Dhamek Stupa is a massive stupa located at Sarnath, 13 km away from Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Stupas originated as pre-Buddhist tumuli, in which ascetics were buried in a seated position, called chaitya. After the parinirvana of the Buddha, his remains were cremated and the ashes were divided and buried under eight mounds with two further mounds encasing the urn and the embers. Little is known about these early stupas, particularly since it has not been possible to identify the original ten monuments. However, some later stupas, such as at Sarnath and Sanchi, seem to be embellishments of earlier mounds.
The Dhamek Stupa was built in 500 CE to replace an earlier structure commissioned by the great Mauryan king Ashoka in 249 BCE, along with several other monuments, to commemorate the Buddha’s activities in this location. Stupas originated as circular mounds encircled by large stones. King Ashoka built stupas to enshrine small pieces of calcinated bone and other relics of the Buddha and his disciples. An Ashoka pillar with an edict engraved on it stands near the site.