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Sarnath (formally Isipathana), located 13 kilometres from Varanasi, is the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha was founded. Sarnath means "Lord of the Deer" and relates to another old Buddhist story in which the Bodhisattva is a deer and offers his life to a king instead of the doe he is planning to kill. The king is so moved that he creates the park as a sanctuary for deer. The park is still there today. The Dharmekh stupa at Sarnath marks the spot where the Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. First constructed during the reign of Emperor Ashoka (2nd century B.C.) it was later rebuilt by the Maryan and Gupta dynasties, attaining its present form in the early 6th century. The present stupa is 31.3 m high and 28.3 m wide. Swastika and lotus wreath designs cover the lower portion.

Dharmekh Stupa