Nalanda

Nalanda is one of the tourist's centers of Bihar where ruins of oldest of universities of the world are scattered discovered by Alexander Cunningham the British archaeologist. The ancient university Nalanda, which means, "Knowledge Provider” was founded by Kumar Gupta the Gupta of Gupta dynasty in 450 AD. This university has one common factor to its advantage that it had unconditional support of all successors and kings of other dynasties for its development. Among the kings who supported and help Nalanda develop most was the great ruler Harshvardhan  After him Pal rulers as well foreign rulers especially the ones having faith in Buddha teachings who came to India contributed in its development as much as the could. The university flourished up to 12th century When Turkish aggressor Bakhtiyar Khilji burnt it down at the end of century in the year 1193.

Nalanda University

Nalanda ruinsAs per the popular belief Nalanda was the first residential university in the world where almost 10,000 students studied at a time and more than 2,000 teachers gave their services to teach them. The Nalanda University known to be one of the rare buildings for its architecture values was surrounded with a big compound having just one entrance a big gate. There were eight big buildings for education purpose, ten temples and many prayer halls and study rooms for inmates to use freely. There was one big nine floured library full of books on different subjects brought from different countries in multiple languages. Students from different countries like Japan, Korea, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia, Turkey etc used to come to here for studies apart from big number of students from our own country. The famous Chinese traveler who was a big Buddhist monk himself was among the students who studied in Nalanda University. The university campus had many lakes and beautiful gardens as well. 

The situation

Nalanda is situated 80km southeast of Patna the capital of Bihar where Mahatma Buddha used to visit frequently but the place became famous much too later as a Buddhism related place. Hsuan Tsang the famous traveler to India in 7th century and stayed in Nalanda described in detail the wonderful way of teaching, education system and the way students lived with discipline. The description related to Nalanda University, its architectural value, teaching methods, buildings etc left behind by Hsuan Tsang is considered an important document until today.  

You must visit Nalanda 

The ruins of old Nalanda University is spread over 14 hectare of area excavated suggest it clearly that all buildings were constructed using red stones. The whole construction starting from south to north had its monasteries in eastern side while the temples also known as Chaitya were situated at west. The main building of the campus known, as Vihar-1 is still present located near the main courtyard, believed to be the place where teachers addressed their students mainly. There is a prayer room in this building still visible and intact with an idol of Lord Buddha although the idol is broken into half. Temple number 3 is the biggest temple of all temples located in this campus with pillars carrying idols of Buddha on them. You can see the Nalanda campus from the building itself that gives a splendid view of the entire area. 

Nalanda Museum

There is a museum right in front ruins  Nalanda University gate, the museum is small but beautiful. All remains containing  mostly Buddha idols, coins, copper plates, stone carvings, utensils and even burnt grains of rice are there found in excavation operations. They have two earthen pots dating back to 1st century kept there for the benefit of tourists visiting here. The timings to visit this museum are limited to 9am to 5pm. The museum is closed on Fridays. 

Nav Nalanda Mahavihar 

-Xuanzang w

They have started another center to begin allover again with a center dedicated to teach Buddhism literature and religion to keep the tradition going. It is a new effort where students from different countries participate. The organizers are trying their best to keep old vales, traditions  and virtues of the institute to stay alive and not lost in history books. The institute has a hall in the memory of great traveler from China Hsuan Tsang as they have established an idol of him and all related material kept there as whatever we know about Nalanda is courtesy his descriptions available.

How to reach Nalanda

Rajgir is the nearest railway station, which is about 12km away from Nalanda with train services are available for every part of our country. A 24x7-taxi service is available at railway station to take tourists to Nalanda, in case you are traveling by air to this place, the nearest aerodrome is available in Patna where you can rent a taxi easily. The distance from aerodrome to Nalanda is approximately 100km. To travel in Nalanda you have to use either a tonga the horse pulled cart or cycle rikshaw the only available mode of transportation. One can find accommodation to stay in Rajgir city, which is little further up from railway station or can make an up-down journey from Patna where all modern facilities are available. 

Other places of tourists’ interests in the area

Silao- It is a village in between Nalanda and Rajgir where they prepare a popular sweet called Khaja considered an auspicious dish allover Bihar for different ceremonies as including marriages.

Surajpur Baragaon- The place is famous for Sun temple and a lake where a big gathering takes place twice every year on the auspicious occasion of Chat ceremony. Chat (sixth day) celebration considered as most important 3 days’ celebrations in Bihar with most religious ways therefore you are requested to join in if you happened to be in the area during the celebrations in April-may and October-November when the festival falls according to Indian calendar dates.. 

Finally- Countries like Singapore, China and Japan have decided to contribute toward the beautification and maintenance of this historical place as they contribute for Bodh Gaya where Lord Buddha reached to ‘Mahabodh’ the complete enlightenment. I would like you to add the name of Nalanda to the list of your tourist destinations if you are interested in great traditions of teachings of Lord Buddha and history of our country.  

Photos from wikipedia


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