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Archaeological museum Sarnath is the oldest site museum of Archaeological Survey of India. In oTARArder to keep the antiquities found from the site, a decision was taken in 1904 by the Government to construct a site museum adjacent to the excavated site at Sarnath. It was due to initiative of Sir John Marshall., the then Director General of Archaeology in India, that this museum was created. The plans were prepared by Mr.James Ramson, the then consulting Architect to the Government of India. The building was completed in 1910 to house, display and study the antiquities in their right perspective. The building forms half of a monastery (Sangharam ) in plan. There are five galleries and two verandahs on the museum to display the antiquities ranging from 3rd century B.C.to 12the century A.D. found at Sarnath The galleries have been christened on the basis of their contents, the north most gallery is Tathagata while next one is Triatna. Mainhall is known as Shakyasimha gallery and adjacent to it on south is named as Trimurti. The southern most is Ashutosh gallery, the verandahs on northern end southern side are Shilparatna respectively. Entrance to the museum is obtained through the main hall, The Shakyasimha gallery displays the most prized collections of the museum. In the centre of this gallery is the Lion Capital of the Mauryan pillar. It is 2.31 mts. In height. The lustrous polish is a special feature of the Mauryan art which has not yet been noticed in the later monuments. The capital consists of an inverted lotus, circular abacus and the crowning quadripartite semi-lions on top. The most portion was crowned with a dharmachakra with thirty-two spokes since broken. The abacus is adorned with the figures of a lion, an elephant, a bull and horse each separated by a smaller wheel or dharmachakra consisting twenty-four spokes. The four crowning lion seated back and four animals in relief. Are wonderfully vigorous and true to nature and are treated with simplicity and reserve which is the keynote of all great masterpieces of plastic art and highest achievement in sculptural art of India.Today on its won virtue this lion capital has become "National Emblem" of India. The exact significance of depiction of four animals on the abacus is uncertain. Some ascribe them with great events in the life of the Buddha while other believe, they represent the four noble animals of the Buddhists. The most plausible explanation perhaps lies in the theory that they denote the four directions as laid down in Buddhust literature in connection with the Annotate lake in which Buddha used to bathe. The same animals have been depicted on pillar at Anuradhapur (Srilanka). The inscribed colossal standing image of a Bodhisativa in red sand stone is representative of Mathura school of Art. It was dedicated by monk Bala in the 3rd regional year of the Kushana ruler Kanishka. The octagonal shaft now set up behind the statue once carried a beautifully carved monolithic parasol exhibited at the northern side of the hall. It is a full bloomed lotus bearing auspicious signs.PREACHING BUDDHA Sarnath became a prominent centre of Buddhism in the Gupta period. It has been eloquently told by the profusion of exquisitely carved sculptural art which got a new dimension in the hands of the Gupta artists and it became a main centre of Gupta art. The Sarnath School of Art is known for its elegance, simplicity of forms and sublimity. The images of Buddha, displayed in Shakyasimha gallery, represent this school of Art.

Standing figure of profusely ornamented Tara is one of the best specimen of Late Gupta sculptural art of Sarnath. Tara is derived from the root ‘tar’ ( to cross). She helps to cross the ‘Ocean of Existence’. Tara holds a position of considerable eminence in the Buddhist pantheon. She is Savior Goddess, a Deliveries and shakti of Avalokiteshvara. To the north of main hall is Triratna gallery which exhibits images of Buddhist deities and some associated objects A standing image of Siddhaikavira, a form of Manjushri, god of wisdom and knowledge is one of the earliest images of this deity. Standing Tara, holding in hand a pomegranate which has burst upon to reveal a row of seeds is a fine example of the sculptural art of fifth century. The weight of the body is thrown gently on the right leg. The jewelry is rich, yet delicate and consists of a multi stranded girdle, festooned armlets, and a series of three necklaces. Large circular earrings adorn the ears. Although the face is damaged, the gentle meditative expression remains. The elaborate coiffure consists of several rows of ringlets and curls arranged over the forehead and to the side of head, all topped by large bun.JAMBHAL AND VASUDHARA Leograph, a