Sarnath

Sarnath

The Great Teacher Buddha spent the rainy season in “Sarnath” at the Mulagandhakuti vihara. Buddhism flourished in Sarnath as part because of the support of kings and wealthy merchants based in nearby Varanasi. By the 3rd century Sarnath had become an important center for the arts, which reached its zenith during the Gupta period (4th-6th century AD). When Hsuan Tsang visited from China in the 7th century, he found 30 monasteries and 3000 monks living at Sarnath. Sarnath became a major center of the Sammatiya school of Buddhism, one of the Nikaya or Hinayana schools. The presence of images of Heruka and Tara indicate that Vajrayana Buddhism was also practiced here. In 12th century's end Sarnath was sacked by Turkish Muslims. Long ago after attaining the enlightenment at Bodhgaya, Lord Buddha went to Sarnath. In Sarnath, the stream of the Buddha's teaching first flowed. Then here at this place Buddha encountered the five men who had been his companions of earlier austerities. The Deer Park, in Sarnath is where Buddha delivered his first sermon, or in religious language, set in motion the Wheel of Law (Maha-Dharmachakra Pravartan). The Emperor Ashoka (304 - 232 BC), who spread the Buddha's message of love and compassion throughout his vast empire, visited Sarnath around 234 BC, and erected a stupa here. The largest monastery constructed during the Muslim rule was Dharma-Chakar-Jina Vihar. This Vihar was erected by Kumardevi, wife of King Govinda Chandra, who ruled over Banaras during 1114 to 1154. In 1194 AD, Qutb-ud-din-Aibak, the Muslim conqueror, leveled the city to the ground. Sarnath became a forest of debris below which the historical ruins remained buried. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD.

The Sarnath Temple is embedded with many Stupa worth visiting


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