10 October 2010

Sarnath lies 10 Km from Varanasi. In 528 BC Prince Siddartha, having found enlightenment under a banyan tree in Bodhgaya in the neighbouring state of Bihar, gave his first sermon here to just 5 of his disciples. An enormous stupa now marks this place and is dotted with gold leaf, placed there by pilgrims. Sarnath became a monastic centre, and gained official patronage under the Emperor Ashoka in around 250 BC, when Buddhism became the state religion. India today has fewer Buddhists than Christians.

There is a good archaeological museum in Sarnath, with some wonderful sculptures, along with a colourful Tibetan temple and a large number of Buddhist students and monks from around the world.