Excursion to Sarnath - On the Buddhist Trail

Excursion to Sarnath - On the Buddhist Trail

What this tour is about:

This is an excursion to Sarnath, where the Buddha preached his first sermon and set the Dhammachakka – the wheel of law in motion. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD, and today it presents the most expansive ruins amongst all the places on the Indian Buddhist trail. The Museum at Sarnath contains important findings from the excavations in this area. In modern times, several temples have been built in Sarnath and are also worth visiting.

How the tour works:

Sarnath is about 30 minutes drive from Varanasi. We will pick you up from your hotel by car for this excursion, and drop you back at the end. The tour covers the following highlights of Sarnath:

  • Chaukhandi Stupa - This site marks the actual spot where Buddha, returning after his enlightenment, met the five ascetics who had left him earlier in disgust. These five (known as the Panchavaggiya) went on to become his first five disciples.
  • Dhamek Stupa complex – This stupa marks the site of the deer park (Migadaya) where the first sermon (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) was delivered. It is considered auspicious to walk around the great Stupa in a clock-wise manner. There is a Jain temple in the complex, dedicated to Shreyansanath, the eleventh Jain Tirthankara. You can also see the pre-Ashokan Dharmarajika Stupa (although only the foundations remain).
  • Mulgandha Kuti Vihara - these ruins mark the place where the Buddha spent his first rainy season in meditation. Nearby is the modern Mulgandha Kuti Vihar temple, built by the Sri Lankan Mahabodhi Society. It houses excellent frescoes by the Japanese artist Kosetsu Nosu. You can also see the sacred Bodhi Tree in the compound. A sapling from the original Bodhgaya tree (under which prince Siddartha attained Enlightenment) was planted in Sri Lanka, from where a sapling was brought here. Behind this is the Deer Park, which is maintained as an open animal park and still attracts deer.
  • The Archaeological Museum – This is a must-visit museum, where findings from the site have been displayed. Highlights include the Lion Capital of Ashoka, the Ashoka Chakra, colossal standing images of Bodhisattva, statues of Tara, etc. Statues of several Hindu deities found at the same site are also displayed here.

Duration, Cost and other information:

Total duration: 4-6 hours depending on your interests. If you are interested in Buddhism and wish to spend the whole day at Sarnath, it is possible to do so. You can spend more time in some of these places, and also visit additional places, such as the temples built by various Buddhist communities around the world (including Thailand, Japan, Tibet, and Myanmar)

When: All days of the week, except Fridays (the Museum is closed on Fridays). Starting at 9 am from your hotel.

Start Place: Your hotel

End Place: Your hotel

Cost:
Rs 2900 per person for 2 persons
Rs 2200 per person for 3-4 persons
Rs 1800 per person for 5-6 persons
Rs 1500 per person for 7-8 persons

The price includes air-conditioned transport, a knowledgeable English-speaking guide, illustrated handouts, personalised tour, and all taxes. Entrances to the sites are to be paid directly.

Tour Notes and Practicalities:

There is a fair amount of walking so please wear sensible footwear. It is usually more practical to have lunch near Sarnath before returning to Varanasi, ask the guide for recommendations.