The Buddha went from Bodhgaya to Sarnath about 5 weeks after his enlightenment. Before Gautama (the Buddha-to-be) attained enlightenment, he gave up his austere penances and his friends, the Pañcavaggiya monks, left him and went to Isipatana.
After attaining Enlightenment the Buddha, leaving Uruvela, travelled to the Isipatana to join and teach them. He went to them because, using his spiritual powers, he had seen that his five former companions would be able to understand Dharma quickly. While travelling to Sarnath, Gautama Buddha had to cross the Ganges. Having no money with which to pay the ferryman, he crossed the Ganges through the air. When King Bimbisāra heard of this, he abolished the toll for ascetics. When Gautama Buddha found his five former companions, he taught them, they understood and as a result they also became enlightened. At that time the Sangha, the community of the enlightened ones, was founded. The sermon Buddha gave to the five monks was his first sermon, called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. It was given on the full-moon day of Asalha. Buddha subsequently also spent his first rainy season at Sarnath at the Mulagandhakuti. The Sangha had grown to 60 in number (after Yasa and his friends had become monks), and Buddha sent them out in all directions to travel alone and teach the Dharma. All 60 monks were Arahants.
Several other incidents connected with the Buddha, besides the preaching of the first sermon, are mentioned as having taken place in Isipatana. Here it was that one day at dawn Yasa came to the Buddha and became an Arahant. It was at Isipatana, too, that the rule was passed prohibiting the use of sandals made of talipot leaves. On another occasion when the Buddha was staying at Isipatana, having gone there from Rājagaha, he instituted rules forbidding the use of certain kinds of flesh, including human flesh. Twice, while the Buddha was at Isipatana, Māra visited him but had to go away discomfited.
In past ages Isipatana sometimes retained its own name, as it did in the time of Phussa Buddha (Bu.xix.18), Dhammadassī Buddha (BuA.182) and Kassapa Buddha (BuA.218). Kassapa was born there (ibid., 217). But more often Isipatana was known by different names (for these names see under those of the different Buddhas). Thus in the time of Vipassī Buddha, it was known as Khema-uyyāna. It is the custom for all Buddhas to go through the air to Isipatana to preach their first sermon. Gotama Buddha, however, walked all the way, eighteen leagues, because he knew that by so doing he would meet Upaka, the Ajivaka, to whom he could be of service.
Main attraction of Sarnath:
This is the most remarkable tourist attraction in Sarnath. Built of a mixture of brick and of stone, the stupa is 28meters in diameter at the base and 43.6 mts. in height. Intricate floral carvings of Gupta origin adorn the structure.
Mulagandha Kuti Vihar:
The monument is a later addition by the Mahabodhi Society. It showcases beautiful frescoes made by Kosetsu Nosu, Japan's foremost painter and is a rich repository of Buddhist literature.
Excavations at Sarnath has revealed a large number of relics and images of Buddha and Bodhisattva. The museum has been constructed to house all these specimens. The collection includes the lion capital of Ashokan Pillar, which is today the emblem of Republic of India.
How to reach Sarnath :
The nearest airport to Sarnath is Varanasi, which is an important domestic airports in India. Nearly all public and private airlines operate regular flights to Varanasi connecting it to cities like: Delhi, Mumbai, Khajuraho. You may also approach Varanasi from Katmandu