Four lions standing back to back, with mouths wide open, their tongue sticking out, and their teeth seem to be as pointed as spears, the claws are protruding from their paws.
The well-formed veins and mane of these four lions look very beautiful. These lions roaring in all four directions are undoubtedly a symbol of strength, power, and royalty. To a large extent, it is possible that the warning of Emperor Ashoka in the context of people trying to divide Buddhism is inscribed on the top of the pillar and these four lions are an attempt to embody the warning and make the warning relatively more effective. From the structure of the eyes of the four lions, it appears that the circular structure of these eyes must have been studded with precious stones.
After the independence FOUR -FACED LION (LION CAPITAL) was adopted as THE EMBLEM OF INDIA.
THE LION CAPITAL was excavated from SARNATH, and this was a part of ASHOKAN PILLAR The emblem of India reflects India’s traditions, glorious history, and heritage. Undoubtedly, this statue of four lions is a unique example of ancient sculpture in India.
It can be seen as the emblem of the Government of India on all the major buildings, medals of honor,(Param Veer Chakra, Shaurya Chakra, Ashok Chakra), passport etc. It can also be seen on the currencies issued by the Government of India, present slightly above the bottom right corner of each note beside its value.
ASHOKA RAJA – THE KING WITHOUT SORROW
Why is Emperor Ashoka counted among the greatest rulers of not only India but the world?
Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousness’s and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star. From the Volga to Japan his name is still honored. China, Tibet, and even India, though it has left his doctrine, preserve the tradition of his greatness. More living men cherish his memory today than have ever heard the names of Constantine or Charlemagne. (Outline of History )H.G WELLS
EMPEROR ASHOKA IS PROBABLY THE FIRST EMPEROR IN HUMAN HISTORY TO ESTABLISH A PUBLIC WELFARE STATE. About 2260 years ago from today, Emperor Ashoka established the whole India as a nation and succeeded in establishing non-violence, and moral force as the most essential element of state building.
Fortunately, the words and deeds of Ashoka are still present among us. According to Charles Allen :- ” some seven edict rocks,eleven edict pillars, another nineteen more modest sites bearing what are usually referred to as the Minor Rock Edicts and perhaps a dozen more inscriptions in various forms that can be attributed to Ashoka.”
He was always ready for public business “at all times and at all places, whether I am dining or in the ladies’ apartments, in my bedroom or in my closet, in my carriage or in my palace gardens, the official reporters should keep me constantly informed of the people’s business”. If any difficulty arose, a report was to be made to him immediately “at any hour and at any place”, for, as he says,” work I must for the commonweal”.
SARNATH :- PROCESS OF REDISCOVERY
Sarnath is situated at a distance of about 12 km from the main city of Varanasi. Lord Buddha gave his first sermon here in Sarnath. DHAMMA CHAKRA PARIVARTAN (TURNING THE WHEEL OF DHARMA)Buddhist monasteries, temples, pillars and some stupas were built here by Emperor Ashoka during his reign. Afterwards Sarnath was completely destroyed by the Muslim invaders.
XUANZANG :- Xuanzang(HIUEN TSANG) a famous Chinese traveler who visited India during the reign of Harshavardhana.Hiuen Tsang spent about fifteen years of his life in India. In the year 637 CE, Hiuen Tsang visited Sarnath. The memoirs of his visit to India, and the description of India during Harshavardhana’s reign, were described by Hiuen Tsang in his book Si-Yu-Ki.
The description of the major monuments, temples, Buddhist monasteries, stupas, Ashokan Pillar of Sarnath by Hiuen Tsang was the source of inspiration for the archaeologists of Sarnath excavation to find something new and interesting.
The Lion Capital was found during the excavation between 1904-05 in Sarnath. The ancient wall of Mulgandha Kuti Vihar can also be seen at the excavation site. The statue of Buddha meditating adjacent to the wall of the temple of Mulgandha Kuti Vihar is also clearly visible.
The Mulgandha Kuti Vihar Temple was built at the place where Gautam Buddha used to meditate during his stay at Sarnath. Fragments of the Ashokan Pillar can also be seen a few feet away from the wall of the temple.
It seems that a woman is cleaning a pillar that has been found during excavation, who has covered herself with a cloth to avoid the scorching heat of the sun. Presently Buddha’s meditating statue, Lion Capital and a lot of other things that were found during the excavations are preserved at the Sarnath archaeological site museum.
ASHOKAN PILLAR :- CONJECTURAL VIEW OF LION CAPITAL WITH PILLAR AND CHAKRA
The Ashokan pillar built during the reign of Emperor Ashoka can be mainly divided into five parts. 1. Shaft 2. Bell shaped vase covered with inverted lotus 3. Abacus 4. Capital 5. Wheel
A few feet away from Mulgandha Kuti Vihar in Sarnath, the pillar was found in a fragmented form. The total height of the pillar is assumed to be 45 feet and it is made of sandstone. The lower part of the pillar was built on a stone base. Apart from Ashoka’s inscriptions Kushan period and Gupta period inscriptions are also carved on this pillar. Ashoka’s warning is in Brahmi script.
This Ashokan Pillar at Sarnath was a monument to the event of turning the wheel of Dharma, and it was established during the reign of Emperor Ashoka to maintain the integrity of the Dharma Sangha.
The Ashokan period inscription on the pillar shows that Emperor Ashoka was not very happy about the divisive forces that were arising within Buddhist Sanghas. And for this reason, in this very inscription, Emperor Ashoka has warnedthe monks, nuns who try to divide Buddhism and the Buddhist Sangha.
Whoever creates deity in the Sangha, whether a monk or a nuns, will be forcibly put on white clothes and thrown out of the Sangha.
THE SCRIPT OF THE TEXT IS BRAMHI AND THE LANGUAGE IS PRAKRIT.Even in this warning of Emperor Ashoka, there is no glimpse of violence from anywhere, this warning shows the extent to which Ashoka had assimilated the Buddha’s teachings of non-violence.