mythical animal, seated Bodhisattva Padmapani with a stem of full bloomed lotus, stele depicting miracle of Shracasti where Buddha multiplied himself in many forms in order to defeat heretical teachers, pot ballied Jambhala, god of wealth and prosperity alongwith his female consort Vasudhara, Ramgrama stupa being protected by nagas and inscription of Kumardevi, queen of Govindchandra of Knnauj which refers to construction of the Dharmachakra Jinavihar by the queen, at Sarnath are some of the important antiquities displayed in the western side of the gallery. Stele depicting ashtamahasthana (eight great places) or, four main and four secondary events in the life of Buddha is a remarkable piece of art which include nativity or birth of Buddha at Lumbuni (Nepal), enlightenment at Bodhgaya, preaching of first sermon at Sarnath and great demise at Kushinagar. Apart from these, Buddha descending from Trayastrimsha heaven at Sankisa after preaching his mother, miracal performed at Shravasti, honey offering by a monkey at vaishali and subjugation of mad elephant Nalagiri before Buddha at Rajgir are four events depicted in the same stele. Railings and pillars representing Shunga art of the first century B.C. decorated with various sacred symbols like Bodhi-tree, Dharmachakra, Triratna, Stupa and human, animal and fabulous figures are interesting. Image of Shadakshri Lokeshvara with Shadakshri Mahavidya on left side and Manidhara on right side is displayed in the showcase. All the three deities are seated cross-legged and shown with folded hands. Apart from the above objects, heads of the images of Buddha and Tara are also displayed in the gallery. Tathagata gallery displays images of Buddha, Vajrasattva, Bodhisattva Padmapani with stem of full bloomed lotus in hand, Neelkantha Lokeshvara with a cup of poison in hands and Maitreya standing and holding a nectar case in left hand and rosary in right hand with a stupa in the headdress. The most notable sculpture of the Sarnath School of Art in the museum is undoubtediy the image of preaching Buddha. The fingers of hands are hold near the chest in a special position known as Dharma-chakra-Pravartana ( Turning the wheel of Law) Mudra. This image is a remarkable example ofSTELE DEPICTING EIGHT LIFE EVENTS OF BUDDHA the form of compassionate one in its spirituality and inner-bliss. The calm, relaxed and introspective face with the gentlest smile playing on the sensuous lips, drooping eyes, aquiline nose, gently curved eyebrows joined with each other, ear with distended lobes, rows of curls covering the head end sacred cranial protuberance (Ushnisha) that project from it. The halo is carved with a pair of celestial fighters and conventionalized floral scroll-work. The Dharmachakra occupies the central position of the pedestal on both side of which have been placed the figure of deer, denoting the place as Mrigdava (deerpark). The figures of five disciples to ehom Buddha preached first sermon are depicted alongwith a lady and child on the lower part of the image. The lady with a child provably donor of the sculpture. Image of seated and standing Buddha in different postures displayed in the gallery are also very remarkable. On the southern side of main hall os Trimurti gallery. Pot ballied seated Yaksha figure exhibited here reminds us Pitalkhora (Maharastra) Yaksha of early lst Century B.C. Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh) is also an impressive sculpture. Brahmanical deities such as Surya, Saraswati, Mahishmardini also find place in the showcase. Some secular objects like figures of birds, animals, male and female heads ranging from 3rd century B.C. to 12th century A.D. are displayed in a different showcases exhibits iron implements while stucco heads, terracotta's, baked decorative tiles. Pots and pottery attract from other showcase Benevolent and malevolent figures of Kirtimukha (face of victory) are utilized as doorkeepers for the Ashutosh (Shiva) gallery. Ashutosh gallery exhibits Brahmanical deities like Shiva (in different forms), Vishnu, Ganesh, Kartikeya, Agni, Parvati, Navagrahas (Nine Planets) with Ganesh Laksmi and Saraswati. A panel depicting Navagrahas with Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh is also remarkable. Shiva as Bhairava (aggressive form of Shiva) is one of the finest Brahmanical images found at Sarnath. A colossal Andhakasuravadha (killing of demon Andhaka) image of Shiva in his terrific form is an unfinished sculpture. It is a specimen of early medieval sculptutal art of Sarnath. Bearded ten armed standing Shiva is shown killing demon Andhaka with a trident. Two verandahas, Vastumandana and Shilparatna exhibits mostly architectural members. A large lintel depecting story of Shantivadina Jataka is a beautiful piece of Art.