Sarnath, located about 10 km from the city of Varanasi, is the place where Lord Buddha chose to deliver his first sermon. The celebrated Mantra, 'Buddham Sharanam Gachhami', owes its origin to Sarnath. On his deathbed Lord Buddha had included Sarnath along with Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar as the four places he deemed to be sacred to his followers. Thus Sarnath happens to be one of the most venerated Buddhist places in the country. Sarnath is also connected with Jainism.
The place derives its name from the Sarang Nath or the Lord of the Deer. Many deer’s can be seen here roaming freely in the deer park behind the monuments and one is easily transported back in time when Lord Buddha chose this place to give his first sermon to the first of his disciples. This is also where he set the wheel of dharma rolling that is immortalised in his Dharma Chakra Parivartana Mudra.
There are many Buddhist monuments and edifices in Sarnath. They include the Dhamekh stupa, the Chaukhandi stupa and monasteries and temples of different schools of Buddhism from Japan, China, Thailand, Burma and several others. The Indian Buddhist society known as Mahabodhi Society maintains a park around the Mahabodhi Temple which is believed to house a tooth of Lord Buddha himself.
This place is also famous for its vast expanse of ancient Buddhist ruins which are the remnants of the many structures that were raised here between the 3rd and 11th century BC. Incidentally the Ashoka pillar of Sarnath has been chosen as the national emblem of India thereby granting special relevance to Sarnath.
Sarnath - A Quest Within - Buddham Sharnam Gacchami