|Nalanda : Site of the
great monastic university
Nalanda is one of the greatest centers of learning in the ancient times. It is located in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. A small village now, Nalanda is situated around 72 km off Patna, the capital of Bihar and is part of the Buddhist Circuit that also includes Bodh Gaya and Rajgir. The village has a good network of roads that connects it to the other cities of the state.
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 he was a king whose capital was here. Nalanda was one of his epithets meaning "insatiable in giving."
The ancient Buddhist University of Nalanda was founded in the fifth century AD. Nalanda is well known as an ancient seat of learning. However, today this ancient university lies in ruins. The place not only has the remains of the great university but also many monasteries, temples, and viharas built by different kings.
Though the Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous center of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th-12th centuries AD. In this first residential international university of the world, 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied.
The university found patrons in Gupta, Kushan, and Pal kings in successive centuries. Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons who built temples and monasteries here. Recent excavations have unearthed elaborate structures here. The university remained in prominence till 12 century AD when the Afghans attacked Bengal and burnt down this great University.
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.
Places to see -
Nalanda University Ruins Archaeological Complex -
The total area of the excavation of Nalanda University Ruins is about 14 hectares. All the buildings are of the red brick built in Kushana style of architecture and divided by a central walkway that goes south to north. The monasteries or viharas are to the east and the temple or chaityas to the west of the central alley.
Nalanda Archaeological Museum -
Nalanda Archaeological Museum is opposite to the entrance of the ruins of the university. The museum is small yet has a valuable collection of Buddhist and Hindu bronzes and a number of intact statues of the Lord Buddha found in the area. Two large terracotta jars belonging to the 1st century AD are intact and exhibited in a shaded enclosure behind the museum. The other items in the museum include the copper plates, stone inscriptions, coins, pottery and samples of burnt rice of 12th century AD.
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara -
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is an institute devoted to the study and research of Pali Literature and Buddhism. It is a new institute, where students from foreign countries also come to study.
Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall -
A new construction in memory of the great Chinese traveler, Hieun Tsang.
In between Nalanda and Rajgir, there is a village namely Silao where a very popular local sweet "KHAJA" is prepared.
Surajpur Baragaon -
The lake with its temple of Surya, the Sun God , is a pilgrim destination twice a year in "Vaishakha" (April-May) and in "Kartika" (October-November) during the Chhath Puja or Sun worship.