Located in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 10 kilometers north of Varanasi, Sārnāth is the place where Buddha gave his first sermon and is a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists around the world.

The name Sārnāth comes from Saraṇganātha, meaning “Lord of the Deer.” An ancient Buddhist story, Nigrodhamiga Jātaka (“Tale About Banyan Deer”), describes how once in a previous life Buddha was a deer king who offered his life to the local king to save a pregnant doe from slaughter. Inspired by this act of compassion, the king created a deer sanctuary called Mṛgadāva (“deer forest”). In Buddhist texts, this area is also called Ṛṣipatana (“raining sages”) since it was a gathering place of 500 sages (ṛṣi), who all attained nirvana, rose into the ...

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