Location : Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh) Significance : Archaeological Museum Main Attraction : Ashokan Pillar Timings : 10.00 am to 4.30 pm Closed on : Government Holidays Tranquil Sarnath where ihe Buddha delivered his first sermon more than 2500 years ago has a site museum whose prize exhibit is the enormous lion capital (2.31 in). Now the emblem of independent India, this capital once surmounted an Ashokan pillar erected to mark the spot where the Buddha preached. Carved in pale yellowish-grey sandstone with black flecks, the sculpture has the characteristic highly polished surface. At the entrance hall are two figures of Buddha, one of which portrays the historic events at Sarnath. There are many other Buddha and bodhisattvaifigures on view. Among these the most outstanding is the Gupta period Buddha with hand raised in Abhaya or protection. The main attraction of this Archaeological Museum is the superb capital from the Ashokan Pillar. It has the Ashokan symbol of four back-to-back lions, which has been adopted as the state symbol of modern India. Below this are representations of a lion, an elephant, horse and the bull. The lion is supposed to represent bravery, the elephant symbolises the dream Buddha's mother had before his birth and the horse recalls that Buddha left his home on horseback in search of enlightenment. The stone sculptures from the site of Sarnath are divided in several museums, the major chunk being in the local museum. The Director General of Archaeological Survey of India has loaned some pieces discovered from Sarnath to this museum. They represent deities of the Buddhist and Brahmanical pantheons.
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