Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh
Located around 12 km from the holy city of Varanasi, Sarnath comes from the word ‘Saranganath’ which means ‘Lord of the Deer’. This is in relation with an old Buddhist story where the Bodhisattva is a dear who offers his life to a king instead of a doe that the king plans to kill. The king was so moved that he created a park as a sanctuary for the deer. Sarnath is also an important Buddhist pilgrimage center as it is believed that after attaining Enlightenment, Lord Buddha preached his first sermon here. The place where Buddha spent his first rainy season in meditation is described as 200 feet high and a life sized statue shows Buddha turning the wheel of law. There is also a glistening pillar here established by Emperor Ashoka and the Lion Capital atop the pillar is presently India’s National Emblem and after surviving its 45 foot drop to the ground, it is now on display at the Sarnath Archaelogical Museum. Devotees from all over come in large numbers to pay their respects to around six national temples that have been built here since the site’s restoration including a Tibetan and Sri Lankan temple.