Saranath is one among the four holy places associated with the life of Lord Buddha. It is around 10 kms from Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh, India). Buddha, after attaining enlightenment at Bodhagaya (in Bihar) came out in search of his companions. He had to walk, it is said, around 300 kms where he met his five erstwhile companions at Saranath. The place where he met them has had a commemorative structure known as Chaukhandi Stupa (erected in 500 A.D.)
Buddha delivered his first sermon to his five companions at a place a little away from it. King Ashok had erected the Dhamesh Stupa there in memory of that great historic incident. This event in Buddhist Literature is known as "Dharma-Chakra-Pravartanam" (The turning of the wheel of law). An archaeological museum is there that houses the tip of the Ashokan Pillar i.e. the Lion Capitol which is used as the national symbol of India.
It is said that after the death of Lord Buddha some kings (mostly seven) fought among themselves to take possession of his body (corpse). However an agreement was reached and his body was then cut to pieces and was then distributed among the seven quarreling kings. They took the mortal remains i.e. the relics of Lord Buddha and enshrined them in seven stupas in their respective kingdoms. But long after that incident King Ashok opened the seven original relic stupas and collected relics to enshrine the sacred relics in several other places. He erected 1000s of such stupas in several parts of India and the vicinity to enshrine the relics. The relics were kept in a casket of green marvel inside of a stone box. Saranath is one among them. It is called as Dharmarajika Stupa.
Near the Dharmarajika Stupa the ruins of the Saranath city is found. That was the city where Buddha ones lived and from where missionaries were sent to outside. Its glory was seen and described by the Chinese traveller Huenshag who visited it in between 500 A.D.-700A.D. However the constructions had been leveled to the ground by some invaders in 1200 A.D. The ruins of the places where monks were living are there. It is well maintained by the archaeological survey department of India.
Anil Mohapatra is a Lecturer in Political Science at Government Women's College, Jeypore, Dist-Koraput (Orissa)
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