The city’s name has been derived from Na-alam-da, which means Insatiable in Giving, one of the names by which the Lord Buddha was known. Nalanda was founded in 5th century B.C. Nalanda is also known as one of the world’s oldest living cities with the oldest university of the world. The Buddhist University of Nalanda was once the most prestigious center of learning in Asia. Located in the eastern region of India, it is well known as the ancient center of learning.
It has ruins of its rich past scattered all around. Frescoes, Sculptures and bas-relief are still to be seen amongst the ruins.
History of Nalanda :
Nalanda has derived its names on Naga (serpent) who lived in a tank near royal capital Rajagiraha. According to the legends the Naga got injured during the digging of the monastery. Buddha visited Nalanda number of times. In fact, Nalanda was very popular city for traders coming for merchandising. The town is depicted as flourishing and successful. It also accounts beautiful building which includes a bathing hall surrounded by various pillars. In the third century B.C. Ashoka honored one of the monks with a grand stupa. This place is witness to rise and fall of many empires whose kings had contributed in the development of Nalanda. A 25m high copper statue of Buddha was gifted by King Harshwardhana and Kumargupta endowed a college of fine arts here. Dinnaga- founder of the school of logic, Nagarjuna- a Mahayana philosopher and Dharmpala- the Brahmin scholar, taught here.
The more or less information about the Nalanda University is due to the accounts left by the Chinese pilgrims. One was required to be proficient in grammar before joining the Sangharama Besides theology, philosophy and grammar, logic was compulsory as students were expected to defend the Buddhist ideas and thoughts against others. Astrology, medicine, mathematics and much later tantric studies too became a part of the university syllabus.
Places To Visit
The Nalanda University :
The University was established in 5th century B.C. The ruins of the university are spread over 14 hectares of land. All the buildings are made with red bricks built in Kushana style of architecture. The most imposing structure is the Sariputra stupa in the temple site 3, at the extreme south of the University. The two towers and surrounding stupas are decorated with the niches which depict the Buddha, Buddhisattvas and the other events of Buddha’s life. To get the better perspective of the University there is stairway leading to the top.
On the east of the University there are two monasteries (site 1A and 1B) facing Sariputra stupa. The main gates are on the north and it leads to the wide varandah, the roof of which rested on the pillar. In all the four directions there are cells for monks. On the north side there are other 9 monasteries of the same layout and design except for the entrances facing south. An International Centre for Buddhist studies was founded here in the year 1951.
The Nalanda Museum :
The museum has the antiquities which was found during the excavations in Nalanda and Rajgir. The museum offers a veritable peep in to the Pala art. Which explains the University was equally famous for its prolific school of stone sculptures, bronze casting and manuscript paintings. Besides the artistic skills, the sculptures also explicate the jewellery, clothes and lifestyle of that period.
The most dominating image in the museum is of Buddha, made in the first century and depicts him in all available postures. However, the first bronze image depicts him in an Abhay Mudra which is noted for its simplicity but elegance. There are more than three hundred pieces of artefacts on display and many thousand art pieces are kept in reserve. The displayed pieces include statue and sculptures made of bronze and terracotta. Besides, there are images, inscriptions and rare collection of ivory and bone objects.
Shiva and Parvati images are assembled in a sculpture as seated in Lalitasana, Vishnu, Surya and his son Revanta, Ganesha, Sarasvati, Chandika and Ganga.
Besides copper, stone and brick inscriptions, the museum has numerous coins, seals and plaques on display which includes the official seal of the Sangharama. The Archaeologica Museum remains closed on every Friday.
Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall :
Hiuen Tsang was a Chinese traveler who came to India in 5th century. He got attracted towards the glory of Nalanda University and stayed there for 12 years and taught the students of the university. He has given a very detailed and vivid description of the Indian political and social conditions at that time. His writing were considered as the most authentic and credible source of information of that period. This memorial has been made in his memory.
Nav Nalanda Mahavihara :
Nav Nalanda Mahavihara is great place exhibiting the ancient tradition to the modern world, Set up by the Bihar government in 1951. It was built as a modern center of Buddhism and today it helps in the education related to ancient Pali script and Buddha religion. This is a great place to visit if you are interested in studying the roots and history of Buddhism.
Lauria Nandangarh :
Situated 28 km northwest of Bettiah, Lauriya Nandangarh is a small town notable for its Ashoka Pillar. The height of the pillar is about 12 meters, the pillar is inscribed with six Ashokan edicts, issued by the Emperor in the year 244 BC and the top of the pillar is adorned with a lion, in a crouching position. Lauriya derived its name from a pillar (Laur) of Mauryan emperor Ashoka, which is sited here. Nandangarh is a bank, placed about 2 km to the south-west of the Ashoka Pillar. Lauriya Nandangarh is also a site for about 20 archaeological banks organized in three rows. Total forty pillars were there but today only one pillar exists in complete form. One of the main tourist attractions of Lauriya Nandangarh is a large stupa; the massive stupa is 24 m in height and has a circumference of almost 457 mt.
How to Reach Nalanda
By Air :Patna Airport (PAT) is the nearest airport from Nalanda which is 95 km away and it has flights Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Lucknow.
By Rail :Nalanda station (NLD) is the nearest train station however; Rajgir station (RGD) which is 12 km away is better linked with other cities like Delhi, Varanasi, Kolkata and Patna. Yet another convenient railway station is at Gaya (GAYA) which is 75 km away and it has great connectivity to metro cities a like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Bangalore, Ranchi, Varanasi and Hyderabad.
By Road : Distances