Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sarnath (鹿野苑), India

Sarnath was the first stop for our trip to India.  It is ~10 km from Varanasi (瓦拉納西, 古代迦尸國首都) on the Ganges.  This was where Gautama Buddha (釋迦牟尼佛) taught the Dharma for the first time after achieving enlightenment, ~500 BCE.   The most prominent relic today is the massive Dhamekh stupa (佛塔), which was built ~500 CE.  When we were there, many groups sat listening to monks preaching.   Around the stupa, there are many raised platforms where monks used to sit and meditate.  We were told that it is now forbidden to climb onto these platforms.  But some people do it anyway, perhaps they do not know any better?

There are some deer in a fenced-off area.  They are perhaps kept here to remind us that this place is worthy of its name?

Many groups of various nationalities come and worship.  Among them, the most numerous seems to be the Chinese.  

Most of the structures are unadorned.  But patches of gold foils have been plated on some of the surfaces.  I was told that the practice is forbidden - but many of the Chinese worshippers do it anyway.  

The grass looks dry, perhaps because this is the dry season.  But there are few weeds.  This is why - an army of women painstakingly bend their backs to remove the weeds by hand.  

This seems to be happening a lot in India.  Very often we see women working, while the men sit and talk, and drink tea. 

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