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Sarnath is a small village in Uttar Pradesh, India, about 13 km north-east of Varanasi. It's famous as the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma and also where the original Sangha was formed. Consequently, it is one of the 4 main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations.

Dhamekh Stupa

Within the deer park complex is the large Dhamekha Stupa, constructed by the Emperor Ashoka in 249 BCE, and several other Buddhist structures that were added between the 3rd century BCE and the 11th century CE. The town is relatively peaceful and green, and provides a welcome accommodation alternative to those wishing to visit Varanasi but not be immersed in it 24 hours a day.



Sarnath along with Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and Kushinagar are places directly involved with the life of Buddha and are part of the Buddhist Circuit. Lumbini was the place of his birth, while Kushinagar was the place of his death. Buddha attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya and preached his first sermon at Sarnath. Sarnath is located just 10 km from Varanasi and is best explored in a day trip.

Get in

Map of Sarnath

Sarnath is best accessible from Varanasi which is located just 10 km away. Airports, major railway stations and bus terminus are all located in Varanasi. Autos and taxis are readily available from the Varanasi Junction station and bus terminus.

By plane


Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport (VNS IATA) is 24 km from Sarnath and is the nearest airport.

By train


The nearest major station is Varanasi Junction (6 km), which is connected to most major cities in the country. Sarnath does have a small 1 railway station with local trains from Varanasi serving every 2-3 hours, but most trains terminate in Varanasi City (instead of Varanasi Junction) station. A few express trains also stop here.

By bus


Local bus No107E departs from near Varanasi Cantt train station (coordinates: 25°19.74981'N, 82°59.36062'E), and costs ₹25 (2023) to Sarnath

By taxi/rickshaw


The town is easily reached by taxi or auto rickshaw from Varanasi. If you're non-Indian and arriving in Varanasi by train, a taxi driver will probably descend on you before you leave your train platform. Make no commitment there! You can negotiate a better rate with an autorickshaw driver, outside the station. If you have tons of luggage though, go with the taxi -- it won't fit in the rickshaw. The route, though once somewhat rural, is now noisy, busy, and almost completely built up till you're on the road just outside Sarnath. Rates from ghat area of Varanasi (Approx one hour journey) : Auto - ₹400 one way - ₹700 return, including an hour waiting time. Taxi - over ₹1,500 for a return journey, including one hour waiting time. (Updated April 2023.)

Get around


The tourist attractions of Sarnath a spread over a small area and can be very well covered on foot. However, for people who don't want to walk much there are autos. The autos have no fixed fare and routes. So, before you hop in confirm the route and the price. Also, prices are subjected to heavy bargaining.


Chaukhandi Stupa
Sri Digamber Jain Temple
Giant Buddha Statue, Thai Temple
Sarnath Museum
Lion Capital at Sarnath Museum
Dhamek Stupa
Glass enclosure housing the base of the Ashokan Pillar

Historical sites


There is a ₹300 fee for non-Indians to enter the site that houses the Damekh Stupa, stupa relics, and Ashoka Pillar. The ticket office is on the left, next to the main gate.

  • Main archaeological site
    • 1 Ashoka Pillar. Only the base remains. The base of the pillar has been enclosed in a glass enclosure. The lion capital, which topped the pillar has been displayed at the nearby site museum.
    • 2 Dhamekh Stupa. Constructed by king Ashoka in 249 BCE to commemorate his pilgrimage to the Deer Park. It is believed that the stupa marks the exact spot where the Buddha taught the five ascetics the Four Noble Truths, his first teaching after attaining enlightenment. Dhamek Stupa (Q1985137) on Wikidata Dhamek Stupa on Wikipedia
    • 3 Mulagandhakuti Vihara. The ruins of the temple where the Buddha spent his first rainy season.
    • 4 Dharmarajika Stupa. Dharmarajika Stupa dates back to the time of Ashoka. Sadly it is in complete ruins and only its base remains.
  • 5 Chaukhandi Stupa, Rishpattan Rd. The structure consists of four arms and hence the name. It was constructed in the 4th - 5th century CE, during the Gupta period.The stupa marks the spot where the Buddha met the five ascetics. The stupa finds a mention in the travelogues of the famous Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Husan Tsang) who visited the site around 7 century CE. The stupa is topped with an octagonal turret. This turret is a later addition and dates back to the Mughal period. It was commissioned by Akbar in 1567 to commemorate Humayun’s visit to Sarnath in 1532. Chaukhandi Stupa (Q1131206) on Wikidata Chaukhandi Stupa on Wikipedia

Active religious sites


Apart from the historical sites related to Buddhism, Sarnath houses several active Buddhist temples managed by several Buddhist trusts in India and abroad. Sarnath has temples from majority of the Buddhist countries, which includes - China, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar and even Tibet.

