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Overall comments

The main site is the huge archaeological park (Isipatana). A large fraction of the people in the park appear to be Buddhist pilgrims, and there is a fairly quiet atmosphere. There are many shady places to sit and meditate, and generally this is one of the most favorable places for outdoor meditation. The museum nearby is definitely worth seeing (a quick visit). The crown of the Asokan pillar with four lion capital is housed there (with the shattered based still lying in the park), as well as many great sculptures including the famous Buddha in teaching mudra (with which Taan Ajaan Lee is also believed to be associated). Very close to Sarnath on the main roadside we visited the Chaukhandi Stupa, believed to mark the spot where the Buddha met his first five disciples. It is good to see. Regrettably, it has a Muslim structure on top of it now to commemorate a visit by a Mughal (?) leader several centuries back.

In Sarnath, we attended the evening puja in Mulagandhakuti Vihara, a modern Srilankan temple where Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta is chanted every evening 6 or 7 pm (can't remember now which). They seemed to only hand out chanting text in Sinhalese script, so unless you know it by heart, we advise bringing a chanting book for that ocassion.

This site consists of several subareas. For further information, please see descriptions of each subarea of the site.

Pilgrims may be interested in the Sarnath archaeological museum, which houses some impressive artifacts and statues -- including one of the most famous images of the Buddha.

Other References

Wikipedia entry on Sarnath

Visitors here may also be interested in my 3D panoramas from other Indian Buddhist sites, and regular photographs of Buddhist sites in India (located on Panoramio), as well as my photosynths of Buddhist art from India.

I have many additional panoramas available. If you have particular interest, please write to me (osgood 'at' cs.usask.ca), and I can provide you access to the broader set.

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