has give up a rich collection of sculptures, artifacts and edifices
comprising many Buddha and Bodhisattva images and other
ancient remains. Sarnath where the Buddha delivered his first sermon
more than 2500 years ago has a place museum whose prize exhibit is the
huge lion capital (2.31 in). Now the symbol of independent India, this
capital once surmounted an Ashokan pillar erected to mark the spot where
the Buddha preached.
Carved in pale yellowish-grey sandstone with black flecks, the sculpture
has the characteristic highly polished surface. At the entrance hall are
two figures of Buddha, one of which portrays the historic events at
Sarnath. There are many other Buddha and bodhisattva figures on view.
Among these the most outstanding is the Gupta period Buddha with
hand raised in Abhaya or protection.
Sarnath Archaeological Museum is the oldest museum of India. In
order to protect the antiquities found from this place, a decision was
taken in 1904 by the Government to construct a site museum adjacent to
the excavated site at Sarnath. The building of Sarnath Museum was
completed in 1910 to house, display and study the antiquities. The
building forms half of a monastery (Sangharama) in plan. There
are five galleries and two verandahs. The antiquities in the museum are
datable from 3rd century BC to 12th century AD. The main hall of museum
is known as Shakyasimha gallery and nearby to it on south is named as
Trimurti. Entrance to the museum is through the main hall. The
Shakyasimha gallery displays the most valued collections of the museum.
In the centre of this gallery is the Lion Capital of the Mauryan Pillar
which has become the National Emblem of India.