According to the Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang, there was a huge Buddhist monastery at this place, about 1500 Buddhist monks and nuns resided in this monastery, perhaps this is why Ashoka has written this inscription for this monastery at Sarnath mentioned by Hiuen Tsang. Presently the remains of this ancient Buddhist monastery are spread over a wide area around the Ashokan Pillar.
Bell shaped vase covered with inverted lotus :- Lotus flowers are found all over India. Since ancient times, lotus flower has been given special importance in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious texts.
The images of Gautam Buddha found at Sarnath and other places in India depict Lord Buddha sitting, standing, meditating, preaching on a lotus flower as well as it is also a sign of the womb of Buddha’s mother Mayadevi. Seeing the importance of lotus flower in Indian culture, it also has the distinction of being the national flowerof India.
The abacus structure bears living replicas of four animals and four wheels with 24 spokes. These animals are lion, Bull, Horse and Elephant. A wheel with 24 spokes is shown after each animal. There are different opinions among historians regarding the figures of animals built on the abacus.
If you look closer at the center of the Ashoka chakra (the 24 spoked wheel on the abacus, shown in the above image) you will find that it looks peculiarly rough and eroded relative to the surrounding regions which are extremely smooth and polished. Daya Ram Sahni believed that this was done intentionally. He believed that there probably would have been precious stones placed in the center of the four Ashoka chakras.
The centers were made rough so that the stone sticks better and more firmly at the place.
MR BELL believed that the four animals built on the abacus are symbols of the animals living on the four corners of the ANOTATTA lake.
DAYARAM SAHNI also got a glimpse of the Anotatta lake in these animals.
ANOTATTA LAKE :- This lake is located in the Himalayas and according to Buddhist scriptures is the focal point of the world. Many historians consider that the present Mansarovar lake is the one that is referred to as the Anotatta lake in some places. The rivers Ganges, Vankshu, Indus and Sitaare believed to be originating from this lake. This lake is considered one of the holiest places of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains.
BRIJ WASI LAL . :- According to B.B Lal, (Renowned archaeologist of India) the Rakshastal near Mansarovar Lake, also known as Ravantal, was known as Anotatta Sarovar in ancient times. The Sutlejriver originates from the Rakshastal or Ravanatal.
DR. BLOCKH:- He believed that these four animals are symbols of INDRA, SHIVA, SURYA, and DURGAFrom the depiction of these animals on the Ashokan pillar, he concluded that these three Gods and Goddesses had accepted the greatness of Gautam Buddha and had come under his shelter.
DR. FOGEL:-He believed that all these animals are just ornamentation, and they have been used on the abacus of Ashokan Pillar only from the point of view of art.
B. MAJUMDAR :- The most detailed, practical explanation of the animals carved on the Ashoka Pillar has been given by Majumdar, which also seems to be the most appropriate one. According to him, lotus is not only a sacred flower described in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions, as well as it is a sign of the womb of Buddha’s mother Mayadevi. Similarly the four animals engraved on the abacus, and the 24 spoked wheels represent major events in the life of the Buddha.
ELEPHANT:- Elephant is a symbol of the dream of Mayadevi, (mother of Buddha).
From this dream, Mayadevi realized the arrival of Buddha in her womb. According to this story, Maya Devi, the mother of Buddha, had a dream before he was born. In the dream, Mayadevi saw a white elephant, which is entering her womb from the right side with a white lotusin her trunk.
The queen discussed the dream with the king. The king mentioned this incident to all the astrologers in his court, and wanted to know more about this dream, all the astrologers unanimously called this dream auspicious and something very special.
GALLOPING HORSE :- The horse is a symbol of the temporary royaltyof the Buddha.
LION(THE ONE ON ABACUS):- A lion with twitching tail , Lion symbolizes Gautam Buddha being Shakya Simha.(Lion of a Shakya clan )
TAURUS:-It is the symbol of the birth sign of Buddha. Some historians associate it with ancient plowing and seed sowing. (Here it symbolizes the planting of new ideas by the Buddha).
TWENTY -FOUR SPOKED WHEEL
Twenty-four spoked wheel of the MORAL LAW. The twenty -four spokes on the spinning wheel symbolize the twenty four Pratyay(teachings) of Buddhism. The spinning wheel in the middle of the national flag of India is also taken from here.
It is known as ASHOKA CHAKRAbecause it was built on the Ashokan Pillar. Note that these four, twenty four spoked wheels are the ones that are made on the abacus facing the four directions and not the 32 spoked wheel at the top.
Also note that the 32 spoked wheel cannot be seen on the actual lion capital which is kept in the Sarnath archeological site museum because it was found broken, though its fragmented pieces might be seen which are kept in such a manner to illustrate how it might have looked and this is also the reason why the 32 spoked wheel might sometimes be seen in the replicas of the capital.
THE LION CAPITAL
The famous four addorsed lions. The figure of four lions is built on top of the abacus. These four lions are standing with their backs to their backs.
The jaws of these lions are open and the tongue is sticking out and their teeth seem to be as pointed as spears, the claws are protruding from their paws. The well-structured venison and mane of these lions are shown very beautifully. From the structure of the eyes of the four lions, it appears that the circular structure of these eyes must have been studded with precious stones.
To a large extent, it is possible that the warning of Emperor Ashoka in the context of people trying to divide Buddhism is inscribed on the top of the pillar and these four lions are an attempt to embody and make the same warning effective. THE FOUR LIONS ARE SYMBOLS OF BUDDHIST MONKS PROCLAIMING BUDDHA’S TEACHINGS IN ALL FOUR DIRECTIONS.
THE THIRTY TWO SPOKED WHEEL
DETAILS OF THE TOP WHEEL OF THE LION CAPITAL
This wheel (The symbol of the Buddhist law), originally adorned the ‘Lion Capital as a crowning member, supported on a short stone shaft. The stone shaft was not discovered from excavation but the thickness can be estimated from the mortice hole, 20.5 cms. In diameter, drilled into the stone between heads of the four seated lions.
