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Sarnath Museum

Sarnath Museum

Introduction
Read Sarnath museum information. It is one of the most important place to visit during Sarnath tour. It has important place in Sarnath tourism and Varanasi tourism. Sarnath is just 10 kms from Varanasi city due to which it is easy to visit this historical place to understand the greatness of this region. Varanasi has important place in Uttra Pradesh tourism. While doing Varanasi city tour, majority of tourists visits Sarnath and its museum. It offers the various findings of excavation work, carried out at Archeological park of Sarnath, thus it is important to visit this museum to develop better understanding of this holy land. Below we have discussed about the history of this region and collections of Sarnath museum.

Sarnath History
Sarnath is considered to be the place where Gautama Buddha first taught the teachings of Dharma (religion) after his enlightenment. The site was a deer park which became the birthplace of the Buddhist Sangha or Sangham (religious group) and is one of the major pilgrimage spot for the Buddhists in India. The name Sarnath literally means 'Lord of the deer' and was established by the King of Banaras who created this town as a sanctuary for the preservation of deers. Sarnath is one of the four most important Buddhist Pilgrimage centers. According to Mahaparinibbna Sutta, Buddha himself told his disciples to visit four places- Lumbini, BodhaGaya, Sarnath and Kusinagara which were connected with his birth, enlightenment, first preaching and decease (nirvana) respectively. In ancient Buddhist literature the places finds mention as Rishipatana Mirgadava or Mirgadaya. The Place was called Rishipatana, as it was here the bodies of five hundred Pratyaka Buddhas or Rishis (sages) fell after their attainment of nirvana (salvation). The inscriptions of early medieval period found Sarnath referred to this place as Dharmacharkra or Saddharmachakrapravarttanavihara (Convent of the Turning of the Wheel of the law). The Modern name Sarnath seems to be a contraction of Saraganatha (Lord of deer) still borne by the Lord Shiva enshrined in a temple nearby. Sarnath is also sacred to the Jainas because they look upon it as the site of asceticism and death of Sreyansantha the eleventh Trithankara . Buddha the great sage after attaining enlightenment at BodhGaya came to Sarnath and delivered his first sermon to five monks (i.e. Kaundinya, Vappa, Bhadriya, Mahanaman and Asvajit) for redeeming humanity. It is this place where foundation of new order of monks (Sangha) and new order of religious doctrine (Dhamma) was laid. Sarnath has yielded a rich collection of sculptures, artifacts and edifices comprising numerous Buddha and Bodhisattva images and other ancient remains. To house all the findings and excavations at Sarnath, the Archaeological Survey of India established a site Museum at Sarnath. Finest specimens of Buddhist art and other important remains have been housed at the museum. While the single most famous exhibit of this museum is the lion capital, the Sarnath museum has a small but awe-inspiring collection of Buddhist artifacts. Among the things to see is a beautiful sculpture of the Buddha from the fifth century. The Buddha sits cross-legged, with eyes downcast in deep meditation, and a halo around his head. Also worth exploring are several beautiful figures of the bodhisattvas. Of other Buddhist remains there is an impressive and amazingly beautiful, life-size standing Bodhisattva and a delicate image of the Bodhisattva with a lotus and yet another bronze sculpture showing the Bodhisattva with multiple arms. The museum at Sarnath also houses an excellent collection of figures and sculptures from the Mauryan, the Kushana and the Gupta periods. Prominent of them is the earliest Buddha image found at Sarnath and many images of Hindu Gods dating from the 9th to 12th centuries.

Sarnath Museum
Archaeological Museum of Sarnath is the oldest site museum of the entire Varanasi city. In order to preserve and display the antiquities found from the site during the excavations, a decision was taken in 1905 by the Government to construct a site museum adjacent to the excavated area at Sarnath. It was due initiative of Sir John Marshall, the then Director General of Archaeology in India, that this museum was created. The plans were prepared by Mr. James Ransome, the then Consulting Architect to the Government of India. The building was completed in 1910 to house, display and study the antiquities in their right perspective. The building forms half of a monastery (sangharama) in plan. There are five galleries & two verandahs in the museum to display the antiquities ranging in time from third century B.C. to twelfth century A.D. found at Sarnath. The main attraction of the Sarnath Archaeological Museum is the superb Ashokan Pillar. It has four back-to-back lions, which has been adopted as the National symbol of India. Below this are representations of a lion, an elephant, horse and the bull. Entrance to the museum is through the main hall. The Shakyasimha gallery displays the most prized collections of the museum. In the centre of this gallery is the Lion Capital of the Mauryan Pillar which has become the National Emblem of India. Apart from the images of Buddha in different posture and Tara, the inscribed colossal standing images of Bodhisattva in red sand stone dedicated by Bhikshu Bala, octagonal shaft, umbrella are also exhibited. Triratna gallery exhibits the images of Buddhist deities and some associated objects. A standing image of siddhakavira which is a form of Manjusri, standing Tara, leopgraph, seated Bodhisattva Padmapani, stele depicting miracle of Sravasti, Jambhala alongwith vasudhara, depiction of Ramgrama stupa being protected by Nagas, Inscriptions of Kumardevi, stele depicting Astamahasthana (eight great places) related to Buddha's life, Sunga railings are of considerable eminence. Tathagata gallery displays images of Buddha in different attitude, Vajrasattva, Bodhisattva padmapani, Nilakantha Lokesvara with a cup of poison, maitreya, preaching Buddha the most notable sculpture of Sarnath School of art. Trimurti gallery contains pot bellied seated Yaksha figure, image of Trimurti (Brahama, Vishnu and Mahesh) Surya, Saraswati, Mahisasur mardini and some secular objects like figures of birds, animals, male and female heads as well as some stucco figures. Ashutosh gallery exhibits Brahmanical deities like Shiva in different forms, Vishnu, Ganesh, Kartikeya, Agni, Parvati, Navagrahas, Bhairava and a colossal Andhakasuravadha (killing of demon Andhaka) by Shiva. Along with this main museum, Varanasi has few other well known history enriched museums as well namely Jantar Mantar which is located next to the most famous ghat known as the Dashashwamedh Ghat and it has collection of unique equipments for the measurement purposes; the Bharat Kala Bhawan which is the museum of Art and Archeology located in the BHU campus; the Saraswati Bhawan which is located at the Ramnagar Fort having collection of religious writings, manuscripts of Tulsidas.

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