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The Ancient Nalanda University of India

Updated on May 18, 2017
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The great library of Nalanda Universitythe ruins of world's first university called Nalanda University
The great library of Nalanda University
The great library of Nalanda University | Source
the ruins of world's first university called Nalanda University
the ruins of world's first university called Nalanda University | Source

The Nalanda University

Nalanda was at the top and was the most important educational institution of higher education in ancient India. It was a noted center of learning of Mahayana Buddhism with research facility of Hinayana Buddhism and other religions.

Students of several countries resided here for education and research.
In the present state of Bihar in India, it was situated in a village about 88.5 km in southeast of Patna, and about 11.5 kilometers north of Rajgir.

The remains of the ancient and great Buddhist University of Nalanda were discovered by Alexander Cunningham, which tell a story of great pomp and style.

Many manuscripts, rock edicts, travelogues of Chinese traveler Hiuen-Tsang who came to visit India in 7th century and the details of the trip of Itsing about the University reveal valuable information about the place.

In the 7th century Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang stayed here for over a year as a student and a teacher.

The famous Buddhist teacher Sariputta' was also born here.

Foundation and Protection

The credit for establishing the University goes to the Gupta king Kumaragupta I (450-470 AD). The descendants of Gupta dynasty gave full cooperation to expand the university further.

After the fall of the Guptas, the coming ruling dynasties continued their contribution in all its richness. The University Also received the patronage of the great emperor Harshvardhan and Paul rulers.

It received grants from the rulers of different regions of India, as well as the numerous foreign rulers.

The Domain of the University

Nalanda was the world's first fully residential University. It had evolved into a position in where the number of students over 10, 000 and the number of teachers was 2000.

Not only from India, but the students came from Indonesia, Persia, Turkey, Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, and many other distant countries.

The graduates of Nalanda went out to preach and promote Buddhism. The University remained famous from 9th to 12th century AD.

The Building and the Complex

The architectural remains of the university prove that it was in an extremely well-planned manner with a wide area. It was a wonderful piece of art.

The entire complex was surrounded by a huge wall with a key place to enter. There was a line of monasteries from north to south and there were several magnificent Stupas or monasteries and temples before them.

The beautiful sculptures of Buddha were installed in temples.

There were seven large rooms in the central school and three hundred other rooms. The lectures were delivered there. So far thirteen monasteries have been found in the excavations.
Even more, monasteries are likely to be discovered. The monasteries had more than one floor. There was a stone slab in the room to sleep on.

There were niches or outposts for lamps, books etc. There was a well in the courtyard of each monastery.

Besides beautiful gardens and lakes, there were eight huge mansions, ten temples, several prayer rooms and study rooms in this complex.

Ruins of Nalanda University
Ruins of Nalanda University | Source

The Management

The Chancellor called the Acharya was the patriarch or major of the university. He was solely responsible for the management of all activities of the University. He was elected by the monks. The Chancellor had two advisory committees for consultations.

The first Committee managed the education and courses, while the second Committee reviewed all economic or financial activities and the administration of the University.

The latter also managed the donations to the University and the income from yields of crops from two hundred villages donated to the University. The arrangement for the food, clothing, and accommodation was made from this income.

The Professors or the Acharyas

The University had three categories of Acharyas based on their merit. Shilbdra, Dharam Pala, Chanderpaul, Gunmti, and Sthirmati were the famous and dominant maestros of Nalanda University.

Shilbdra, the great Acharya, teacher, and scholar were the head of University In 7th century AD, during the visit of Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang.

It has become evident from an ancient hymn, that the famous Indian mathematician and astronomer Aryabhata had also headed the University at some time.

Only the three treatises written by him namely Dashgeetika, Arybhatiya, and Tantra are available now. The scholars explain that only 34 hymns or shlokas of his book named Aryabhata Siddhanta are available today. This treatise was in use in the 7th century AD.

Arch shaped roof of a storeroom in the ruins of Nalanda University
Arch shaped roof of a storeroom in the ruins of Nalanda University | Source

The Admission Rules

Only the talented student could get themselves enrolled as the entrance exam was extremely difficult. It was the first instance in the world that the students had to pass three hard levels of the exam.

The purity of thought and strict adherence to the rules of conduct framed by the management were necessary.

In teaching - learning methodology, the professor of the University followed the system of an oral lecture to the students. In addition, the texts were also explained from the books.

The debates and discussions were encouraged and it continued throughout the day.

The buddhist University of Nalanda
The buddhist University of Nalanda | Source

The Fields of Study

The elaborate study of the of the promoters of Mahayana Buddhism including the compositions of Nagarjuna, Vsubndhu, Asanga, and Dharmakriti was conducted here.

In addition, the Vedas, Vedanta, and Sankhya were also taught. The Grammar, Philosophy, Shalya vidya or surgery, astrology, Yoga and even medicine courses were included in the fields of study.

From the several bronze idols excavated from the site, the scholars have come to the conclusion that perhaps the metal casting or idol making science was also studied.

