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Sarnath derives from the Sanskrit Sāranganātha, which 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 the latter is planning to kill.

The king is so moved that he creates the park as a sanctuary for deer. Seven weeks after his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, Buddha left Uruvela and travelled to Isipatana to rejoin them because, using his spiritual powers, he had seen that his five former companions would be able to understand Dharma quickly.

To the south-west were the remains of a stone stupa built by King Asoka. (389-94) mentions Asoka as intimating to Upagupta his desire to visit the places connected with the Buddha's activities, and to erect thupas there.

Close to it was another building where the future Buddha Metteyya received assurance of his becoming a Buddha.While traveling to Sarnath, Gautama Buddha had no money with which to pay the ferryman to cross the Ganges, so he crossed it through the air.Later when King Bimbisāra heard of this, he abolished the toll for ascetics.According to the Mahavamsa, there was a large community of monks at Isipatana in the second century B. For, we are told that at the foundation ceremony of the Mahā Thūpa in Anurādhapura, twelve thousand monks were present from Isipatana led by the Elder Dhammasena.found, at Isipatana, fifteen hundred monks studying the Hīnayāna.

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