Nalanda University; नालंदा विश्वविद्यालय Part-1

Published by Pious Mantra on


  • Introduction
  • History
  • Buildings of Nalanda


The universities of ancient India have a prouder history than that of their counterparts in the ancient western world. At least one of them, viz., Takshaila, flourished several centuries before the Universities of Alexandria, Athens and Constantinople. The universities of ancient India had also a more impressive teaching and research programme. The teachers who taught in the hallowed precincts of Takshaila, Nalanda and Vikramashila were scholars of high eminence and repute. This is not all. The cordial relationship that existed between them and their students was indeed sublime. Such ideal teacher-student relationship has no parallel in the long history of educational thought and practice.

The term “university” as used here simply means a centre where higher education was imparted to aspiring students. It does not connote all the different features
possessed by the universities in the East and the
West to-day. There were a number of important
features in these universities, which do not find a parallel in our modern institutions going under the name. The following brief account of the universities will enable the reader to have some idea of education imparted in these institutions during the long period of about 2,000 years beginning with the 10th century B.C. and ending with the 12th century A.D

Nalanda ( 425 A. D. to 1205 A. D.)


There are various explanations showing the
significance of the name given to the place. According to one theory Nalanda was the name of a Naga{ cobra ) who lived in a tank near the mango-tree to the south of a Sangharama. A second account says that the name was the result of the incessant charity given by Bodhisattva who was living at this place. The third explanation is based on an etymological analysis of the word which means that
endowments incessantly flowed to the institution, but donors had not had the satisfaction of having given sufficiently. Its prosperity as described later shows that the third explanation is more acceptable
than the remaining two.

Long before the Christian era the place was
noted as a religious centre. This was the place
which was sanctified by the stay of Buddha and his disciples ( 523 B. C. —477 B, C. ) and had witnessed a number of discussions on Buddhist doctrines. This was also the place where Mahavira, the Jain Tirthankara, met Gosala. This was the place of discussion carried on by Nagarjuna and others in the early centuries of the Christian era.

Ashoka had built a temple and a Vihara at this place, because it was only a little way from thickly populated Rajagrha and therefore convenient for religious practices. The University was founded by Sakraditya and extended by his son, Buddhaguptaraja, and his successor, Tathagataguptaraja. This was followed by the destruction of the place by Mihirakula in the course of his pursuit of Narasinhagupta, in 500 A.D. But after this destruction the place flourished with greater radiance and prosperity. Thus al-
though the place had been a great religious and
educational centre in the days of Nagarjuna in the second century A.D. and even earlier in the days of Buddha, it became a university only in the earlier half of the fifth century when a stream of scholastic pilgrimage began to flow towards the place. Almost throughout the whole period of existence of this university, it had the rare privilege of enjoying royal patronage.

Buildings of Nalanda

The first Sangharama was built by Sakraditya
(415-455 A.D.). His son Buddhaguptaraja built
ianother Sangbarama to the south. Tathagataguptaraja, his successor, built one more to the east of this. Baladitya ( 468-472 A.D. ) built one more to the north-east. He also built another great Vihara, three hundred feet in height, which was ‘ erected as if with a view to seeing the Kailasa mountain surpassed ‘. His son Vajra built another Sangharama to the west. Later a king of Central India, Sriharsha
built another Sangharama to the north of it as well as a high wall round these edifices with one gate. New buildings continued to be erected by Hindu and Buddhist donors down to the eleventh century. Hiuen Tsiang mentions six monasteries constituting the Nalanda establishment in his time. All these
buildings ” were majestic in their size and height
with richly adorned towers, fairy-like turrets ap-
pearing like pointed hill-tops, and observatories
lost in the mist of morning. The upper rooms
towered above the clouds and from their windows one could see the winds and clouds producing ever new forms and from the §oaring eaves the sunset splendours and the moonlit glories. All the outside courts in which were the priests’ chambers were of four stages. The stages had dragon-projections and coloured eaves, pearl-red pillars, carved and ornamented, richly adorned balustrades while the roofs were covered with tiles that reflected the
light in a thousand shades. ” The grounds were
beautified by deep translucent ponds, with blue
lotuses intermingled with Kanaka flowers of deep red colour. The place was shaded by mango groves.


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