Nalanda is a famous tourist destination of Bihar, noted for its ancient Center of Higher learning, also known as the Nalanda University.
Nalanda had a Buddhist Center of learning established in 450 BC, and was the largest University in the world during its era. The remains of the University is spread over 14 Acres and is located at a site about 88 kilometres south east of Patna. The University accommodated over 10,000 students and 2000 faculty at a time. Much about it were discovered from the writings of Chinese Traveller Hiuen Tsang.
Almost 90% of Nalanda yet remains unexcavated. Nalanda is no longer inhabited, hence visitors are advised to stay at Rajgir.
Though the Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous center of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th-12th centuries. Hieun Tsang stayed here in the 7th century AD and left detailed description of the excellence of education system and purity of monastic life practiced here. He also gave a vivid account of both the ambiance and architecture of this unique university of ancient times. In this first residential international university of the world, 2,000 teachers and 10,000 monks students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied here. The Gupta kings patronized these monasteries, built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard. Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons who built temples, monasteries and viharas here. Recent excavations have unearthed elaborate structures here. An International Center for Buddhist Studies was established here in 1951. Nearby is Biharsharif, where an annual urs is celebrated at the Dargah or tomb of Malik Ibrahim Baya. Baragaon, 2 km away has a sun temple, famous for Chhath puja. To be visited are Nalanda museum & Nava Nalanda Mahavihar in addition to the great ruins.
History of Nalanda
The history of Nalanda city dates back to Gupta dynasty when the famous Nalanda University came into being. For long it received there patronage from the liberal rulers and emerged as a famous seat of learning in Bihar and India. After Guptas the mighty emperor Harsha too extended support to the university. He was amongst the last mighty ruler in India during whose rule the city prospered a lot. Palas of Bengal wholeheartedly made contribution in the growth of the city and university. Discriptions of Nalanda University can be found in the records of the Chinese Buddhist Monks and travelers like Fa-hien and Hiung Tsang. The city and the university was brought down by a fanatic Turkish Muslim General Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193, who after ransacking the region set the university on fire to wipe out the traces of Buddism for ever.