Dhamek Stupa which is also spelt as Dhamekh and Dhamekha is one of the most famous Buddhist stupas located in Sarnath.
Originally it was built in the 249 BCE during the rule of King Ashoka of the Maurya Dynasty, this gigantic and outstanding structure has with time gone through many expansions and additions to the original structure. This solid cylindrical embody Stupa is constructed of red bricks and stone in its current spot stands at a height of 43.6 metres with a diameter of 28 metres. The importance of this sacred place is that it marks the spot where Lord Buddha preached the first lesson to His five disciples after obtaining enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. Buddhist believers from around the world come to visit Sarnath to encompass the holy Stupa and to praise and worship Lord Buddha. National and international tourists also gather up at Sarnath to get a glimpse of the Buddhist architecture and culture at this symbolic centre of Buddhism.
Coming to the parinirvana of Lord Buddha, his mortal remains after incineration were dispersed and buried under eight dunes and the ashes and urn were buried under two other dunes making a total count of ten such gravestones consisting the memento of Lord Buddha. Although the absence of appropriate information regarding such ancient monuments made it laborious to classify the original ten dunes consisting of the memento of Lord Buddha, it seems that the Stupas at Sanchi and Sarnath are detailed and beautified expansions of two such original dunes. The great Indian Emperor, Ashoka of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled over almost the entire Indian subcontinent undertook part in building many Stupas consisting of mementoes of Lord Buddha and his disciples across India in his quest to spread Buddhism. In 249 BCE he took the authority to build the Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath which was later on reconstructed in 500 CE simultaneously with the construction of various other structures in Sarnath. Chinese Buddhist monk, philosopher, translator and traveller Xuanzang visited Sarnath in 640 CE during which time he recorded the height of the Stupa to be around 91 metres and mentioned the presence of 1500 priests in the province.
This gigantic Stupa is cylindrical in shape and constructed with red bricks and stone with the lower portion being perfectly covered with aesthetically amusing carved stones. Apparently, the infrastructure of the Stupa dates back to the Ashokan period. Facade sandstone packs the construction till the height of 11.2 metres and slots facing 8 directions that possibly held images earlier are currently present. The stone facing under the slots are embellished with fine floral engravings that manifest a high level of craftsmanship on the stone during the period of Gupta Dynasty.
History tells after Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, He gave His first sermon to five disciples at this very spot which throughout its long known history has been differently popularised as Rishipattana, Isipatana, Mrigadava and Migadya apart from the most known name, Sarnath. This famous event in the life of Lord Buddha is known as the ‘Dharma Chakra Pravartana’ or setting the ‘Wheel of Law’ in motion. According to the resources, Lord Buddha visited Sarnath and while staying there he performed meditation. Thus for all the Buddhists, this place marks as one of the four most sacred places related to Lord Buddha with the other three being Lumbini, the site of the birth of Lord Buddha; Bodhgaya, his site of enlightenment; and Kushinagar, the site of nirvana of Lord Buddha. This place also marks the authority of the first ‘Sangh’ that included Lord Buddha with around 60 monks among others. The place became symbolically archaeologically when in 1798 Mr J. Duncan reported about a box made of stone that contained a chest of green marble, which was disclosed while the Dharmarajika Stupa was being demolished by the workers of the Dewan of King Chet Singh of Banaras, Jagat Singh. With time, many other excavation works were carried out in and around this construction. One such basic excavation work exposed a stone tablet which revealed that this Stupa is known as Dhamek which historians commonly believe to be a small form of Dharma Chakra meaning turning the Wheel of Dharma.