Saturday, March 2, 2013

Nalanda, an ancient university in Bihar, India

Aerial view of Nalanda
I am continuing with the travel posts on my Bihar trip.

From Rajgir we set off for Nalanda, unfortunately we did not have much time because we had to reach Darbhanga the same day and it was already 1pm and we still had long distances to cover! This left us with only a couple of hours of daylight in Nalanda, I regret not having more time. Nalanda does require more time, and I missed the museum:(

Nalanda is known as one of the greatest universities of the ancient world, it was founded by Kumaragupta around 413-455 AD, and Kingh Harshavardhana of Kannauj (from 606-647 AD).The Pala kings continued to patronage this institution, but Nalanda started declining around 1200 AD when it was invaded by Bakhtiyar Khilji.

Entrance to Nalanda
Brick walls inside
the ancient university

Students came from distant places and countries to study in Nalanda. Some of the well- known people who visited Nalanada are, Nagarjuna, Aryaveda, Vasubandhu, Dharmapala, Suvishnu,
Asanga, Silabhadra, Dharmakriti, Shantarakshita, and the Chinese travellers Hiuen Tsiang and I-Tsing. They have extensively described about their experience in Nalanda, about the monastries and the shrines, and the life of Monks in Nalanda. Quite a number of subjects were taught in Nalanda, Theology, Grammar, Logic, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Medicine, and Philosophy.

Nalanda University,
Bihar, India
Dormitories for students

Archeological survey of India started excavating this site from around 1915-1937 and again from 1974-82. They found the remains of six brick temples and 11 monasteries. A thirty metre passage runs from north to south with the temples on the west and the monasteries on the east. There were many sculptures excavated during this time, but we could not see those because we did not have the time to visit the museum. If you plan to travel to Nalanda, do visit the museum, I have heard that it
is worth a visit.

A beautiful structure
in Nalanda
A courtyard surrounded by living quarters

Rooms around a courtyard in Nalanda

It felt so great just being in Nalanda. Here I was, in one of the first universities of ancient India! The thought itself made me feel so good. I wish there was some way by which I could even get a fraction of the collective wisdom from this enriched place, how great it would be!

I believe at one point there were around 2000 teachers and 10,000 students in Nalanda. Many of the students and teachers lived in Nalanda.  It was a residential university, and a first of its kind in the world! The monks lived a simple and humble life enriched with so much knowledge!

What I learnt after going through wikipedia that the library was so vast that it was believed to have burnt for three months after it was set on fire! I wish we could revive this university again. I wonder how it must have been when it was in its element.

1 comment:

shooting star said...

I want to visit Nalanda too....would have liked biger pics of the place :)