The Story of Nalanda University: From Glorious Past to Revival

Nalanda University was renowned as a residential university, the first in the world, where students from various countries came to study.

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Established in 450 CE by Gupta Emperor Kumaragupta I, Nalanda University was a beacon of learning and a monumental centre of education in ancient India. Situated in Bihar, this institution was a university and a global centre of intellectual exchange. It flourished under the patronage of prominent rulers like Harshavardhana and the Pala kings, drawing scholars from worldwide and providing education for nearly 800 years.

A Center of Global Learning

Nalanda University was renowned as a residential university, the first of its kind in the world, where students from various countries came to study. The university was an epitome of knowledge and learning with over 300 rooms, seven large halls, and the legendary Dharmagunj Library, which spanned nine stories and housed over 9 million books. Subjects taught included Hindu and Buddhist studies, literature, astrology, psychology, law, astronomy, science, military strategy, history, mathematics, architecture, linguistics, economics, and medicine.

The Tragic Destruction

The university’s flourishing existence came to a tragic halt in the 12th century when Turkish Muslim ruler Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed it. He set fire to the university, massacred the monks, and burned the invaluable library. The library, containing nearly 9 million manuscripts, reportedly burned for three months. Khilji’s invasion was driven by his failure to find the Quran within the library and his intention to obliterate the foundational teachings of Buddhism and Ayurveda.

Revival and Modern Rebirth

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated the new Nalanda University campus in Rajgir, Nalanda, on June 19, 2024, marking a significant milestone in its revival. This event is notable as it was Modi’s first official visit to Bihar since being sworn in for a record third term as Prime Minister. The new campus, worth Rs 1700 crore, aims to blend ancient ethos with contemporary values, embodying the resilience of knowledge that Nalanda has always represented.

In his address, PM Modi emphasized that Nalanda signifies more than just a name; it represents identity, reverence, and enduring values. He highlighted the resilience of knowledge, asserting that while physical books may be destroyed, knowledge remains indestructible.

Modern Facilities and Educational Excellence

The new Nalanda University campus, located about 90 kilometres from Patna and approximately 12 kilometres south of Bihar Sharif, is a testament to modern educational excellence. It features two academic blocks with 40 classrooms, accommodating 1900 students, and two auditoriums. The campus also includes an International Center and an amphitheatre with a capacity of 2000 people, faculty clubs, and a sports complex.

Reflecting its ancient heritage, the modern university has established separate schools for Buddhist studies, philosophy, comparative religion studies, history, environmental and ecological studies, and management studies. These schools aim to provide a comprehensive and holistic education, continuing the legacy of intellectual pursuit that Nalanda once symbolized.

A Celebrated Inauguration

The inauguration ceremony was attended by notable dignitaries, including External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Bihar Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, and Nalanda University Chancellor Arvind Panagariya. Foreign envoys from 17 countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, were also present, signifying the global recognition and importance of Nalanda University.

A Legacy of Knowledge

From its glorious inception in 450 CE to its tragic destruction in the 12th century, Nalanda University stood as a testament to India’s rich educational heritage. Its revival symbolizes a nod to the past and a stride toward future excellence in education. With its blend of ancient ethos and contemporary values, the modern Nalanda University carries forward the legacy of one of the world’s oldest and most revered learning institutions. As it embarks on this new chapter, Nalanda University remains a symbol of enduring knowledge and intellectual pursuit, reflecting India’s commitment to preserving and enhancing its rich educational traditions for future generations.