Deer park at Sarnath

A map showing key Buddhist pilgrimage sitesA map showing key Buddhist pilgrimage sites.

Buddhist pilgrims visit the Deer Park at Sarnath to remember the place where Siddhartha Gautama began to teach after reaching enlightenment.

Buddhists believe the Buddha met five ascetics who had once accompanied him in his search for enlightenment. At the Deer Park, the Buddha taught the five ascetics the Four Noble Truths and through listening to his message, they also achieved enlightenment.

There is little left of this ancient site but there are still a few important places to see.

Dharmekh Stupa

This huge stupa is believed to mark the exact spot where the Buddha gave his first sermon. It is said to have been built around 500 BCE and it measures 30 m high.

Mulagandakuti Vihara

The Mulagandakuti Vihara temple is believed to mark the place where the Buddha spent his first rainy season as a monk.

A Bodhi tree, grown from a cutting of the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, can also be found at Sarnath, along with six national temples, each representing various international Buddhist communities.

The Buddhist belief that all living beings are connected is reflected in Sarnath by the deer that wander around the pilgrimage site.

Nature and importance

Buddhists believe Sarnath is the place where Buddhism as we know it today started. Also, the Buddha gained his first followers here and therefore, this is where the Sangha began.

Visiting Sarnath is a good action for pilgrims, and they can focus on the teachings delivered by the Buddha when he first started teaching the ascetics. Buddhists will go to the site to chant, meditate and worship and also to walk around the stupa as a sign of respect to the Buddha.