Four fragments of the rim portion of the wheel and spoke remains were found. The total number of spokes was presumably 32. These 32 spokes perhaps are indicative of the 32 chief signs of a Great Man(Mahapurusha Lakshana) as described in the Buddhist text Lakkhan sutta of Dighnikaya.
I personally believe that the Ashokan Pillar found in Sarnath is not only the national symbol of India, but the it is the embodiment of the entire heritage of India. Ashokan Pillar is a symbol of Buddha’s teachings, Ashoka’s welfare state and a symbol of India’s civilization and its gradual development. Even from the point of view of ancient Indian sculpture, the Ashokan Pillar is incomparable among all the ancient art works.
My last post that I wrote about Sarnath was the longest post that I ever wrote in my whole carrier and still it was not enough to write about every single thing in detail this is not surprising considering the fact that Sarnath is such a huge place to learn and discover about history. One such important thing that I was unable to write about in detail was the the Lion Capital and the Ashokan pillar that is why I decided to write this post.
If you want to read more about Sarnath and its history please take a look at my last post about Sarnath where I have tried to describe Sarnath as a whole and have also written about some places that you might want to visit if you are coming to Sarnath. I am mentioning the link below you can read it from there. https://nithinks.com/2021/10/27/light-of-asia-sarnathvaranasi/
India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only. (MARK TWAIN)
“GO TO BENARES or Kashi, that most ancient of cities, and give ear to her murmuring. Does she not tell you of her immemorial past-of how she has gone on while empires have decayed, of Buddha who came to her with his new gospel, of the millions who have gone to her through the ages to find peace and solace?Old and hoary, decrepit, dirty, smelly, and yet much alive and full of the strength of ages, is Benares. Full of charm and wonder is Kashi, for in her eyes you can see the past of India, and in the murmur of her waters you can hear the voices of ages long gone by.” (GLIMPSES OF WORLD HISTORY )
SARNATH is situated a few kilometers away from the main city (old city) of Varanasi. At present, the increasing population and expansion of the city has made Sarnath a part of itself. The most modern part of Varanasi is being developed near Sarnath and this area will be known as New Kashi. (Varanasi city has been known as Kashi and Banaras in ancient times.) The area around Sarnath is still very open and free from congestion as compared to old Varanasi. Varanasi morning is very famous. (SUBEH-E-BANARAS ) It is a very ancient tradition of Varanasi to take a dip in the holy Ganges at dawn, and then to perform darshan in temples. The day begins with Hindu rituals in the morning, following thousands of years of tradition, the resounding bells of temples, the rush of people to take a holy dip in the Ganges, the sound of holy verses, all these things together give the impression of a different world. Mark Twain has put it very well in words- “I think Banaras is one of the most wonderful places I have ever seen. It has struck me that a westerner feels in Banaras very much as an oriental must feel while he is planted down in the middle of London”. (MARK TWAIN) FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS SUBJECT PLEASE VISIT :- https://nithinks.com/2021/08/07/eight-chapters-of-varanasi-that-everyone-must-read/ Varanasi is the holiest city of Hindus, for this reason, Hindu monks, saints, pandit, priests can be seen everywhere. They can be easily recognized by their saffron clothes. Surprisingly, at a short distance, the nature of the morning changes completely. Sarnath, a few kilometers away from the main Varanasi, has a completely different dawn. Here Buddhist monks from many countries of the world can be seen meditating early in the morning. Hindu monks and Buddhist monks have one thing in common – saffron-colored clothes. Like Buddhist philosophy, Jain philosophy is also an integral part of India’s spiritual tradition. Shreyansnath, The eleventh Tirthankar of Jainism, was also born near Sarnath, so Sarnath has special significance for the followers of Jainism too. There is also a Jain temple of Shreyansnath among the ruins of Buddhism in Sarnath. In spite of so much diversity ideologically and religiously, there is no conflict of any kind – but uniformity. For thousands of years tolerance and equanimity have been the hallmark of Indian culture which can be clearly felt in Sarnath. INDIA HAS BEEN A SHELTER FOR RELIGIOUS DISPLACED PEOPLE FOR CENTURIES. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS SUBJECT PLEASE VISIT :- https://nithinks.com/2020/12/03/hindu-philosophy-and-the-importance-of-peace-9-11-1893-9-112001/ When Jewish temples were being demolished in the Roman Empire, many Jews came and settled in South India. (Centuries later, after the establishment of the Jewish country of Israel, many of these people migrated to Israel, but many people are still residents of India) After the arrival of Islam in its native place Iran, Zoroastrianism was almost wiped out, surprisingly Even today, the largest number of Zoroastrians (Parsi) in the world live in India. (Parsi religion is related to Baby Jesus) After the partition of India, Pakistan became a Muslim nation, today Ahmadiyas and Shia Muslims do not get the rights that Sunni Muslims have, while India is a Hindu majority democratic country, here a large number of Ahmadiya, Shia Muslims reside and they have all the rights which any other Indian has. Millions of Tibetan refugees are living in India after China’s occupation of Tibet. In modern times when words like coexistence, tolerance, fraternity, globalization are used, they have been included in Hindu civilization and philosophy for thousands of years. Anyone can useSarnath as a magnifying glassto understand India’s thousands of years of culture, civilization, coexistence, tolerance, potential, and respect for all religions and ideologies.
Dhamma Chakra Pravartan.FOR THE HAPPINESS OF THE MANY FOR THE WELFARE OF THE MANY
Gautam Buddha made these ancient lines of Rigveda (ancient Hinduscriptures c 1500-1000 BCE) the basis of his teaching. There was a message of Bahujan (People in the majority )Politics has its own dictionaries. At present, some political parties in India interpret this word according to their own will. On the other hand, the Buddha’s messages made a fundamental change in Hinduism, which made Hinduism more acceptable, and rich, while China, Japan found a teacher in the intuitive teachings of the Buddha. One of the oldest living cities in the world, Varanasi, was also called KASHI in ancient times The word Kashi has its origin from the word Kash. It means light. Here light does not signify just light(The one which is made up of photons). Here the word Light is used with a different context meaning “Light of knowledge” FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS SUBJECT PLEASE VISIT :-https://nithinks.com/2020/12/01/dev-deepawali-festival-of-light-city-of-light/Undoubtedly the teachings of the Buddha further enhanced the prestige of Varanasi. Varanasi has been a city of knowledge while also being an important religious and commercial center since very ancient times. By the pre-Buddha time, the city of Varanasi had seen the climax of its capital of knowledge and was now on a downfall, few other places in India emerged as new temples of knowledge, posing severe challenges to Varanasi. Even after this challenge, Varanasi was one of the main education centers of India, perhaps only then Buddha choose this city for his first sermon.
