s teachings through their creations.
  5. Ashoka Pillar:
    • Emblem of Peace: The Ashoka Pillar in Sarnath is an iconic symbol of peace and tolerance. Erected by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, the pillar originally had four lions standing back to back, known as the Lion Capital of Ashoka.
    • National Emblem of India: The Lion Capital, now preserved in the Sarnath Museum, serves as the basis for the National Emblem of India. The pillar itself, with its four lions, has become a symbol of India’s cultural heritage.
  6. Thai Temple (Wat Thai Sarnath):
    • Cultural Exchange: The Thai Temple in Sarnath is a testament to the global appeal of Buddha’s teachings. Built by the Thai community in India, the temple exemplifies the cultural exchange between India and Thailand.
    • Architectural Splendor: The temple’s architecture, adorned with intricate carvings and vibrant colors, reflects the rich artistic traditions of Thailand. Visitors can experience the harmonious blend of Thai and Indian cultures within the temple premises.
  7. Japanese Temple (Daijokyo Buddhist Temple):
    • Peace Pagoda: The Japanese Temple, also known as Daijokyo Buddhist Temple, is a mesmerizing structure that exemplifies Japanese aesthetics and spirituality. The Peace Pagoda within the temple complex is a prominent feature.
    • Ceremonial Events: Visitors have the opportunity to witness traditional Japanese ceremonies and rituals, fostering a deep sense of cultural exchange and understanding.
  8. Dharmarajika Stupa:
    • Symbol of Faith: The Dharmarajika Stupa, though in ruins, stands as a symbol of unwavering faith and devotion. Believed to have been commissioned by Emperor Ashoka, this stupa is a testament to the spread of Buddhism under his patronage.
    • Historical Remnants: Exploring the site, visitors can observe the remnants of the stupa and reflect on its historical significance in the context of Emperor Ashoka’s efforts to promote the teachings of Buddha.

Cultural and Festive Atmosphere:

Sarnath Mahotsav:

For those fortunate enough to visit during the Sarnath Mahotsav, a vibrant cultural festival, the atmosphere becomes even more enchanting. The festival celebrates the rich heritage of Sarnath through various cultural performances, traditional crafts, and religious ceremonies.

Culinary Delights:

Local Flavors:

While Sarnath is primarily a pilgrimage site, there are local eateries and stalls where visitors can savor authentic North Indian cuisine. From spicy chaats to traditional sweets, the local flavors add a delightful touch to the overall experience.

Tips for Travelers:

  1. Respect Local Customs:
    • Sarnath is a sacred site, and visitors are advised to dress modestly and respect the local customs and traditions.
  2. Guided Tours:
    • Consider hiring a knowledgeable guide to provide insights into the historical and spiritual aspects of Sarnath. They can enhance your understanding of the significance of each site.
  3. Footwear and Etiquette:
    • Remove your footwear before entering temples and monuments as a sign of respect. Follow proper etiquette during religious ceremonies.
  4. Weather Considerations:
    • Check the weather conditions before planning your visit. Winters can be chilly, while summers can be hot. Monsoon season may bring heavy rainfall.
  5. Photography Guidelines:
    • Follow any guidelines regarding photography at specific sites. Some areas may have restrictions to preserve the historical artifacts.


Sarnath, with its spiritual resonance and historical treasures, invites visitors on a journey of self-discovery and cultural exploration. From the serene ambiance of the Dhamek Stupa to the cultural exchange embodied by the Thai and Japanese temples, Sarnath encapsulates the essence of Buddhism and its enduring impact on the world. As you wander through the sacred grounds and reflect on the teachings of Lord Buddha, Sarnath becomes not just a destination but a transformative experience—a pilgrimage for the soul.