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Sarnath, 10 km north-east of Varanasi is one of Buddhism’s major centres in India. This is where Buddha preached his first sermon after attaining enlightenment at Bodhgaya (c.528 BC). It was a centre of religious activity, art and learning from the 4th century BC till its abandonment in the 9th century AD and destruction by invading armies in 1197. During the Buddha Purnima festival in May, Sarnath celebrates the birth anniversary of the Buddha with a fair and procession. Take a tour of the ruins, dominated by the Dhamekh Stupa supposedly marking the point where Buddha delivered his sermon. See the ruins of the monasteries and the remains of the Ashoka Pillar which once stood over 20m high. Also visit the Sarnath Museum displaying finds from the site, including the famous lion capital from the Ashoka Pillar.

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