Nalanda, where ruins of the great ancient university have been excavated, is situated at a distance of 90 km. in the south east of Patna by road. The ruins extend over a large area and represent only a part of the extensive establishment. There are many versions of what the term Nalanda means. One is that Nalam means Lotus and Da means to give. Both combined together, Nalanda means Giver of Lotus. Since Lotus is supposed to represent knowledge, Nalanda means Giver of Knowledge.
Nalanda was the largest residential centre of learning that the world had ever known. The library was located in a nine storied building. Since the time of Buddha, the bhikkus were always encouraged to study the various arts and sciences. Learning was greatly encouraged as served dual proposes: knowledge and practice. The monks, therefore took to learning so that they might practice it and realise Dhamma perfectly and thereby enrich the masses.
The University of Nalanda was founded in the 5th century by the Gupta emperors. There were thousands of students and teachers. The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of learning. The courses offered at Nalanda included the study of scriptures of Mahayana and Hinayana Schools of Buddhism, Brahminical vedic texts, Philosophy, logic theology, grammer, astronomy, mathematics and medicine. Its importance as a monastic university continued until the end of the 12th century.
The International Scholastic Centre at Nalanda described by later Scholars as an International University was founded much earlier than the 5th century A.D. Nalanda eventually developed into the greatest ancient centre of Buddhist learning. Students from China and Korea, Sri Lanka and Indonesia and from all the regions of India came to Nalanda to study.
As is evident from the remains of Nalanda, there were row of monastery sites lies from south to north. By and large all of them are of the same pattern. But most important of them is site no.1, entrance of which lies in the west wall through a large portico of which the roof rested on pillars. At a later period this portico was converted into a porch with an ante-chamber by the addition of two walls.
A long succession of kings from 5th to 12th century extended their royal patronage to ensure the progress and prosperity of the university. The university received royal patronage of the great emperor Harshavardhana of Kannauj and also pala kings. It was a great centre of learning and students from foreign centre of learning and students from foreign countries were also attracted to this university.
Nalanda during its days was a flourishing residential university with over 10, 000 students and 1500 teachers. The university was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim spent three years at Nalanda. He has left a detailed note about the university, its curriculum, activities and other accounts. The Tibetan pilgrim Dharmasvamin was here in 1234 and has left an a gripping account of the monastery's destruction by the Muslims.
Nalanda today is in ruins but still it imparts the scholarly look. The archaeological zone here is classified into a number of sites that include 11 monasteries and several temples built in red bricks.
The Nalanda Archaeological Museum
Opposite to the entrance to the ruins of the university is a small but beautiful collection of Buddhist and Hindu bronzes and a number of undamaged statues of the Lord Buddha that were found in the area. The collection includes copper plates and stone inscriptions, coins, pottery and samples of burnt rice (12th century AD) found among the ruins here
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is devoted to study and research in Pali Literature and Buddhism.
In between Nalanda and Rajgir lies a village named Silao that is very popular for is local sweet "Khaja".
The lake with its temple to Surya, the Sun god, is a pilgrim destination twice a year in "Vaishakha" (April-May) and in "Kartika" (October-November), during the Chhath Puja or sun Worship.
- Nearest airport is Patna 93 Kms.
- Nearest railway station is Bakhtiyarpur 38 Kms.
- Connected by Road to Patna, Rajgir, Gaya, Delhi and Calcutta.