There was a special department for the study of astronomy and related sciences.

The Library

There was a nine storied vast library in which more than 3 million books were kept for the teachers and the students of the University. These books were related to every subject Library books on all subjects.

The three large buildings were called Ratnaranjak, Ratnodadhi, and Ratnasagara.
In Ratnodadhi many rare books and manuscripts were kept, the copies of several of which the Chinese travelers took with them.

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Monastery of Nalanda university One of the monasteries of Nalanda university
Monastery of Nalanda university
Monastery of Nalanda university | Source
 One of the monasteries of Nalanda university
One of the monasteries of Nalanda university | Source

Why the Nalanda University was Burnt Down

There was an eccentric and irritable invader called Bakhtiar Khalji, who burnt it in 1199 AD. He occupied some of the places in North India which were ruled by the Buddhists. Once he fell ill, and his Muslim physicians called Hakeem tried their best to save him but failed to recover him. Someone advised him to consult Rahul Shrimad, the famous teacher of Ayurveda in Nalanda University and try the traditional system of medicines in Ayurveda.

He disliked the idea that how an Indian physician of Ayurveda could be better than his Hakeem and why he should get himself treated from a nonbeliever or a Kefir.

But to save his life he relented. He put a condition before the Indian physician that he would not take any medicine and must be cured without administering anything, or otherwise get ready to be beheaded.

The poor Vaidyaraj did not sleep much and thought of the measures. The next day he went to the whimsical with the Qur'an and asked him to read the such and such number of pages of the Koran. He followed and became fine.

He became greatly annoyed and not glad. He was very angry that why his Muslim Hakeem had less knowledge than these Indian herbalists.

Refusing favor of Buddhism and Ayurveda and instead of giving them any reward, he set fire to Nalanda University and burnt down its libraries to ashes. There were so many books that the fire raged for three months. He killed many canonist and Buddhist monks.

But the unscrupulous governments of today in India named a railway station after that weasel Bakhtiar Khilji. These derogatory place names should be uprooted.

The reason that how exactly he recovered after reading the Koran was that unlike the Hindus who do not put the scripture of any religion on the ground and do not flip the pages by applying spit. But the Muslims do exactly the opposite and read by applying spit to turn every page of the Koran.

Rahul Vadyraj Shribhadra had applied an invisible coating of the drug on each corner of the pages of Koran.

He only read ten to twenty pages with spit and licking, and while licking the finger he was cured.
He returned the favors with revenge and burnt Nalanda University to annihilation.


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    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 2 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks peachpurple for the visit and the comment. It is a proud legacy of India.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      that is a university? I thought that was a theater! Gosh look at the bricks they had used in the past, solid as a rock!

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 3 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks Brett.Tesol for the visit and I am gld you liked the hub.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 3 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks sunilkunnoth2012 for the detailed comment. These centers are the proud heritage of India.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      It's a well researched topic and you have beautifully presented. Once it was India's prestigious institutions and students from all over India studied here. The very mention of Nalanda gives an impression that how powerful and brilliant were our old rulers and the system prevailed then. It was Aurangazeb who destroyed and demolished this great institution. He was the main culprit behind the destruction of many Hindu and Buddhist establishments in India. The history books reveals many of the stories of his cruelties and damage done to Indian history. I personally love to visit the place once. Thank you for writing such a nice topic here. Hope you will more of such ones in the future. Keep on writing. All the best.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 3 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks suzettenaples for the visit and the comment. Yes the ruins are being preserved.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 3 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks arifur zaman for the visit and the comment.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 3 years ago from Thailand

      Very cool. I also liked the way you set this out, all the visuals helped being it to life.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Very interesting and informative. I am glad to see that the ruins of this fine university are being preserved. It is beautiful and I can imagine what a great place of learning it was in its golden ages. Thanks for sharing this with us. Voted up+ and shared.

    • arifur zaman profile image

      arifur zaman 3 years ago

      thanks for sharing

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 3 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks teaches12345 for the visit and the comment.I am proud of Nalanda University. It is a rich heritage of India.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Quite an interesting share on this university. It's history is fascinating.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 3 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks Nell Rose for the visit and the comment. The fanaticism and bigotry have caused great harm to mankind.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Interesting read Sanjay, I hate the idea of ancient books being burnt anywhere in the world, its such a horrible thought to think of all that knowledge being lost, great hub, nell

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 3 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks cheeluarv for the visit and the comment. Indeed it is very painful that the ancient books were burnt down by an eccentric. The building could be reconstructed but the books are gone for ever. This is the biggest loss for the mankind.

    • cheeluarv profile image

      cheeluarv 3 years ago from INDIA

      Very interesting ,and informative article on Nalanda University. Still I remember reading about this university,during my school days , very much wishing to see the good pictures of this place, with so many best things.( as we all know the quality of the pictures in school books). Thank you so much for video pictures..At the same time, it is very painful to realize how much we have lost our country's treasures by these fanatic invaders.Thank you for sharing wonderful article.