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The Return of India's Ancient 'Nalanda University'- Bihar

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Towards the Southeast of Patna, the Capital City of Bihar State in India, is a village called the 'Bada Gaon', in the vicinity of which, are the world famous ruins of Nalanda University.

Founded in the 5th Century A.D., Nalanda is known as the ancient seat of learning. 2,000 Teachers and 10,000 Students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied at Nalanda, the first Residential International University of the World.

A walk in the ruins of the university, takes you to an era, that saw India leading in imparting knowledge, to the world - the era when India was a coveted place for studies. The University flourished during the 5th and 12th century.

Nalanda University in northern India drew scholars from all over Asia, surviving for hundreds of years before being destroyed by invaders in 1193. The idea of Nalanda as an international centre of learning is being revived by a group of statesmen and scholars led by the Nobel prize winning economist, Amartya Sen.

The group wants to establish a new world-class residential university with top students and researchers from around the world, on a site close to ruins of the ancient Buddhist institution in the Indian state of Bihar. The new Nalanda International University will focus on the humanities, economics and management, Asian integration, sustainable development and oriental languages.

Although Nalanda is one of the places distinguished as having been blessed by the presence of the Buddha, it later became particularly renowned as the site of the great monastic university of the same name , which was to become the crown jewel of the development of Buddhism in India. The name may derive from one of Shakyamuni's former births , when hewas a king whose capital was here.Nalanda was one of his epithets meaning "insatiable in giving."

Know about Ancient 'Nalanda University'

Nalanda is an ancient center of higher learning in Bihar, India from 427 to 1197. Nalanda was established in the 5th century AD in Bihar, India.

Know about Ancient 'Nalanda University'

Founded in 427 in northeastern India, not far from what is today the southern border of Nepal, it survived until 1197. It was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.

Know about Ancient 'Nalanda University'

The center had eight separate compounds, 10 temples , meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. It had a nine(story library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections.

Know about Ancient 'Nalanda University'

It had dormitories for students, perhaps a first for an educational institution, housing 10,000 students in the university's heyday and providing accommodations for 2,000 professors. Nalanda University attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.

Know about Ancient 'Nalanda University'

The site has a number of small monasteries where the monks lived and studied and many of them were rebuilt over the centuries. We were told that one of the cells belonged to Naropa, who was instrumental in bringing Buddism to Tibet, along with such Nalanda luminaries as Shantirakshita and Padmasambhava. A small opening in the cell revealed a tiny room where Naropa supposedly meditated.

Know about Ancient 'Nalanda University'

Nalanda's main importance comes from its Buddhist roots as a center of learning. Hsuan Tsang, the famous pilgrim from China came here and studied and taught for 5 years in the 7th Century A.D. Nalanda University at that time had over 10,000 students and 3,000 teachers.

Know about Ancient 'Nalanda University'

For some 700 years, between the 5th and 12th Centuries, Nalanda was the center of scholarship and Buddhist studies in the ancient world. A great fire wiped out the library of over 9 million manuscripts and at the beginning of the 12th Century, the Muslim invader Bakhtiyar Khalji sacked the university.

Know about Ancient 'Nalanda University'

The new university will be built in Rajgir, 10 kilometres from the ancient site and a competition to design the buildings based on old Buddhist principles has been launched. For now temporary premises have been secured and the postgraduate university has already published invitations to research fellows and scholars from around the world.

This place saw the rise and fall of many empires and emperors who contributed in the development of Nalanda University. Many monasteries and temples were built by them. Kingarshwardhana gifted a 25m high copper statue of Buddha and Kumargupta endowed a college of fine arts ere. Nagarjuna- a Mahayana philosopher, Dinnaga- founder of the school of Logic and Dharmpala- the Brahmin scholar, taught here.

The famous Chinese traveller and scholar,Hieun-Tsang stayed here and has given a detailed description of the situations prevailing at that time. Careful excavation of the place has revealed many stupas, monasteries,hostels,stair cases,meditation halls, lecture halls and many other structures which speak of the splendour and grandeur this place enjoyed,when the place was a centre of serious study.

A large number of ancient Buddhist establishments, stupas, chaityas, temples and monastery sites have been excavated and they show that this was one of the most important Buddhist centres of worship and culture.Regarding the historicity of Nalanda, we read in Jaina texts that Mahavira Vardhamana spent as many as fourteen rainy seasons in Nalanda.

While the land has been provided by the state of Bihar, the Nalanda's supporters estimate around $1bn (£650m) will be needed. Even that is seen as a modest sum compared to some of the world's major universities.
Australia is funding a dean-level chair of ecology and environment. Singapore will design, build and donate library costing up to $7m (£4.5m). Thailand will contribute $100,000 (£65,000), and China has announced $1m (£650,000) in aid for construction.

"I don't see any dearth of money in the region but they are nowhere near the $1bn endowment, so far not many countries have come forward with their huge purses," said Sukh Deo Muni, a former Indian envoy to Laos and visiting professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.

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