Why is there so much contradiction in the name of Sarnath? To understand this, one has to understand a little ancient Hindu way of life.(I have seen many tourists getting confused about the name, so I want to make this topic clear here.)
Rishipattan OR Ishipattan:-Many sages(rishi) Hindu monks resided in the forest of Sarnath near Varanasi, Due to the abundance of sages, this place was known as Rishipattan. For this reason, in the ancient Pali language, it was called Ishipattan.
Sarangnath: – In ancient Hindu religious texts, this place is referred to as Sarangnath. The word Sarangnath is derived from a combination of two words. These two words are – Sarang + Nath. Sarang means deer and Nath means lord. Sarnath also has an ancient temple of Lord Shiva which is known as Sarangnath Temple. Many historians believe that due to this Sarangnath Shiva temple, later this place was named Sarnath.
Mrigdav (Deer -Park):- There is also a belief that when Bodhisattva had incarnated in the form of a deer, he had sacrificed his life to save a pregnant deer from the king who came on a hunting expedition. Later influenced by the incident and due to remorse, the king banned deer hunting in this entire area. For this reason, this area came to be known as Mrigdav (Deer -Park). From a scientific point of view, this story doesn’t seem appropriate, but this story is very important from a philosophical point of view. Sacrificing one’s own life for the survival of an organism is probably the biggest example of human sacrifice.This type of story is described in many places in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain literature. A story similar to this is described in the Shiva-Purana, how a hunter sacrificed his life to save a pregnant deer and even today Shivratri, a major festival of Hindus, is celebrated in the memory of this story. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS SUBJECT PLEASE VISIT :-https://nithinks.com/2021/03/14/mahashivratrishiv-barat-and-varanasi/ If anyone wants to see the peak of non-violence, then its divine philosophy can be seen in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain literature. This is because the spirit of non-violence and equanimity is prevailing in our society for thousands of years.
*Some important monuments of Sarnath*
CHAUKHANDI STUPA:- Locals call it Sita – Rasoi. Historians believe that this is the place where Buddha first met his five disciples. Built of bricks on a four-sided base,(chaukhandi) this structure is a Buddhist stupa. The height of this stupa is 93 feet from the base. Buddha came to Sarnath after attaining enlightenment at Uruvela. (Bodh -Gaya) The great traveler Hiuen Tsiang also visited this stupa when he came to Sarnath. He has described chaukhandi stupa in great detail in his travelogue. This stupa dates back to the Gupta dynasty. (early 4th century) Presently the structure of Chaukhandi Stupa can be divided into two parts. The first part is the ancient Stupa which was built during the Gupta Empire. There is an octagonal structure on top of this stupa. From a distance, it appears that someone has kept it separately on top of the stupa. There is a stone plate on this octagonal structure, which shows that this Top structure was built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. The Mughal emperor Humayun had rested at this place for one night, in memory of this incident, his son had built this monument here. How can a victorious civilization change the history of a defeated civilization?There are many monuments and temples in India whose foundations represent a Hindu civilization. The ideology of Islam did not originate on the soil of India, it was the ideology of Arabia which had its own rules and regulations.
Ashoka(268–232 BCE) also built Dharmarajika Stupa at Sarnath. Unfortunately, in 1794, the men of JAGAT SINGH the minister of the Raja of Banaras, dug out and completely demolished this stupa for bricks to build the famous locality of Kashi, Jagatganj (this locality is named after him). This happened unintentionally because they had no idea of its historical importance. According to Mr. Duncan, in this stupa at the depth of 18 cubits, some bones, and gold leaf, pearl grains, and gems were found in a marble box inside a stone vessel, but because of the unawareness of Jagat Singh’s men, they were flown into the Ganges. In 1905, excavations by the Archaeological Department revealed that the Dharmarajika Stupa, built by Ashoka, had a diameter of 44 feet 3 inches. In the 5th or 6th century, a second enclosure was built around the stupa by a second cover, about 16 feet wide, a strong wall was drawn around it and four doors were installed in it. In the 7th century, the circumnavigation path was filled up and stairs were installed to reach the stupa. In the ninth and tenth centuries, there were also some changes. In the twelfth century, the stupa was again covered with cover and this cover was the last cover of this stupa because only after this the Muslims destroyed Sarnath. I would like to make one thing clear here that this entire incident was published in 1799 in the fifth volume of Asiatic Researches published from the Asiatic Society. JONATHAN DUNCAN referred to this event in his essay (AN ACCOUNTOF THE DISCOVERY OF TWO URNS IN THE VICINITY of BENARES) on pages 131 and 132 in a book published by the Asiatic Society. This incident grabbed the interest of historians towards Sarnath.
MULGANDH KUTI VIHAR
THE HOLY PLACE WHERE LORD BUDDHA USED TO MEDITATE
Mulgandha Kuti Vihar in History:-
The place where Lord Buddha used to meditate during his stay in Sarnath, later a grand temple was built at the same place. This temple came to be known as Mulgandha Kuti Vihar. This holy temple was demolished by Muslim invaders. Presently this holy temple is just a ruin. But even today the ruins of this temple testify to the grandeur of this temple. According to Hiuen Tsiang, the height of this grand temple was 61 meters. The Mulgandha Kuti Vihar temple was built on a square base, each side of this square base was 18.29 meters. The huge, grand form of this temple can be imagined from the thick walls of the base of this temple. The Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsiangwas mesmerized by the amazing beauty of this holy temple. He wrote that ” The height of the top of the temple from the ground is about 61 meters. Gold-plated temple, whose steps were made of stone. Inside the temple was a life-size statue of Buddha in the Dharma-Chakra turning posture made of bronze.” It is not a difficult task to draw this conclusion based on the description of the temple by Hiuen Tsiang. After the description of Hiuen Tsiang, there has been a lot of changes in the buildings and place of Sarnath.
