Located about 10 km from the famous Hindu pilgrimage center of Varnasi, Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh is one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage destinations in India. The site where Lord Buddha had delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, Sarnath is home to some of the most extensive ruins amongst sacred Buddhist sites. Several stupas, excavated ruins of age old monasteries, temples, museums, gardens and various other interesting sites form prominent tourist attractions in Sarnath. The Deer Park or Isipatana Sarnath is the most important among the Gardens in Sarnath.
Sprawled amidst well maintained gardens, the labyrinth of ruins in Sarnath ruins is a lovely place to stroll in or meditate. The Deer Park or Isipatana Sarnath ranks integral among the tourist attractions in Sarnath. The Deer Park draws numerous nature lovers and regular tourists to Sarnath.
In ancient times, Sarnath was referred as ‘Mrigadava’ meaning ‘deer park’ and ‘Isipatana’ indicateing the place where holy men fell to earth. History mentions that after attaining enlightenment at Bodhgaya, the Buddha came to Sarnath to a cool and tranquil forest teeming with deer. It is at this Deer Park in Sarnath Uttar Pradesh that the Lord preached his first discourse. This event set in motion the ‘Wheel of Dharma’.
The origin of the name Deer Park can be traced back to an occasion in one of Shakyamuni’s former lives as a Bodhisattva. Once, as Bodhisattva was leading a herd of deer a local king began indiscriminate plundering of the herd. After a lot of discussion, an agreement was reached between the two, according to which the deer would be offered to him one by one but only when it was necessary. Ultimately came the turn of a doe who was to give birth shortly, and wished to delay her turn until her young one was born. Bodhisattva offered himself to the king instead of the doe. The king got so moved by this selfless act that he not only vowed not to kill any deer in the future, but also gifted the park to the deer, so that they could always move about in the park unharmed. Thus goes the history of the Deer Park or Isipatana Sarnath.
The most important Garden in Sarnath, the Deer Park or Isipatana Sarnath is the site where the Buddha preached his first sermon. Buddhsim was mainly preached in parks and rural areas and had a particular appeal for the people belonging to lower castes. Hence, Deer Park in Sarnath Uttar Pradesh bears special religious significance.
One of the must visit gardens in Uttar Pradesh - the Deer Park or Isipatana Sarnath has lotus pools and a sacred Bo Tree. This tree was grown from a sapling of the original Bodhi Tree at Bodhgaya under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Towards the south of the Deer park lie the Mulgandha Vihar, the Dhamek Stupa and the Ashoka Pillar.