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India, Day 23 – Varanasi, Sarnath

On Tuesday I went to Sarnath with Nathan from New Year’s Eve. We spent the afternoon walking around, chatting, and having a look at the various places. Initially, we found our way to a fairly new and impressive Tibetan Buddhist temple that was adorned with bright murals and contained a large golden Buddha. The history, inscribed in stone outside, credited the temple with preventing World War III in its fifteen or so years of existence.

From there we didn’t really know where we were going and walked out into the fields north of Sarnath. As we did so we dropped into the Korean temple, which was a lot more modest. Eventually, we realised there wasn’t much to be seen this way and headed back to the town.

We went into the museum – after a ten minute wait for a locker to deposit our bags – and we got in for free, as we’d some how managed to bypass the ticket seller. Immediately inside the museum’s entrance is possibly India’s most important artifact – the capital topped with four lions erected in the reign of Ashoka two and a bit millennia ago, and which is now the emblem of India (it’s on the flag and the coins).

After that, as it was getting on towards sunset, we looked round the Buddhist monastery ruins (where the remains of the column that supported the Ashoka capital are). This area borders the Deer Park. There are a number of deer in the park (surprisingly) and a couple of antelope. One of these followed us quite a way as we walked beside the fence.

By this time, the monastery enclosure was closing and both the light and warmth were fading, so we endeavoured to catch an autorickshaw back to Varanasi. After walking half a mile and a few unsuccessful attempts to flag one down, we got in one and headed back.

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