NEW MULGANDH KUTI VIHAR:-
The new Mulgandha Kuti Vihar Temple was built in 1931 by the Mahabodhi Society. New Mulgandha Kuti Vihar Temple is situated in a beautiful garden. The main gate of the garden and the main gate of the temple are made in a straight line. Inside the new Mulgandha Kuti Vihar, there is a shining golden-colored statue of Lord Buddha. On seeing this statue, it becomes clear that the presently installed idol in the new Mulgandha Kuti Vihar is a replica of the sandstone statue of Lord Buddha which was found by the archaeologists in Sarnath near the ruins of old Mulgandha Kuti Vihar.
The bright golden color of the statue is reminiscent of Hiuen Tsiang narration. Undoubtedly, every effort has been made to give New Mulgandha Kuti Vihar its true form and also to make it look like the old one. This effort of the Mahabodhi Society is commendable. There is a bell made of copper on the main gate of the vihara (temple), this bell was gifted by the Imperial family of Japan.
I have come from the Eastern Country of Cherry Blossoms to this sacred Land of Lotus Flowers, to offer my humble devotion to our Lord Buddha. This is the greatest privilege I have been looking forward to, for many years.
KOSETSU NOSU THE MAGICIAN OF COLORS FROM JAPAN
MAGIC OF KOSETSU NOSU:- Anyone entering the temple is astonished, by the huge murals on the inner wall of the temple. Very bright colors have been used in making these paintings. All these paintings are based on famous incidents from the life of Lord Buddha. These paintings are made by famous Japanese painter Kosetsu Nosu. He came to India to draw sketches of the Ajanta caves. He used this experience in making murals on the walls of the New Mulgandha Kuti Vihar. Japanese frescoes on such large canvas are rarely seen anywhere else in India
DHAMEKH STUPA(PLACE WHERE GAUTAM BUDDHA GAVE HIS FIRST SERMON TO HIS FIRST FIVE DISCIPLES).
” THEN PLEASE LISTEN , MY FRIENDS. I HAVE FOUND THE GREAT WAY, AND I WILL SHOW IT TO YOU. YOU WILL BE THE FIRST TO HEAR MY TEACHING. THIS DHARMA IS NOT THE RESULT OF THINKING. IT IS THE FRUIT OF DIRECT EXPERIENCE . LISTEN SERENELY WITH ALL YOUR AWARENESS”.
It is a solid cylindrical structure. It is built of bricks and stones. Its height is 43.6meters and its diameter is 28 meters. This stupa is built at the exact place where Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon to his first five disciples. The stupa was built by Ashoka in 249 B.C., then at this place, the stupa was rebuilt in 500 C.E. Beautiful artworks and geometry are made on this stupa. I USED ONLY THE SANDALWOOD, THAT WAS BROUGHT FROM KASHI ONLY AND NO OTHER PLACE. MY DRESS WAS OF KASHI CLOTH,AND MY TUNIC UNDERROLE AND CLOAK WERE ALSO FROM KASHI. (BUDDHA –JATAKA TALE)
The dead body of Buddha was also wrapped with cloth made of Banaras.(MAHAPARINIBBANA SUTTA)
This ornamentation also reflects the glorious history of textile art of India especially Varanasi.The fame of Varanasi’s textiles is described in pre-Buddha literature (2600 years ago). In those days, Varanasi’s muslin was considered to be the best in the whole India, now those clothes are no longer available, but the design of the clothes of that time can be understood from the decoration made on the stupa. We should never forget that in ancient times the indigo from India was used to dye clothes in Egypt and the Egyptians wrapped their sacred mummies in muslin cloths made from India. Even today, there is a tradition of wearing Banarasi sarees(Banarasi saree is a special type of saree, which is worn by Hindu women on auspicious occasions.) there is a great resemblance between the designs made on Banarasi sarees and the designs made on the stupas.
About twenty five hundred years ago, an immortal voice of knowledge was ignited in the holiest city of the world’s oldest religion. In the light of this knowledge, after two hundred years, a great ruler tried to find new ways for the welfare of the subjects and established the world’s first welfare state. Centuries later, a Chinese traveler, again impressed by the light of this knowledge, traveled to Mrigdav to understand its original form, and on the basis of that travelogue, history came alive again after centuries. Everything is threaded in one thread, India and its history will always be indebted to people like James Prinsep, James Ramson, Alexander Cunningham, Major Kittoe, C. Horne, F. O. Oertal, John Marshall, H. Hargreaves, Daya Ram Sahni. The lower part of a pillar built on a stone base was found during excavations to the west of the Dhamek Stupa in the winter of 1904-5. Soon more parts of this pillar were also found during excavations nearby. Presently the fragmented pieces of the Ashokan pillar are kept safe in a glass showcase. Three articles were mentioned on this pillar.The first article is in the Brahmi script of the Ashoka period, this article shows that Ashoka was determined to stop the division in Buddhism. According to this mandate, “Whoever creates a deity in the Sangh, whether a monk or a nun, will be thrown out of the Sangh “. A few feet away from this pillar, the top part of the pillar (CROWN)“statue of four lions with their backs to the back” was found. The brilliance of this statue not only introduced Indians to the glorious history of India before the Islamic invasion but also opened the doors of endless possibilities of discovery in ancient Indian history.
