The Dhamekh stupa also known as the Dharma Chakra Stupa is easily the most important monument in Sarnath. It is believed that this stupa has been erected at the very spot where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. The stupa pre-dates Ashoka’s 84000 stupas that he had had erected during his reign. According to historians Ashoka had some of Lord Buddha’s relics interred here and then added some modifications to the same.
The current stupa that we see is a recent restoration by the Archeological Survey of India. Pieces of the original carved stones with geometric and floral designs primarily including the swastika as well as those of birds and animals can be clearly seen on the edifice. Of special interest are the eight niches in eight directions on the stupa that at one point of time must have housed images of Lord Buddha but lie vacant now.
Dhamekh stupa is a place of great reverence for many devout visitors who appear happy and contented to have been able to make a trip here. Throughout the year countless such souls are seen circumventing the stupa and then offering a rectangular golden foil as an offering before proceeding to hold a lighted incense stick and reading the first sermon of the Lord.
Not too far from this spot is the Mulgandha Kuti which is where Gautam Buddha used to meditate. Sadly only a ruin of a once large Gupta era temple exists today. The founder of Mahabodhi Society Anagarika Dharmapala constructed an alternate new temple by the same name on the other side of Dhamekh Stupa which is claimed to be a replica of the original one. It houses a golden image of Buddha with his five disciples.
A prayer flag-lined path leads to the temple that overlooks the Dhamekh Stupa. It is believed that there is a prodigy of the original Bodhi tree in the compound that came here from Bodh Gaya via Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. A diorama replica of Buddha surrounded by his five disciples is the chosen spot for many devotees to sit and pray.
Sarnath - A Quest Within - Buddham Sharnam Gacchami