Details On Sarnath Temple, Uttar Pradesh
The Sarnath Temple is located about 8 kilometers from the city of Varanasi, in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It was built in 640 Ad by Emperor Ashoka in dedication to Lord Buddha who gave his first sermon called “Dharma Chakra Pravartana” or “Setting In Motion the Wheels of Law” as it is known in Buddhism, to his disciples in the deer park nearby.
Influence on culture and religion
Lord Buddha gave his first sermon to a group of five disciples at this location to tell them about how to follow the middle path that leads to “Nirvana”. Emperor Ashoka who had embraced Buddhism after renouncing the path of war built a Sarnath stupa in commemoration the first teaching of Lord Buddha. Since then, this Buddhist temple has become a famous pilgrimage spot for both Hindus and Buddhists alike. People from all parts of the country and even the world come to this temple to offer their prayers to Lord Buddha and ask for his blessings to purify their lives of all sins. Emperor Ashoka’s visit to Sarnath is proclaimed by the Ashoka pillar which has the statue of four lions on its top. These four lions have become the state symbol of India.
The presiding deity of this temple is Lord Buddha. The Lord had come to Sarnath after attaining “Nirvana” at Bodh Gaya and had met his first five disciples here. He preached to them the way to reach the same level of enlightenment that he had reached himself and asked them to teach others. The importance of Sarnath in the Buddhist religion as a place of pilgrimage is evident by the fact that it the main deity that is worshiped in this temple is of Lord Buddha.
Details of idol
The main shrine consists of a golden statue of Lord Buddha and is made of marble. The idol of Lord Buddha is golden in color with eyes closed and his hands in front of his chest in a position of blessing people who come to pray to him. The idol is in a sitting position in the lotus position. The figures of his five disciples are engraved on the base on which the Lord is sitting.
Other nearby shrines
In addition to the various stupas, the main temple site is dotted with monasteries and shrines built by the Buddhists from various countries. The Tibetan Karmappa Temple, the Mulagandha Kuti Vihara built by the Buddhists from Japan, the Sri Digambar Jain Temple are some of the shrines that can be found near the Dhamekha Stupa where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon.
Nature of worship
The main worship of Lord Buddha is carried out by Buddhist monks who hail from different countries. There are separate monasteries constructed by various countries at Sarnath with a large number of Buddhist population such as Japan, Sri Lanka, and others. Each of the countries has their own monk who prays to Lord Buddha in separate ways, and in their own language. The Karmappa Temple is one such place where the 17th Karmappa of the Buddhist Kagaryud sect offered his prayers to Lord Buddha and paid respects to the birthplace of Buddhism. People from this sect come to this particular temple to pray. You can visit the monasteries during any day of the week as per the Sarnath temple timing.
Special occasions and religious events
The main festival is Buddha Purnima which marks the birth of Lord Buddha. It is celebrated with great fervor in the month of April or May or “Baisakh” as per the Hindu calendar. Other than this festival, there are many special occasions which are celebrated at Sarnath. The celebrations teach brotherhood and unity. The most important of these celebrations is the Chatth Puja which is held twice in a year, the first time in the month of March or “Chaitra” of the Hindu calendar and the second time in the month of November or “Kartik” as per the Hindu calendar. The “festival of colors” or “Holi” is celebrated with much gaiety and fervor. The “festival of lights” or “Diwali”is celebrated at Sarnath during October or November as per the Hindi calendar while “Dussehra” is also held during this time to commemorate Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana. A large number of lamps light up the temple premises and homes of the people who live here during “Diwali”. The harvest festival called “Makar Sankranti” is also held just like in other parts of the country at the start of summer when the crop gets harvested and stored.
Pilgrimage to Sarnath
Sarnath is a holy place for pilgrimage for Buddhists from all over the world. Countries including Japan, Myanmar, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Thailand and others which have a large number of people following the Buddhist faith have erected temples in Sarnath in their own styles of architecture. For pilgrims from all over the world, it is now possible to see the influence of Buddhism on different cultures.