Sarnath Archaelogical Museum

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Archaelogical Museum4.5


Amid natural surroundings, lies the Archaeological Museum; which exhibits the Buddhist Cultural wealth, recovered from the site of Lord Buddha’s first sermon at deer park Mrigadava in Sarnath. As the findings are mostly from Buddhist monasteries or vihar, the plan of building was designed by James Ransome on the pattern of a Sangharam or a vihar. The noble idea was conceived by Sir John Marshal, the then Director General of Archaeology in view of Buddhist character of antiquities. The construction of museum building began in 1904 & was completed in 1910. The Central hall is as main chapel, galleries as monastic cells and verandah occurring as in front of cells in a monastery. The whole building is made of sandstone with flat roof.

Sarnath is one of the four most important Buddhist Pilgrimage centers. According to Mahaparinibbna Sutta, Buddha himself told his disciples to visit four places- Lumbini, BodhaGaya, Sarnath and Kusinagara which were connected with his birth, enlightenment, first preaching and decease ( nirvana) respectively. In ancient Buddhist literature the places finds mention as Rishipatana Mirgadava or Mirgadaya. The Place was called Rishipatana, as it was here the bodies of five hundred Pratyaka Buddhas Or Rishis (sages) fell after their attainment of nirvana ( salvation). The inscriptions of early medieval period found Sarnath referred to this place as Dharmacharkra or Saddharmachakrapravarttanavihara ( Convent of the Turning of the Wheel of the law). The Modern name Sarnath seems to be a contraction of Saraganatha (Lord of deer) still borne by the Lord Shivaenshrined in a temple nearby. Sarnath is also sacred to the Jainas because they look upon it as the site of asceticism and death of Sreyansantha the eleventh Trithankara .

Buddha the great sage after attaining enlightenment at BodhGaya came to Sarnath and delivered his first sermon to five monks (i.e. Kaundinya, Vappa, Bhadriya, Mahanaman and Asvajit) for redeeming humanity. It is this place where foundation of new order of monks (Sangha) and new order of religious doctrine (Dhamma) was laid.

The history of this place is covered with a veil of obscurity for the period of three centuries after the Buddha. Excavations carried out at the site revealed that it had a continuous occupation from third century B.C. to twelfth century A.D.

Ashoka (273-32 B.C.), the great Mauryan emperor, raised several monuments at this place. Dharmarajika Stupa was constructed to enshrine the corporeal relics of the Master.

Sarnath passed into oblivion in the thirteenth century and veil was lifted in 1798 when Mr. Duncan, the then Commissioner of Nenares gave an account of a casket of green marble inside a stone box imposed by the workmen of Jagat Singh, Diwan of Raja Chet Singh of Banaras while dismantling the Dharmarajika stupa in order to procure building materials in 1794. The discovery had created wide interest about Sarnath.

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Later on excavations were conducted at the site by Sir Alexander Cunningham (1835-36). Major Kittoe ( 1851-52), Mr.C.Horne(1865),Mr.F.O. Oertal (1904-05), Sir John Marshall (1907), Mr. H. Hargreaves (1914-15) and Mr. Daya Ram Sahni(1927-32).

Archaeological Museum Sarnath is the oldest site museum of Archaeological Survey of India in real sense. In order to preserve and display the antiquities found from the site during the excavations, a decision was taken in 1905 by the Government to construct a site museum adjacent to the excavated area at Sarnath.

It was due initiative of Sir John Marshall, the then Director General of Archaeology in India, that this museum was created. The plans were prepared by Mr. James Ransome , the then Consulting Architect to the Government of India. The building was completed in 1910 to house, display and study the antiquities in their right perspective. The building forms half of a monastery ( sangharama) in plan.

There are five galleries & two verandahs in the museum to display the antiquities ranging in time from third century B.C. to twelfth century A.D. found at Sarnath.

Perfect time to visit the Museum:

Anytime in the year from 9 AM to 5 PM.

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