Sarnath lies ten kilometers (six miles) north of Varanasi. Buddha preached his first sermon at Sarnath. It became a major religious and study centre from the 4th to the 9th centuries. It is known as the ‘Deer Park’.
It is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage centre. The Dhamekh Stupa dominates the site. The stupa consists of a 28 m diameter stone plinth, which rises to a height of 12 m. Above this base rises a 31m high cylindrical tower. However, the main shrine is a rectangular building, 29 m by 27 m, with double recessed corners and is 5.5 m high.
It is said to be the exact spot where the Buddha preached. Situated nearby is Ashoka’s Pillar. The Lion capital of the pillar, now the emblem of the Government of India, is one of the several outstanding exhibits in the nearby museum. The main temple, opposite where, the Buddha used to meditate, is another Ashoka’s-Gupta relic leading to a succession of votive stupas. North of the main temple stretch the ruins of what were once 30 monasteries.