LION CAPITAL OF ASHOKA
The most famous of the Mauryan sculptures found at Sarnath and the most beautiful from the point of view of art is the Lion Capital[ [The top of the Ashokan pillar]. Its height is seven feet. Its shape is like a full-grown lotus. Four lion figures are made on the abacus. The abacus is kept on top of the bell-shaped vase covered with inverted lotus which is in turn kept on the shaft. Together these four lions are carrying the load of the wheel of Dharma, which is now broken and cannot be seen in the image. The abacus on which the four lions are standing are also having with images of a Taurus, an elephant, a horse a lion, and a twenty-four spoked wheel of the [MORAL- LAW]. There are differences among scholars regarding the shape of these animals. Some scholars believe that all these animals are symbols of various Hindu deities, and their depiction on the Ashokan Pillar concludes that these three Gods and Goddesses had surrendered to the Buddha. Many historians have denied this idea and called it a high flight of imagination. Some scholars consider these animals to be only ornamental. Some historians associate this animal with the life of Gautam Buddha.
ELEPHANT:– Elephant is a symbol of the dream of Mayadevi, (mother of Buddha). From this dream, Mayadevi had realized the arrival of Buddha in her womb. According to this story, Maya Devi, the mother of Buddha, had a dream before he was born. In the dream, Mayadevi saw a white elephant, which is entering her womb from the right side with a white lotus in her trunk. LION:- Lion symbolizes Gautam Buddha being Shakya Simha.(Lion of a Shakya clan ) HORSE:- The horse is a symbol of the temporary royalty of the Buddha. TAURUS:- It is the symbol of the birth sign of Buddha. Some historians consider it to be a bull and associate it with ancient plowing and seed sowing. (Here it symbolizes the planting of new ideas by the Buddha). TWENTY -FOUR SPOKED WHEEL:- Twenty-four spoked wheel of the MORAL LAW. The 24 spokes on the spinning wheel symbolize the 24 Pratyay (teachings)of Buddhism. The huge spinning wheel that the four lions were carrying is now in a broken state and cannot be seen on the top of the Lion Capital. The fragments of this Moral Wheel are kept in the Sarnath Museum. There were 32 spokes in this wheel, these thirty-two spokes represent the 32 characteristics of great men, which are described in the Lakhan Sut of the Dighanikaya of Buddhism. There is no doubt that from the point of view of art and workmanship, this column-heading is unmatched in the field of Indian art. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, was a brilliant scholar and well-versed in history. Nehru graduated from Cambridge and returned to India, he was greatly influenced by the discoveries and works related to the ancient history of India. Nehru’s political philosophy is greatly influenced by Gandhi as well as Buddha and Ashoka. Ashoka’s impression on Nehru is evident in the books (GLIMPSES OF WORLD HISTORY, The Discovery of India ) written by Nehru. Nehru named his daughter Indira Priyadarshini. The word Indira means Indu (moon). On the other hand, the word Priyadarshini is the feminine form of Ashoka’s name Priyadarshi. Priyadarshi or Priyadarshini means one who is dear to sight.
After the independence of India, when the matter of choosing the national flag and national emblem came up, Nehru without any hesitation chose the Lion Capital. Similarly, the spinning wheel in the middle of the national flag of India is also taken from this Lion capital of Ashoka(it can be seen in the abacus of the Lion Capital). The national emblem and national flag of any country is not just a monument or a piece of cloth, it is a symbol of that country’s history, culture, struggle, people’s spirit, social fabric developed over the years. In fact, the national emblem and the national flag are the physical evidence of that country.
BUDDHIST MONASTERY had progressed a lot during the time of Ashoka. Mrigdava continued to be a major center of Buddhism even further. There was also a Buddhist monastery, in which about 1500 monks and nuns lived, which is described by Hiuen Tsiang. The huge pillar mentioned by Hiuen Tsiangat a distance of some furlong from this monastery is the famous Ashokan Pillar, on which Ashoka’s warning regarding Buddhist monks and nuns is inscribed. Islamic invaders had tried to destroy the Buddhist monastery completely, and they were successful in this, but with the help of modern technology, the ruins of this Buddhist monastery have been discovered again. The ruins of this Buddhist monastery are spread over a wide area. In these ruins, many small stupas, meditative statues of Lord Buddha made on bricks, animals, birds, and geometric art have been made to decorate it. Currently, the Taliban are trying to destroy statues of Buddha , Buddhist monuments, for such Islamic extremists, these Buddhist monasteries are an example that Buddha’s thoughts are immortal and no terrorist ideology can destroy them. For twenty-six hundred years the thoughts of Gautam Buddha, imbued with the public welfare spirit, are as relevant today as they were twenty-six hundred years ago.
Sarnath Museum:- India’s first on-site museum.During the excavation in Sarnath, such a huge amount of historical idols, artifacts, utensils, seals, ornaments, etc. were found that it was a difficult task to take them all the away to a museum and Sarnath also had its own historical importance. For this reason, a grand museum was built at this place. The museum building is a beautiful building made of stone. This museum was designed by James Ramson on the lines of a Buddhist vihara. The construction of this building started in 1904 and was completed in 1910. Within this grand building, more than six thousand objects of historical importance found in Sarnath are kept. These historical objects were found here in the excavations of Alexander Cunningham (1835-36). Major Kittoe ( 1851-52), C. Horne(1865), F. O. Oertal (1904-05), John Marshall (1907), H. Hargreaves (1914-15), and Daya Ram Sahni (1927-32). For those interested in Indian ancient history, this museum is not less than a treasure. I will write a separate post in the future about the items collected in the museum. I have written in detail in this post about the Lion Capital of Ashoka (National Emblem of India) stored in the museum.
BODHI TREE PEACE AND HARMONY IN THE NEXT MILLENNIUM IN LINE WITHBUDDHISM
BODHI TREE AND THE COMPLEX
A Peepal tree was planted here during the inauguration of the new building of Mulgandha Kuti Vihar. Sanghamitra,the daughter of Emperor Ashoka, took the branch of the tree under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment to Sri Lanka and planted it in Sri Lanka. (Anuradhapura) A Branch of this sacred tree was then brought from Sri Lanka and planted in Sarnath. And so we can say that indirectly this is the same tree under which Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment!!!! Now, this is a huge tree. Under this sacred tree, there are huge statues of Mahatma Buddha and his first five disciples.
