“Learned men from different cities who desire to quickly acquire renown in the discussion, come here in multitudes to settle their doubts and then the streams (of their wisdom) spread far and wide”.
-Hiuen Tsang (Chinese Buddhist Monk)
Nalanda (Sanskrit meaning: giver of knowledge) is the name of an ancient centre of higher learning in Bihar, India. The site of Nalanda is located in the Indian state of Bihar, about 95 kilometre south-east of Patna. It was once a Buddhist centre of learning from 427 to 1197 CE. In 2016, it turned into a UNESCO world heritage site.
During the reign of the Gupta emperor Kumaragupta in the 5th and 6th centuries the University of Nalanda was established. However, after the decline of the Guptas, the most notable patron of the Nalanda was Harsha, the 7th-century emperor of Kannauj.
From 630 to 643 CE Xuanzang (also known as Hiuen Tsang) travelled to India. Visited Nalanda first in 637 and after that again in 642, spending two years at the monastery.
Dharmaganja- The Great Library
Traditional Tibetan sources mention the existence of a great library at Nalanda. Named Dharmaganja (Mountain of Truth) which comprised three large nine multi-storeyed building.
No one really knows the exact number of volumes in the Nalanda library, but it is estimated to have been in the hundreds of thousands. Moreover, the library not only collected religious manuscripts but also had texts on such subjects as grammar, logic, literature, astrology, astronomically and medicine.
The works of 18 (Hinayana) sects of Buddhism and Great Vehicle (Mahayana) were one of the main subjects. In addition, to these, they studied other subjects such as Vedas, Hetuvidyā (Logic), Shabdavidya (Grammar and Philosophy), Chikitsavidya (Medicine), Atharvaveda (Magic), Yuddham (Art of Wars) and Sankhya (Yoga).
The Rise of Nalanda
For over 800 years Nalanda University was one of the best universities in the world. Students from across the globe came here to study in one of the greatest libraries in the world. Therefore, the entrance procedure at Nalanda University was considered to be very rigid and difficult due to its excellence and reputation. Students had to go through three levels of the test to prove their ability. Scholars and teachers from places such as far as Korea, Japan, Persia, Tibet, China, Greece and the greater Iraq were part of the university. In conclusion, the premises of the university was so huge that there were over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers.
The Fall of Nalanda
Nalanda University was destroyed 3 times by the Invaders but rebuilt only twice. Firstly, by the Huns under the Mihirakula during the reign of the Skandagupta (455-467 AD). But Skanda’s successors restored the library and improved it with even a bigger building.
Secondly, by the Gaudas in the early 7th century. This time, the Buddhist King Harshavardhana (606-648 AD) restored the university.
Thirdly, the most destructive attack came when the Muslim army led by the Turkish leader around 1193 CE, Bakhtiyar Khilji. A Turkish chieftain out to make a name for himself, was in the service of a commander in Awadh.
The Persian historian, Minhaj-i-Siraj in his Tabaqqt-i Nasir, recorded his deeds a few decades later. Two villages on the border of Bihar became a political no-man’s land under Khilji. As a result, sensing an opportunity, he began a series of plundering raids into Bihar.
Disturbed by the fact that an Indian scholar and teacher knew more than the doctors of his court. Khilji decided to destroy the roots of knowledge, Buddhism and Ayurveda, from the country. He set fire to the great library of Nalanda. Above all, burned down nearly 9 million manuscripts. The library was so vast and strong that it took three months to completely destroy it. The Turkish invaders burnt the monks and scholars alive in the university.
1) Aryabhata, mathematician
2) Nagarjuna, formalised the concept of Shunyata
3) Aryadeva, student of Nagarjuna
4) Chandrakirti, student of Nagarjuna
5) Dharmakirti, logician
6) Dharmapala, the emperor
8) Shilabhadra, the teacher of Xuanzang
9) Xuanzang, Chinese Buddhist traveller
10) Yijing, Chinese Buddhist traveller
Revival Plans of Nalanda
The Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, a modern centre for Pali and Buddhism in the spirit of the ancient institution, was founded by the Government of Bihar. At the suggestion of Dr Rajendra Prasad. In addition, It was deemed to be a university in 2006.
September 1, 2014, saw the commencement of the first academic year of a modern Nalanda University, with 15 students, from across the globe. As a result, the students included 5 women a Bhutan University dean and a postgraduate in Buddhist studies from Japan. Moreover, The United States, Russia, England, Spain, Germany, Japan, Austria, Sri Lanka, South and West-East Asian countries were the applications for the first session.
The university has acquired 455 acres of land for its campus and allotted 2727 crores (around $454 ) to revive its ancient learning. The Governments of China, Singapore, Australia, Thailand and others also provides funding to the university. Most importantly, it turned into designated an Institute of National Importance by Parliament. In keeping with its legacy of excellence and its multicultural past, the First Chancellor of the university was Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen; the second was the former Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo.
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