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It is about 95 kilometres southeast of Patna. Founded in the 5 th centry AD, it was a religious center of learning. One of the first universities in the world, Nalanda is also known as the birthplace of Sariputra, one of the famous followers of Lord Buddha.
One of the greatest universities of Ancient World, Nalanda was founded by Kumaragupta I of the Great Gupta Dynasty. Nalanda was flourished during the regime of several rulers like Sakraditya, as well as Buddhist emperors like Harshavardhana (the powerful 7th-century ruler of Kannauj) and emperors from the Pala Empire of East India. Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons who built temples, monasteries and viharas here. The King Harshavardhana donated a 26 m high copper image of the Buddha and Kumaragupta endowed a college of fine arts here.
The decline of Nalanda started in late Pala Kings but the final end came, when, it was destroyed by an army of the Muslim Mamluk Dynasty under Bakhtiyar Khilji. Nalanda was hidden under a vast mound for centuries, until the excavations were made in the 1916-37 and 1974-82.
The term Nalanda is a combination of two words ‘Nalam’ meaning Lotus and ‘da’ which meant ‘to give’. Fa-hien, the Chinese Buddhist monk visited Nalanda in the early 5th century. And According to Hieun Tsang, a Chinese Buddhist monk who visited the city in the seventh century AD and left detailed descriptions about the university. According to Hiuen-Tsang, the number of students at the university was about 2,000 teachers and 10,000 monk-students from around the Buddhist world studied and lived here. I-Tsing, another Chinese scholar also visited here in 673 AD and kept detailed records, describing the severe life-style of the monks.
As per records with the ASI, there are references that the city was spread over 14 hectares. ASI found the extensive remains are of six brick temples and 11 monasteries built in old Kushan architectural stylearranged on a systematic layout. Subjects like theology, philosophy, grammar, metaphysics, Indian logic, philosophy etc. were taught here. Separate buildings were used for the study of the students. Some buildings had the sitting capacity of ten thousand students. The library of the university was very big and consisted of three buildings, one of them nine storied.
Besides all these, the excavations unearthed several stupas, sculptures which were built by the Gupta Kings, Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana.
Apart from the university ruins, other attractions of the city are Nalanda archaeological museum, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall. Nalanda archaeological museum situated opposite the entrance to the ruins of the university, houses collection of Buddhist and Hindu bronzes and a number of undamaged statues of the Lord Buddha, copper plates, stone inscriptions, coins, pottery and samples of burnt rice (12th century AD) that were found in the area. Open during 10.00 to 17.00. Closed on Friday.
Memorial Hall is erected in memory of the famous Chinese scholar, Hiuen Tsang who stayed here for 12 years both as a student and as a teacher as part of his tour of India in the 7th century.
Nav Nalanda Vihar institute was set up in 1951 by the state government to bring back the status of Nalanda. It is situated to the south of the complex of Nalanda University. The institute teaches the Pali literature and Buddhism to Indian and foreign students.
Besides a hot seat of knowledge and learning, Nalanda boast of a rich culture and tradition. Nalanda is also famous for its low cost handicrafts and one can buy souvenirs and trinkets from here.
Rajgir, place close to Nalanda is famous for the Rajgir Dance Festival, where Department of Tourism Bihar, holds a colourful festival of dance and music every year. Read more..