  • 6 Chinese Buddhist Temple.
  • 7 Tibetan Buddhist Temple.
  • 8 Japanese Buddhist Temple.
  • 9 Thai Buddhist Temple. A standing Buddha statue, 24.3 metres (80 feet) in height, inspired by the Bamiyan Buddha is located inside the temple complex.
  • 10 Vishwa Shanti Stupa.
  • 11 Mulagandha Kuti Vihara.
  • 12 Maha Bodhi Temple.
  • 13 Shechen Stupa.
  • 14 Padma Samye Chokhor Ling Monastery.
  • 15 Sri Digamber Jain Temple, Dharmapala Rd. A Temple near Dhamekh Stupa. Accessible by main road that runs along Dhamekh Stupa. Learn about Digambara monasticism, a branch of Jain Dharma.


  • 16 Sarnath Archaeological Museum, Dharmapal Road, . 9AM-5PM, closed on Fridays. A small, but impressive collection of artifacts excavated from the site. The sculptures are particularly of interest, including the Lion Capital of Ashoka, the national emblem of India. The museum building dates back to 1910 and has a red sandstone finish, which blends with the surrounding excavated ruins. The museum has 7 galleries out of which two are verandah galleries. Sarnath Museum (Q1567294) on Wikidata Sarnath Museum on Wikipedia




  • Stone carved Buddhas - a specialty of Sarnath. Available at stalls near the entrance to Deer Park.


  • Holiday Inn, Main road (opposite Mahabodhi Temple entrance). 11AM-6PM. One of 2-3 restaurants in Sarnath. Good food and reasonable prices. Opening hours limited and closed for holidays, weddings, funerals etc.


This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget upto ₹3,000
Mid-range ₹3,000–6,000
Splurge over ₹6,000


  • Jain Paying Guest House. Cheap and spartan, but with great family hospitality. ₹300 per night, possibility of eating breakfast and lunch with the family (and Buddhist guests passing by).
  • Mahabodi Dharmshala Temple, Thai Temple and the Burmese Temple. All of these temples offer very cheap but spartan accommodation.
  • 1 UPSTDC Rahi Tourist Bungalow, Sarnath Station Rd, Ashok Rd crossroad, Baraipur (Near Maha Bodhi Inter College), +91 542 2595969, fax: +91 (0542) 259-5379. A government-run establishment: drab and uninspiring, but conveniently located.
  • 2 Chinese Temple, +91 5422595280. This temple is nearby the main areas of visit, around 5-10 mins walk to Dhamekh Stupa. Offers small room or big bunk room, depending on availability. Costs ₹200-300 per bed or room. Clean and simple stay.


  • 3 The Golden Buddha Hotel (Golden Buddha Marriage Lawn), Sarangnath Colony, +91-993-503-9368, +91 98074 74018. Probably the best hotel in town. Offers such facilities as Ayurvedic massage, a restaurant serving fresh Indian dishes, a peaceful lawn, and outdoor hot tub. Special rates for backpacking groups. Its walking distance from the main temple. The hotel can arrange a taxi to pick you up from the train station or airport. ₹400-1200.


  • 4 The Fern Residency Sarnath. The Fern Residency Sarnath (Q111861584) on Wikidata



In the vicinity of sacred sites:

  • Wear clothing that expresses respect for the sacred nature of the site.
  • Circumambulate the stupa and other sacred objects in a clock-wise direction.
  • Preserve the peace and tranquility.
  • Do not climb onto statues or other sacred objects.



Go next

  • Varanasi - one hour to ghat area (One way - auto: around ₹350, taxi: ₹750).

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