(Last Updated on : 04/03/2016)
Nalanda is an ancient city of early era of Hindu kings, founded in the 5th century AD. It is famous as the ancient seat of learning. The decline of Nalanda and its university is associated with the decline of Buddhism in India. When Hiuen Tsang travelled the length and breadth of India in the 7th century, he observed that his religion was in slow decay and even had ominous premonitions of Nalanda's forthcoming demise. Buddhism had steadily lost popularity with the laity and thrived, thanks to royal patronage, only in the monasteries of Bihar and Bengal. By the time of the Pala Dynasty
, the traditional Mahayana Buddhism
and Hinayana Buddhism
forms of Buddhism were imbued with Tantric practices involving secret rituals and magic. The rise of Hindu philosophies in the subcontinent and the waning of the Buddhist Pala dynasty after the 11th century meant that Buddhism was hemmed in on multiple fronts, political, philosophical and moral. The final blow of Nalanda University
was delivered when its still-flourishing monasteries, the last visible symbols of its existence in India, were overrun during the Muslim invasion that swept across Northern India at the turn of the 13th century.
Location of Nalanda
Nalanda is located in Nalanda District
. The ruins of the world's most ancient university lies here which is 62 km from Bodhgaya
and 90 km south of Patna
. Though Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous centre of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th-12th centuries.
History of Nalanda
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 in Nalanda. 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 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
were some of its most celebrated patrons who built temples, monasteries and viharas here. Recent excavations have unearthed elaborate structures here.
Nalanda University Ruins Archaeological Complex
The total area of the excavation of ancient Nalanda University in Nalanda is about 14 hectares. All the edifices are of the red brick and the gardens are beautiful. The buildings are divided by a central walk way that goes from south to north. The monasteries or "Viharas" are east of this central alley and the temple or "Chaiyas" to the west. The Vihara-1 is perhaps the most interesting with its cells on two floors built around a central courtyard where steps lead up to what must have been a dais for the professors to address their students. A small chapel still retains a half broken statue of the Lord Buddha. The enormous pyramidal mass of the Temple no .3 is impressive and from its top commands a splendid view of the entire area. It is surrounded by smaller stupas, many of which are studded with small and big statues of the Lord Buddha in Various poses or "Mudras"
Nalanda Archaeological Museum
Opposite the entrance of the ruins of the university and houses, there is a small but beautiful collection of Buddhist and Hindu bronzes and a number of undamaged statues of the Gautama Buddha
that were found in the area. Two enormous terracotta jars of the first century stand intact behind the museum in a shaded enclosure. The collection includes copper plates and stone inscriptions, coins, pottery and samples of burnt rice (12th century AD) found among the ruins here. Open during 10.00 to 17.00.
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is devoted to study and research of Pali Literature and Buddhism. This is a new institute, where students from foreign countries also study.
Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall
A new construction in the memory of the great Chinese traveller, Hieun Tsang.
In between Nalanda and Rajgir
, there is a village namely Silao where a very popular local sweet called "KHAJA" is prepared.
The lake with its temple of 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.
The nearest airport is at Patna 89 km. Indian Airlines connect Patna to Kolkata
. Though Rajgir (12 km) is the nearest railway station to Nalanda yet the nearest convenient rail head is at Gaya
95 km. Nalanda is connected by good road with Rajgir
-12 km, Bodh Gaya-110 km, Gaya-95 km, Patna-90 km, Pawapuri
-26 km, Bihar Sharif -13 km etc. There are no taxis available in Nalanda. The cycle rickshaws and tongas are the only modes of transport.