Sarnath is a suburb of Varanasi and is located about 13 kilometres north-east of the centre. It’s not only the home of Buddha’s Smile School it is also where Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha first taught the Dharma.
There are four important Buddhist pilgrimage centres in India. Lumbini, where Siddhartha Gautama was born. Bodh Gaya (or Bodhgaya — don’t ask) where he attained enlightenment. Then Sarnath where he delivered his first sermon. And finally, the Buddhist pilgrimage centre of Kushinagar, where the Buddha died.
The Buddha’s first discourse was in the deer park in Sarnath where the Dharmekh Stupa now stands. During the colonial period a guy called Colonel Cunningham drilled a shaft down the centre of the stupa and discovered a tablet with the word Dhamekha, which is believed to be a corrupted form of Dharmacakra, meaning “the wheel of the law.” This coincides with the records of Buddha’s first sermon.
Sarnath is about 800 kilometres SE of Delhi and an easy rickshaw or bus ride, outside of Varanasi. Sarnath is quieter and cleaner than Varanasi and one can easily visit all the Varanasi sites from there. Sarnath has a Buddhist feel about it with several modern Buddhist temples: Burmese, Chinese, Korean and Thai temples, plus three Tibetan Buddhist temples and a Japanese Zen temple.