In Buddhism education was usually monastery based, as opposed to the home based education or gurukul in Hinduism. One monastery which evolved into a world famous university was Nalanda, which was founded during the times of the Guptas. Information about Nalanda comes from the writings of Huen Tsang or Xuanzang who visited the place in the 7th century.
According to his notes, the monastery was full of intellectual activity and it did not restrict the training to Buddhists. Vedas, Hindu philosophy, logic, grammar and medicine were also taught and students belonging to other faiths were also admitted, provided they passed an oral examination. Arjun Singh was not there to enforce reservation and it was purely merit based admission.
Nalanda was supported by the revenues of an estate of hundred villages and by patrons like Harsha. From Nalanda, the missionary monk Padmasambhava went to Tibet to convert them to Buddhism in the 8th century, while students came from China and South-East Asia to study there. Nalanda remained an important center of learning till it was destroyed by invading Turkish Muslims under the leadership of Bakhtiyar Khalji.
Now based on an idea by President A P J Abdul Kalam, the ruins of Nalanda will be developed and upgraded to international standard, whatever that means.
The ancient Nalanda University was spread over an area having a radius of about 16 km out of which an area of only 1.6 km radius has been excavated so far.
“A team of experts will soon conduct fresh survey and properly map some of the nearby mounds at Rukiministhan, Jwarfardih, Kool and Balaur villages within a radius of 16 km from the present excavated site of the university before initiating proper exploration work,” Vaidya said, adding that a systematic study of some of the adjoining villages will give an idea of the history of the settlement pattern of Nalanda.
Only recently, a Japanese delegation came to Patna after meeting Kalam in Delhi. The Bihar government has already identified 450 acres of land located between Rajgir and Nalanda for the proposed university that would impart quality teaching in philosophy and value education, among others. [ASI move to develop ancient Nalanda varsity site]
Reference: The Wonder That Was India by A. L. Basham
3 thoughts on “Reconstructing Nalanda”
While I think it is great idea, with our enviable ASI working on it and the progressive UGC controlling our existing universities (some of which resemble Nalanda like ruins), I won’t hold my breath to see if Nalanda sees day light.
Since it is a Buddhist site, there is lot of interest from the Koreans and Japanese in reviving this. So probably it could happen.
Very interesting initiative!! Should be developed as a completely autonomous institute, if and when it is established.