Saturday, December 1, 2007

Nalanda in the time of the Buddha (500 BC)
Historical studies indicate that the University of Nalanda was established 450 CE under the patronage of the Gupta emperors, notablyKumaragupta.

Arising and establishment of Nalanda University
Nalanda was one of the world's first residential universities, i.e., it had dormitories for students. In its heyday it accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. The university was considered an architectural masterpiece, and was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. Nalanda had eight separate compounds and ten temples, along with many other meditation halls and classrooms. On the grounds were lakes and parks. The library was located in a nine storied building where meticulous copies of texts were produced. The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of learning, and it attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. The Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang left detailed accounts of the university in the 7th century.

Description of Nalanda University
A vast amount of what is considered to be Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) actually stems from the late (9th-12th century) Nalanda teachers and traditions. Other forms of Buddhism, like the Mahayana followed in Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan, found their genesis within the walls of the ancient university.
Also Theravada Buddhism was taught at Nalanda University. But the teachings of Theravada were not developed further in Nalanda, as Nalanda was not a strong center of Theravada.

Influence on Buddhism
Due to the disappearance of Buddhism from India during the 12th century, the university was in decline. In 1193, the Nalanda University suffered a final blow after the complex was sacked by Muslim armies

Decline and end
A number of ruined structures survive. Nearby is the Surya Mandir, a Hindu temple. The known and excavated ruins extend over an area of about 150,000 square metres, although if Xuanzang's account of Nalanda's extent is correlated with present excavations, almost 90% of it remains unexcavated.
Nālandā is no longer inhabited. Today the nearest habitation is a village called Bargaon.
In 1951, a modern centre for Pali (Theravadin) Buddhist studies was founded nearby by Bhikshu Jagdish Kashyap, the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara. Presently, this institute is pursuing an ambitious program of satellite imaging of the entire region.
The Nalanda Museum contains a number of manuscripts, and shows many examples of the items that have been excavated.

Nalanda Ruins
On December 9, 2006, the New York Times detailed a plan in the works to spend $1 billion to revive Nalanda University near the ancient site. A consortium led by Singapore and including China, India, Japan and other nations will attempt to raise $500 million to build a new university and another $500 million to develop necessary infrastructure.

See also
The mounds at Nalanda, as they stood, before the University was excavated.
Front view of Sariputta Stupa
Nalanda Back view of Sariputta Stupa