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Sarnath - where the Buddha started teaching

Sarnath or Sarnatha is the place where Gautama Buddha started teaching after reaching enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. Nowadays the actual place is a deer park with temples and a monument at the place where according to the legend, the Buddha sat and educated his first disciples. It is located 13 km north of Varanasi.

Gautama Buddha teaching his first disciples

Gautama Buddha teaching his first disciples

Although the site is not as extensive or popular as Bodh Gaya, it is worth a visit. Like in Bodh Gaya all major Buddhist countries have build a temple and/or monastery here.

Sarnath is one of the four main holy sites in Buddhism, the others are: Bodh Gaya (where the Buddha attained enlightenment), Lumbini (where the Buddha was born), and Kushinagar (where the Buddha died).

Mulagandhakuti Vihara, Buddhist templeAncient Buddhist monasteries near Dhamekh Stupa Monument Site
Left: Mulagandhakuti Vihara, Buddhist temple
Right: Ancient Buddhist monasteries near Dhamek Stupa Monument Site

At the archeological site it is the The Dhamek Stupa that dominates the area. But it is around the Mulagandhakuti Vihara, Buddhist temple where the devotees gather and study in the garden.

It may not be as extensive as Bodh Gaya, but it was worth the effort to come here.

Like in Bodh Gaya some of the temples were very impressive, especially the Japanese temple although the one in Bodh Gaya was even more beautiful.

Nichigai Suzan Horinji Temple, Isipathana Deer Park

Nichigai Suzan Horinji Temple, Isipathana Deer Park

Getting there and stay

With Varanasi so close, there is no need to stay in town. However, you can try to stay in one of the monasteries. Best way to get to the site is by local transport. There are buses from the Varanasi city center, or you can take a taxi to save the hassle of finding out where to go. Most hotels and guesthouses can help you here.

Pilgrims in Sarnath Bodh Gaya travelers
Most pilgrims who visit Bodh Gaya, will visit Sarnath too.

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Bodh Gaya

Few places I visited had a more international character as Bodh Gaya, the town where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.

Mahabodhi Temple

It is still one of my favorite place in India

Bodh Gaya


The oldest and holiest city for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, Varanasi at the Ganges river bank is founded by Lord Shiva himself, as the legend goes.