Skip to content

Random Impressions of the Ruins of Sarnath

December 13, 2013

Gautama, Siddhartha, Tathagata, Lokvid, Sugata, Bhagvata or the one we all know as Buddha gave his first sermon at the deer park in Sarnath. There is still a deer park there as a salute to the Enlightened One. The place has a serenity that is hard to describe. I have been visiting Sarnath since my childhood. The place has not changed much. It used to be quiet and peaceful at one time but ‘development’ has made the area around Sarnath cacophonous and crowded. The precincts still have a serenity. Buddham sharanam gachchami. The Lord’s spirit resides here and it shows.

On the way to Sarnath there is a stupa on a small hill. It is a beautiful structure and one needs to climb quite a few steps to get there. As kids we were told that this was ‘Sitaji ki rasoi’ or Sita’s kitchen.

Stupa on the way to Sarnath

Stupa on the way to Sarnath

But that was folklore and just another story that you get to hear as a child.

As you enter precincts of Sarnath there is this beautiful temple where sits a mammoth statue of Buddha. A Japanese architect designed this temple and the architecture has pronounced Far Eastern  look.

Buddhist temple of the Mahabodhi Society of India

Buddhist temple of the Mahabodhi Society of India

There are wall paintings depicting the life of Buddha. On the side is the holy tree where Buddha gave his first sermon to five of his companions. It is said that after the sermon they also became enlightened and spread Buddha’s words.

Gautama or Siddhartha or Buddha must have been a very persuasive man.

The sacred tree under which Buddha gave his first sermon to his five companions

The sacred tree under which Buddha gave his first sermon to his five companions

His words found resonance in many hearts and kings and emperors became his followers.

Ruins of a monastery in Sarnath

Ruins of a monastery in Sarnath

That Siddhartha himself was from a royal family must have helped too. That he renounced worldly life must have been quite a momentous news at that time (this was during the 6th century BC) and therefore his word spread far and wide.

Emperor Ashok became Buddhist after the bloody war of Kalinga (modern day Odisha), it is said.

Remains of Stupas and Viharas

Remains of Stupas and Viharas

He then spent his time and energy in spreading the word of Buddha. It appears that Sarnath had a thriving community of Buddhists and there were monasteries and viharas here. The famous Ashoka column with four lions was excavated in Sarnath. Ashoka emblem with four lions which is the government of India seal finds a pride of place in the Sarnath museum.

Monks praying in a Stupa

Monks praying in a Stupa

The columns are still there in the site and have been covered by a cemented canopy.

There were these viharas or monasteries and then there were stupas near or within these viharas where they prayed.

Columns on which was found the Ashoka pillar

Columns on which was found the Ashoka pillar

There is this beautiful Dharmarajika stupa that has vertical pillars beautifully adorned with carvings. The ruins of Sarnath take you back into times past and it is indeed amazing how faith inspired people to live as a community.  There is a well in one of the monasteries (monastery VII) and I was told that it was still functional after all these centuries.

The Dhamekh stupa is the attraction.

Dhamekh Stupa, height 33m, width 28.5m.

Dhamekh Stupa, height 33m, width 28.5m.

It is some 33m high and some 28 m in width. Buddhists from all over the world come here to pray and meditate. As I walked along the ruins of Sarnath I found a group of Buddhist monks from SE Asia praying and chanting with incense sticks.

Dharmarajika Stupa, side view

Dharmarajika Stupa, side view

It was indeed a moving sight. Praying in a group has an effect of its own.  Their faith and regimen was infectious.

Pictures speak for themselves. I used a Nikon P520 for the purpose.

The nearest airport is Babatpur, also known as Varanasi airport. There are direct flights from Delhi.

There are many hotels in Varanasi. Some of them are:

Taj gateway, Varanasi http://www.thegatewayhotels.com/gangesvaranasi/overview.aspx

Hindustan International, Maldahiya, Varanasi http://www.hhihotels.com/hotel-varanasi/

Regular trains from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkota  also ply.

One last observation before I close down. The rampant ‘development’ is an eyesore but more importantly it means that any future excavations are just not on the cards. I refuse to believe what is there is all there is. There is more to be found, but it seems we are just not keen to explore any more, which is sad.

The roads and infrastructure to Sarnath is woeful. Hawkers as big a menace as they have ever been.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: