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Nalanda

Nalanda

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This article is regarding the Nalanda. The great university of India.
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Introduction

Nalanda University (from 427 CE to 1197 CE) was one of the greatest centres of learning during the ancient period of the whole world.

While it was established on 427 CE, only the University of Taxila (now in Northern Pakistan) was before it. Taxila was established on about 700 B.C.

Other great universities established after hundreds of years of Nalanda.

Al Azhar University in Cairo established on 972 CE.

Bologna University in Italy established on 1088 CE.

Oxford University in UK established on 1167 CE.

Nalanda was the first residential university.

Nalanda University was established during the Gupta Dynasty. After that it was under the Pala Empire. For 800 years, Nalanda University was under Hindu and Buddhist rule.

In the language Pali, Nalam means Lotus, which is the symbol of Knowledge. The Da means Give. Hence the word Nalanda came, which means 'Giving the Knowledge' or 'Sharing the Knowledge'.

Before Nalanda:
Long days before The Nalanda was established The Great Buddha came and stayed several times in that area where Nalanda was built later.

Also The Jain thirthankara, Mahavira, spent 14 rainy seasons (14 years) in that area during his whole life before Nalanda was built.

As a result it was a great place for learning and also holy place both for Hindu, Buddhism and Jainism.

Location of Nalanda

Nalanda University was in the kingdom of Magadh. Today's location is Bihar. Almost 88 kilometers away from Patna.

That Great Nalanda is no longer inhabited. Today the nearest habitation is a village called Bargaon.

Destruction of Nalanda

In 1193, The Great Nalanda was destroyed by the Muslim army, led by Mohd. Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, a general of Mohd. Ghori.

It has been said that the only thing Khilji asked was If there was a copy of the Koran at Nalanda. As the answer was negative, he destroyed such a great place.

Thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded. He slew more than 5000 monk and students at Nalanda. Very few managed to escape alive.

Khilji set fire on the library of the Nalanda. Such huge amount of books was there that the library burnt continuously for 3 months.

Lots of knowledge about medicine, philosophy, yoga, tantric etc. was burnt for ever from earth.

This is a great loss for the whole world and this loss will never be compensated. Perhaps the world will never achieve these knowledge again.

Another loss was also there,
because it is believed that Buddhism as a major religion had a setback for hundreds of years due to the loss of the religious texts and scholars during this destruction. This event is seen as the final milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India.

When the Tibetan translator, Chag Lotsawa Dharmasvamin (Chag Lo-tsa-ba, 1197 - 1264), visited India in 1235, Nalanda was damaged, looted, and largely deserted. But still standing and functioning with a 90 year-old teacher, Rahula Shribhadra, instructing a class of about seventy students, with the support of a local Brahmins. Perhaps that was the end of Great Nalanda.

How we came to know about Nalanda?

The main and important informations about Nalanda University is known to us because of Chinese pilgrim and monk Huen Shang.

He came India in 627 CE and stayed for two years for intensive studies of the Buddhist philosophy. He studied in this university and left much information about this university in his writing.

Later when the Tibetan translator Chag Lotsawa (Chag Lo-tsa-ba, 1197 - 1264) came here, he also wrote valuable history about the end of Nalanda.

Area and structure of Nalanda

The university covered a large area of about 14 hectares.

Huen Shang recorded that The University had 108 temples, 8 sperate halls, 300 apartments, a very big library along with meditation halls and classrooms. It was surrounded by lakes and parks.

Many people, many scientists even today get astonished by the architecture of the building of Nalanda.

According to Tibetan accounts, ancient Nalanda University’s library called Dharmaganja. It consists of three grand buildings called Ratnasagara, Ratnadadhi & Ratnaranjaka.

In the nine storied Ratnasagara consists sacred scripts , also with Prajna-paramita-sutra and Tantric works such as Samajaguhya.

The Chinese scholar monk, Huen Shang recorded that "The whole establishment is surrounded by a brick wall. One gate opens into the great college, from which are separated eight other halls standing in the middle. The Nalanda library was the spirit of the university."

History of Nalanda

Nalanda was initially a prosperous village by a major trade route that ran through the nearby city of Rajagriha (today's Rajgir) which was then the capital of Magadha.

Students & Study of Nalanda

About 10,000 students and 2000 teachers were there in the university. Students came from all over the world like China, Greece, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Persia, Sri Lanka, Tibet etc.

The admission process of the university was very strict. Students have to go through different tests to prove their ability.

Topics like Darshana, Grammar, Hindu Samkhya, Logic, Madhyamika, Medicine, Metaphysics, Pali, Philosophy, Sanskrit, Tantric Vedas, Yoga, etc. were taught there.

Both Nastika (Jain, Buddha) as well as Astika (Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Yoga, Mimasa) studies were pursued by the students.

The great scholars like Nagarjuna, Asanga, Santarakshita, Rahulabhadra, Kamalasila, Padmasambhava and Atisa etc. were associated with this institution.

Liberary of Nalanda

Nalanda University’s library called Dharmaganja. Library of the Nalanda University was divided into three buildings- Ratnasagara, Ratnadadhi and Ratnaranjaka. Among this building, Ratnasagara was nine storeyed building.

Not in thousands, the library contained several lakhs of manuscripts.

This library did not only contain religious manuscripts but it had a large collection of books on literature, astrology, astronomy, and medicine etc. Vastness of the library can be understand from the fact that it took 3 months to burn when Khilji set fire to it.

Today's Nalanda

On August 15, 2007, India's great President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam came ahead to revived Nalanda International University.

Indian Government again opens the Nalanda University.

Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen also joined today's Nalanda and led the Nalanda Mentor Group.

UNESCO declares Nalanda Mahavihara World Heritage Site.





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