I left Varanasi—only physically, because emotionally that was impossible—bound to the nearby site of Sarnath, the forest where the Buddha explained his discovery to a group of five ascetics who would become his first disciples.

The forest of 2,500 years ago is now a park with abundant deer, and the exact location of that crucial meeting is signaled by a huge cylindrical stupa, quite impressive.

The local museum has two pieces that, in my humble opinion, make it one of the most interesting of India (despite being one of the smallest).

The first is the capital of a pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC, with four lions roaring towards the four cardinal points, and which became the national emblem of India, visible in the flag.

Due to historical vicissitudes, Buddhism disappeared almost completely from the land of its birth, and today India is predominantly an Hindu country, so it is still striking that their national emblem is a Buddhist sculpture of a foreign animal, a great example of the formidable power that symbols have to forge through religions and geographies.

The other piece is a sculpture of Buddha sitting in full lotus forming with his hands the mudra of turning the wheel of Dharma. The skill of the artist and the fineness of the material convert this sculpture in one of the most delicate ones of the Buddha, able to transcend the historical figure to reflect the innate perfection we all have inside.

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