A HUGE BELL IS INSTALLED AT SOME DISTANCE FROM THE SACRED TREE. I reached the courtyard of the sacred tree around 6 o’clock in the evening. It was evening and almost all the tourists had left. There was a serious, calm atmosphere. The birds were also returning to their homes, I could hear their voice as they were on their way towards home. I also heard some peacocks from time to time, the voices of birds were not creating any disturbance in the atmosphere of peace. I was sitting on the stone steps of Mulgandha Kuti Vihar temple thinking something when a temple employee came to me and said softly “Sir now it is time to close the temple so please vacate this campus.” I agreed and was preparing to leave when I saw some people carrying candles towards the holy tree, I asked the staff and came to know that it is time for the evening worship of the holy tree. I asked the employee can I watch this program? He smiled and said ” Of course”, just take permission from the monks who made this program successful. I moved towards those monks and expressed my wish, they happily granted me permission. After a few moments these monks started the circumambulation of the sacred tree, while doing the circumambulation, also started lighting diyas on the small statues of Buddha around the tree. Now the monks started reciting religious mantras while doing the circumambulation. I could not understand even a single word of this religious mantra, (I understood that the language was something special it didn’t sound like Sanskrit at all, but I was not able to figure out the language itself on my own)later I came to know that the monks were using the Pali language. The original teachings of Buddha are in the Pali language. Pali language was commonly used at the time of Buddha and Sanskrit was the language of the elite people and Brahmanas. Today Pali language is taught in the universities of Varanasi but common people never use it, the Pali language is not used even in the surrounding areas of Sarnath.
The teachings of Lord Buddha at the time of turning of the wheel of Dharma are engraved on a piece of a stone parasol at Sarnath; It contains the four noble truths of Buddhism. The script of the article dates back to the last Kushan period. Stan Kono says that this is the only account of Pali received from North India and it shows that the Pali Tripitaka existed at that time and people in Banaras knew and read it.
It was a wonderful experience to listen Buddha’s teachings in the original language after thousands of years, at the same place where Buddha gave his first sermon. A transcendental experience among images of the Buddha preaching to his first five disciples. (Kaundinya, Vappa, Bhadriya, Mahanaman and Asvajit) For a moment I felt as if Buddha was giving his first sermon to his disciples, and I am witnessing that moment too.
(MRIGDAV- DEER PARK) :- The old name of Sarnath was also Mrigdav. Here hunting of deer was banned. Keeping this history in mind, a Deer Park has also been developed here. Various types of deer have been kept. Apart from deer, some other animals and birds can also be seen here.
Many temples have been built on this holy place by other Buddhist countries. Undoubtedly these temples are very important from the point of view of tourism and also from the point of view of art. What to say for the tourists who are fond of selfies?
MUST- VISIT TEMPLES IN SARNATH
NICHIGAI SUZAN HORINJI. (Japanese temple)
The original name of this temple built by the Japanese government is NICHIGAI SUZAN HORINJI. The locals know it as, the Japanese temple. This temple has been built on the basis of the famous temple of Kyoto( the cultural capital of Japan). Sandal wood has been used extensively in the construction of this temple. This temple is a symbol of the close relationship between the cultural capital of India(Varanasi) and the cultural capital of Japan(Kyoto ).
The courtyard of the temple is divided into two parts. The main temple is situated in one of the parts of the courtyard. Lord Buddha is shown in a lying posture inside the temple, this statue of Lord Buddha and the roof of the temple are made up of the precious sandal wood. In the second part of the temple courtyard, there is a stupa made of marble.Huge statues of Gautam Buddha in a seated posture are constructed in all the four directions of this stupa. On the basis of these statues, the teachings of Gautam Buddha are inscribed in Japanese, Hindi and English. On the road leading to the stupa, there is a miniature replica of Lion Capital on both sides. A very beautiful archway has also been constructed that leads to the Stupa.
Chinese Temple :-
Tourists are not seen here due to it’s simple look from outside, I liked the calm atmosphere here. This temple was built in 1939. The building of this temple is yellow in color. The architecture of China is reflected in the construction of the temple.
TIBETAN TEMPLE :-
The Tibetan Temple was built in 1955. There are two lion statues at the entrance of the temple. These lions represent the art of Tibet. The two deer at the main entrance of the Tibetan temple represent the ancient name of Sarnath ~ Mrigdava. On entering the courtyard of the temple, a giant golden-colored statue of Gautam Buddha attracts attention. Gautam Buddha’s statue in a meditative posture is installed in a mirror showcase under the shade of the sacred Peepal tree. There is a stone-carved stupa here. This stupa shows the gratitude of Tibet towards India. This stupa also tells the story of China’s imperialism and tyranny. China’s attack on Tibet and Dalai Lama‘s exodus to India along with more than ten thousand Tibetan people or the unprovoked death of millions of people due to China’s atrocities on Tibet are all mentioned here.
SARANGNATH TEMPLE :-
Many historians believe that due to the ancient temple of Sarangnath, this place got its name as Sarnath. Sarnath or Sarangnath meanslord of animals, for this reason, Lord Shiva is also known as Pashupati. It is believed that when the influence of Buddhism was increasing, Adi Guru Shankaracharya established a Shivling wherever he traveled, the ancient temple here also has a Shivling established by Adi Guru Shankaracharya. A fair is also held here in the month of Sawan. There is a beautiful ancient pond in front of the Sarangnath temple. The construction of ponds was a common practice with ancient temples in Hinduism. The Sarangnath temple is built on a stone base. On seeing this temple, the picture of Chaukhandi Stupa naturally emerges in the mind. There are stairs to reach the temple. The courtyard of the temple is small but is covered with the shade of banyan, peepal tree. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS SUBJECT PLEASE VISIT:- https://nithinks.com/2021/03/10/dawn-of-civilization-and-shiva-shiva-ganga-varanasi/
Jain Temple :-
Varanasi has also been a major city for the followers of Jainism. Varanasi has been the birthplace offour out of twenty-fourTirthankaras of Jainism.During the excavation of Sarnath, important sculptures and artifacts related to Jainism were found which are kept in the Sarnath Museum. Shreyansnath was born in the Sarnath region. The jain temple dedicated to Shreyanshnath is in Sarnath. This Jain temple is adjacent to the Dhamek Stupa. The courtyard of this temple is covered with peepal and banyan trees. I found one thing astonishing, many trees of Peepal and Banyan can be seen in Sarnath area, have there been abundance of Peepal and Banyan trees since historical times? These two trees are considered very sacred in Hinduism, Jainism, and also in Buddhism or since the archaeological excavations, these sacred trees have been planted in the campuses of Hindu, Buddhist, Jainism monuments, temples. Perhaps both these reasons are true, but at that point of time, it was very relaxing to see these trees in the courtyard of the temples. Banyan and Peepal trees are huge, due to their spread they protect the entire temple from the scorching heat of the sun, provide natural coolness and they also allow visitors to relax.
