Nalanda the lost glory: Ruins of ancient university

Nalanda was an ancient center of higher studies in Bihar. The place was established by the Gupta kings in the 5th Century BC. Nalanda was a great seat of learning in ancient India. The University was destroyed by a Turkish Muslim ruler Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. The great library of the University was so vast that it is reported to have burned for three months after the invaders set fire to it. The university accommodated more than ten thousand students and scholars at one time. Now the place is spread with fascinating red sandstone ruins. These ruins are a great example of Kushana architectural traditions. Nalanda ruins is spread around 14 acres of land. The entrance of many of the viharas in the University ruins can be seen with a bow marked floor; the bow was the royal sign of the Guptas. [caption id="attachment_529" align="alignnone" width="259"]nalanda Nalanda[/caption] Nalanda University is recorded as the world’s earliest university. The records found here also states that Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha were frequent visitors of this university. In ancient times a number of Buddhist students from all over the world studied here. It is believed that Lord Buddha had visited the place and gave moral speeches near the 'Mango grove of Pavarika'. Later the Buddhist monks began learning, practicing, meditating and understanding the Dhamma in the centre to enrich the masses. The school of thought of Buddhism - Theravada, Vajrayana, and Mahayana were born due to these teachings of the University. The destruction of the Nalanda University by the Islamic invasion of India is regarded as the main cause of the decline of Buddhism in India. The monks here are regarded as the ideal to be followed by the Buddhist all over the world. The detailed history of Nalanda would be the history of Mahayanist Buddhism. Nalanda was maintained by the revenue collected from the villages allotted specifically for the purpose by the contemporary rulers as evident from inscriptions. The key note of the prosperity and efficiency of Nalanda was royal patronage. Nalanda is now an archaeological site exposed during the excavations conducted by Archaeological Survey of India. The references states that the city was spread over an area of sixteen square kilometers of which only an area of around square kilometer is excavated.  The entire Nalanda site has been divided into a number of sites including 11 monasteries and six temples built in red bricks. These are very well arranged on a systematic layout. There is a central monumental axis thirty meter wide running north-south with the row of temples on the west and monasteries on the east. The rooms within monasteries are of almost identical dimension and disposition. The site also includes many sculptures and images in stone, bronze and stucco. There are also sculptures of Buddha in different postures, Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Tara, Prajnaparamita, Marichi, Jambhala etc. A few images deities like Vishnu, Siva-Parvati, Mahishasur-Mardini, Ganesha, Surya etc are also found there. The other discoveries of excavation include murals, copper plates, stone and brick inscriptions, sealings, plaques, coins, terracottas, potteries etc. The excavated antiquities have been exhibited for the visitors in the nearby Nalanda museum maintained by Archaeological Survey of India. These excavated ruins have a unique place in history. This ancient university attracted scholars from all parts of the world. Even now the ruins of the great university attract thousands of tourists every year. Nalanda University is waiting its turn to be figured on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. The status as a world heritage site will definitely help in safeguarding the ruins at Nalanda. This will also ensure adequate financial help from the designated world heritage fund for the university runs proper upkeep. Nalanda remains as the eternal symbol of the highly developed educational system in ancient India.

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