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India’s lost pride on its way to revival – Nalanda

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By Harshmeet Singh

India’s present education system leaves a lot to be desired. With hardly any Indian representation in the top Universities around the world, the disappointment about our education system seems to be justified. Even worse is the situation at the primary level with 43% kids dropping out of school before completing upper primary education. Such despicable condition of education is all the more disheartening when considering the fact that India gave the world some of the earliest centers of learning and attracted students from all over the world long before modern civilization set in.

One such center of learning that has caught recent attention due to Government’s plans of reinstating it is the Nalanda University. The famed Nalanda University first came into being in 427 AD when Kumaragupta of the Gupta Dynasty established it as a center for learning of Mahayana Buddhism. Though it was set up as a Buddhist University, many secular subjects also formed a part of the curriculum. It was during the rule of emperor Harsha of Kannauj that the University reached its peak and achieved the status of a great learning center. Students from China, Korea, Indonesia, Central Asian countries and Tibet thronged the University with great expectations. Some of the excavations suggest that the University was four stories high. The campus also housed a nine stories high library with thousands of books and manuscripts. According to Hiuen Tsang, the famous Chinese Buddhist monk scholar and traveler, Nalanda was home to over 10,000 students. The University was supported by the revenue generated from 200 villages.

It is said that Harsha invited 1,000 learned monks of Nalanda to Kannauj to hold a philosophical assembly. Nalanda’s Acharya Kamalasheel was invited by the King of Tibet to visit his country. He died while he was preaching in Tibet, following which, his body was placed at a monastery in Lhasa. Though it was established as a center for Buddhist studies, Nalanda attracted world class professors undertaking research work in astronomy and mathematics.

By the time Universities like Oxford started to come up in the west, Nalanda was fighting for its survival due to the attacks from Turkish invaders. It was eventually brought down to the ground by the army of Bakhtiyar Khilji, Qutb-ud-din Aybak’s military general. His destruction of Nalanda and the following conquest of Bengal laid the foundation for the commencement of Muslim rule in India.

When the idea for the revival of Nalanda first came up in 2007, it garnered much support from countries like China, Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Singapore, each of which thought that they should “bring together the brightest and the most dedicated students from all countries of Asia — irrespective of gender, caste, creed, disability, ethnicity or social-economic background — to enable them to acquire liberal and human education.” The first batch of students was admitted through a rigorous admission process and had their first session on 1st September 2014. Whether Nalanda manages to regain its lost stature remains to be seen, but the authorities must be lauded for their efforts to bring back something that was the first mark of India’s knowledge prowess.

 

The author is a freelance writer. This piece was written exclusively for NewsGram.

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Nalanda University: 5 Lesser-Known Facts About The Ancient University

The great library of the Nalanda University was called as Dharma Gunj, which means the Mountain of Truth

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Nalanda University was the first International University. Wikimedia Commons
Nalanda University was the first International University. Wikimedia Commons

Nalanda University, an ancient university, was a completely residential university believed to have 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students. The Nalanda ruins reveal through their architectural components the holistic nature of knowledge that was sought and imparted at this University. It suggests a seamless co-existence between nature and man and between living and learning.

The profound knowledge of the Nalanda teachers attracted scholars from places as distant as China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Turkey, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.

ALSO READ: India’s lost pride on its way to revival – Nalanda

The famous song “O Mere Raja” from the film ‘Johny Mera Nam’ starring Dev Anand and Hema Malini was shot at the ruins of Nalanda and the Vishwa Shanti Stupa in Rajgir, Bihar. Wikimedia Commons
The famous song “O Mere Raja” from the film ‘Johny Mera Nam’ starring Dev Anand and Hema Malini was shot at the ruins of Nalanda and the Vishwa Shanti Stupa in Rajgir, Bihar. Wikimedia Commons

Here are some lesser-known facts about Nalanda University History: 

1. Nalanda University was an ancient university and also, the first International University. It was built under the patronage of the Gupta Empire in the 5th century AD and remained the best center for learning for over 800 years with around 10,000 students. In fact, 2,000 teachers came from all over the world such as Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia, and Turkey.

2. Nalanda University had the basic purpose of creating a place fit for meditation, for which it was founded by the Buddhist monks. Highly formalized Vedic learning methods helped inspire the creation of large teaching institutions such as Nalanda University, as well as Taxila and Vikramashila.

3. The great library of the Nalanda Vishwavidyalaya was called as Dharma Gunj, which means the Mountain of Truth. The library was said to house hundreds and thousands of volumes of books. The library was attacked several times in past and then later restored by Harshavardhan, the Buddhist king. But the army led by Turkish leader Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed the complex, massacring all the Buddhist monks in the area.

4. The famous song “O Mere Raja” from the film ‘Johny Mera Nam’ starring Dev Anand and Hema Malini was shot at the ruins of Nalanda Vishwavidyalaya and the Vishwa Shanti Stupa in Rajgir, Bihar.

5. Nalanda Vishwavidyalaya attracts a huge number of tourists every year. It is well connected by road or rail. Rajgiri is the nearest train station. However, the frequency of trains is higher at Patna and Gaya. The best time to visit Nalanda is between October and March.

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