Presently the Thai temple situated in Sarnath is the biggest center of tourist attraction.This is because of the huge statue of Buddha. This temple is situated in a big garden. This temple has been built by the government of Thailand. The architectural influence of Thailand is evident in the construction of the Thai temple. The building of the temple is not grand, but it looks very attractive because it has been constructed in the middle of a large garden. Inside the temple, there is a huge golden-colored statue of Buddha. There are also some other statues in the courtyard of the temple. As I told earlier the huge statue of Buddha in the courtyard of the temple is the main tourist attraction here. The height of this statue is about 80 feet. This statue was completed in 14 years. It was made when the Taliban tried to destroy an ancient statue of Buddha in Afghanistan.
GULABI TEMPLE ( Vietnamese temple )
The Vietnamese temple is known by the local residents as the Pink Temple (GULABI MANDIR). Perhaps the temple got this name because of its archway. The Vietnamese temple is located in a village about two kilometers away from the main Sarnath. The path to the Vietnamese temple leads through narrow streets of the villages. The weather was pleasant so I decided to visit the Vietnamese temple on foot. (Here in India you will never prefer traveling on foot in summer because of the scorching heat of the Sun which will exhaust you in a very small amount of time) There is also an ancient Maa(MOTHER) Durga temple near the Vietnamese temple. The huge meditative statue of Lord Buddha was visible even from a far distance. The statue of Lord Buddha installed in this temple is seventy feet high. This statue is installed on a square base. An archway has also been constructed, a similar archway is also present in the Japanese temple. This temple is at a short distance from the main Sarnath, but still the number of tourists here is negligible.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the statue of Emperor Ashokabuilt in the courtyard of the temple. In this statue Emperor Ashoka carries the Lion Capital as a Royal Rod. The credit of spreading the teachings of Buddha all over the world goes to this great Indian emperor. The heart-change and public welfare spirit of this great victorious emperor is still an example for the world. Sarnath is also a witness to the construction work of Emperor Ashoka.
Teachings of Gautam Buddha and Ashoka
DEVANAMPIYENA PIYADASI:- ( THE BELOVED OF THE GODS)
Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousness’s and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star. From the Volga to Japan his name is still honored. China, Tibet, and even India, though it has left his doctrine, preserve the tradition of his greatness. More living men cherish his memory today than have ever heard the names of Constantine or Charlemagne. (Outline of History )H.G WELLS
Devanampiyena Piyadasi is defined in the Brahmanical Purana as the Raja Ashoka. (THE KING WITHOUT SORROW).One who has nosorrow. Emperor Ashoka has a different place among the great kings of India. Ashoka has got this special place in Indian history not because of a great conqueror but because of the first welfare ruler in the world.
A journey from CHAND -ASHOKA ( Cruel Ashok ) to DHAMMA (One who cares for others) ASHOKA
Ashoka was the king of most parts of monolithic India (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan). Ashoka’s empire extended to the Hindukush Mountains (Afghanistan), the Godavari coast in South India, Bangladesh in the east, Iran in the west. Ashoka was known as Chand Ashoka during this period of his life. Chand Ashoka means cruel Ashoka. Ashoka brutally suppressed his opponents, the opposition arising in the state and the kings of other states during this period of life. 261 BC: Ashoka attacked Kalinga (present-day Orissa province).
Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died from other causes. After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dharma, a love for the Dharma and for instruction in Dharma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas.
Ashoka’s heart was filled with compassion due to this fierce bloodshed, Ashoka felt defeat in his victory, realizing his mistake, in a way, this was Ashoka’s rebirth, a new journey that was the beginning of the transformation from Chand Ashoka to Dhamma Ashoka. Ashoka now decided to play the role of a father, not a ruler and devoted his entire life to the welfare of the people. He is the only military monarch on record who abandoned warfare after victory.
ASHOKA THE GREAT, BUDDHA’S TEACHING & SARNATH
Emperor Ashoka was not only a conqueror, great ruler, and the father of the world’s first public welfare state, but he also had a keen interest in the construction of buildings, monuments. Many historians believe that Indian art was at its peak during the reign of Ashoka, and after that, it declined. The remains found in the excavation of Sarnath tell a completely different story. An unbroken stream of gradual development is visible in the remains found from Sarnath. The sculptures found from Sarnath show that Indian artists were constantly trying to refine their art. Sarnath progressed a lot during Ashoka’s reign. Many associations of Buddhist monks and nuns were established here during his reign. The Dharmarajika Stupa(which was unintentionally demolished by the men of JAGAT SINGH), Dhamekh Stupa, Ashokan Pillar, Buddhist Monastery and other buildings and monuments at Sarnath are evidence of Ashoka’s interest in construction and architecture.
The priest of the Vietnamese temple informed me about the nearby Korean temple. My next destination was—Korean Temple. The Korean temple is located at a short distance from the Vietnamese temple. On my way to the Korean temple, I saw a big pond. The pond was natural and was not made by anyone. Lotus flowers were abundantly there in the pond. Lotus flowers have great importance in Buddhist philosophy. People accustomed to the modern lifestyle of metropolitan cities, who have seen lotus flowers only in artificial ponds, should stay here for some time. Due to being away from the main Sarnath, the number of tourists remains negligible here too. The main building of the Korean temple is two-storied, in addition, there are some monuments and statues in the temple courtyard.