Sights to See
A travel to this archaeological site can be a fulfilling and unique experience.
Established in 5th century AD, Nalanda was a famous university of ancient India. During the rule of Harsha, the fame of university reached far and wide. Under the Pala ruler Dharampal, the glory of the university reached its zenith. The renowned Chinese traveller Hiuen-Tsang, who came to India during the rule of Harshvardhan in the 7th century and studied at Nalanda, has referred to Nalanda University in glowing terms. From his accounts it can be said that the university was a great centre of education and was famous even in far-off countries. According to Hiuen-Tsang, the number of students at the university was 10,000 and the faculty consisted of great minds drawn from different parts of India.
Separate buildings were used for the study of the students. Some buildings had the seating capacity of 10,000 students. The library of the university was very large and consisted of three buildings, one of them nine storied. Admission to Nalanda University was difficult. The rules of the university were tough and had to be obeyed. Students were not required to pay any fee. The expenses of the university were met by the donations given by the rulers and the rich.
Many Buddhist from Tibet, as in the case of China, came to India. Buddhist monks from Tibet came to study at the University of Nalanda. As a reciprocation, many Indian Buddhist visited Tibet. In the 8th century AD from Nalanda, Buddhist monk Padmasambhava went to Tibet and succeeded in converting the people of the land ito Buddhism.
The courses of study included scriptures of Buddhism (both Mahayana and Hinayana Schools), Vedas, Hetu Vidya (Logic), Shabda Vidya (grammar), Chikitsa vidya (medicine), etc. Its importance as a monastic university continued until the end of the 12th century. The ruins extend over a large area and represent only a part of the extensive establishment. Excavations have uncovered nine levels of occupation.
The total area of the excavation is about 14 hectares. All the edifices are of red brick and the gardens are beautiful. The buildings are divided by a central walkway that goes south to north; the monasteries or "Viharas" are east of this central alley and the temples of "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 to the ruins of the university and houses, there is a small but beautiful collection of Buddhist and Hindu bronze statues and a number of undamaged statues of the Lord Buddha that were found in the area. Two enormous terracotta jars of the 1st 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.
Tradition has it that stupas or tumuli were built over the ashes of the Buddha. Some of the earlier stupas in India were built by Ashoka, the greatest Mauryan emperor, in honour of the Buddha in many parts of India and Nepal. The great stupa flanked by flights of steps and terraces, votive stupas and beautiful sculpture give the present day tourists a glimpse of the past glory that once was Nalanda. Many of the stupas were two or even three times built one over the other on the same spot. In the course of excavation it has been found that the very small original structure was enlarged by later temples built over and around the ruins of the earlier ones. The main stupa is the result of seven successive accumulations of the shrine-chamber on the top, facing both, can be approached by the staircase of the sixth period. It presumably contained a colossal image of the Lord Buddha, as the pedestal therein would indicate.
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is devoted to study and research in Pali literature and Buddhism. This is a new institute, where students from foreign countries also study.
Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall
It is a new construction in memory of the great Chinese traveller, Hieun Tsang.