Nalanda University inauguration : 10 things to know about iconic ancient site of learning

The Nalanda Mahavihara was an ancient Buddhist monastery and educational institution

Nalanda University The new campus of Nalanda University ahead of its inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi | PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Nalanda University Campus in Rajgir, Bihar, on June 19. This University is built near the ancient center of knowledge, Nalanda Mahavihara, which has a rich history of centuries of learning. The Prime Minister asserted that he wanted India to re-emerge as the world's most prominent knowledge center with an advanced and research-oriented higher education system.

 Here are ten things about Nalanda you may like to know. 

    1. Nalanda Mahavihara 

The Nalanda Mahavihara was an ancient Buddhist monastery and educational institution in Magadha (modern-day Bihar). It engaged in the study and research of Buddhist philosophy along with being a flourishing space of discussion for numerous other subjects.

    2. Teaching of a multitude of subjects

The primary teaching of Nalanda was Buddhist philosophy. However, students and teachers engaged in the discussion of various subjects. They include logic, grammar, astronomy, medicine, and mathematics. 

    3. Longevity

The institution was a place of learning from the fifth century CE to the thirteenth century CE. This means that it was the seat of knowledge in India for 800 years.

    4. The ‘zero’ connection

Aryabhata, credited with the invention of zero, is speculated to have been the kulapati (head) of Nalanda during the sixth century CE.

    5. The Xuanzang connection

Xuanzang is a Chinese Buddhist monk. He is believed to have travelled to India through the silk route and stumbled upon Nalanda, where he lived for many years, teaching and learning from this knowledge centre. He returned to China with various scriptures on Buddhism. He translated them into Chinese, spreading Buddhist philosophies in China.

    6. Dharmaganj

Nalanda University was home to a colossal library filled with palm manuscripts. The approximately nine million manuscripts were stored in the library called Dharmaganj. It comprised of three buildings named Ratnasagar, Ratnodadhi, and Ratnaranjak. One of the buildings had as many as nine stories. The libraries are said to have flourished through the twelfth century till Bakhityar Khiliji destroyed the University and set fire to the library.

    7. Discovery 

After the destruction of the University, it underwent a decline and was forgotten for six centuries. Its ruins were discovered by Francis Buchanan in 1812 and identified as the esteemed Nalanda University by Alexandar Cunningham in 1861. The site was excavated and systematically consolidated by the Archaeological Survey of India from 1915 to 1937 and from 1974 to 1982. 

    8. Nalanda University Bill

Following APJ Abdul Kalam’s vision to revive the ancient University of Nalanda, the Nalanda University Bill, 2010, was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 12, 2010. It was passed by the Rajya Sabha on August 21, 2010, and the Lok Sabha on August 26, 2010. The bill received presidential assent on September 21, 2010, and became an act. The act was implemented, and the University was officially established on November 25, 2010. 

    9. World Heritage Site

The Nalanda site was added to the Tentative List of World Heritage on January 9, 2009. The Archaeological Survey of India then prepared a nomination report for ‘Excavated Remains of Nalanda Mahavihara’ and submitted it to the World Heritage Committee in January 2015. On July 15, 2016, Nalanda became a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

    10. Current situation

PM Narendra Modi has inaugurated the new Nalanda University Campus. It houses facilities like solar plant, water treatment plant, water recycling plant, and hundred acres of water bodies contributing to its promise of being a ‘Net Zero’ Green Campus. The University has two academic blocks with a seating capacity of 1900 divided into 40 classrooms. It has an impressive infrastructure that includes two 300-seat auditoriums, a hostel with a capacity for 550 students, and an amphitheatre that can hold up to 2000 individuals. 

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