Nalanda University once was the epitome of academic ability in the world. A ground so sacred that Lord Buddha himself taught and gave lectures to his disciples. And now? The ruins are what’s left of it. At least, this was true until some time ago. With the Indian and Bihar Government working in tandem to build a world-class university campus, the Nalanda Mahavihara may well once again be the centre of academic excellence and the pride of a thousand-year-old civilization it was always meant to be.
Nalanda University: History
The Past Glory
Long before the world had seen the likes of Harvard, Oxford or the London School of Economics, the Nalanda Mahavihara was the most sought after university on the planet. It was built as a centre of excellence and monastery for religious pilgrims under the rule of Kumargupta, then ruler of the Gupta Empire in the 5th century. The Mahavihara continued its ascent into history even after its founders were lost in it. After the decline of the Gupta empire, emperor Harsha of Kannuaj emerged as the patron of the Nalanda University. Moreover, to help the monks teaching at Nalanda, Harsha directed about 200 neighbouring households to supply the monastery with supplies on a daily basis, which earned him much gratitude from the monks at Nalanda. At its peak, the Nalanda Mahavihara saw scholars from far away lands of China, Japan, Tibet, Persia and Turkey visit and learn from the monks of Nalanda.
Getting Torn Down
As the influence of Buddhism vaned in the Indian subcontinent, the progress of the Nalanda Mahavihara stalled. Things worsened and took a turn for the worse during the 13th century when Muslim invasions swept the nation into a frenzy. It was then when a power-hungry Turkic chief-Bakhtiyar Khilji came to India under the service of a commander in Awadh. During the invasions, Bakhtiyar Khilji took it upon himself to loot and plunder the neighbouring forts and villages, which he was praised for by his superiors. Bakhtiyar Khilji now set his sights even higher, and soon went on to capture a fort in Bihar, which he described as a college of some kind by the number of books found, and stocked with scholars with shaven heads. This, in fact, turned out to be the Nalanda Mahavihara.
So the oldest university in the world, which had been a centre of spiritual and academic excellence for more than 800 years, the Nalanda Mahavihara ultimately fell to human greed. In the 21st century, only a mere shadow of its glorious past remains.
The New Nalanda University
Thanks to our 11th President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam who proposed an idea in the Bihar State Assembly of reviving the Nalanda University and to the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s pipe dream about the same which led to the reopening of the Nalanda University on 25th November 2010.
However, this new venture couldn’t come anywhere close to the original. In 2015, only 15 students were studying at the prestigious central university, the Nalanda University.
But good things do happen for those who wait, and this fact was proven right when the Central and State Government announced plans for the construction of a new 455-acre campus, to be built by 2020. The design for the campus will be iconic, to say the least, with a giant lake in the middle, and a cross section of streets over it. The streets will include a world-class library, campus shops, cafes, bazaars and more. Not to mention a student and teacher housing facility to house more than 7000 people fully equipped with state of the art sports complex and teaching facilities. The construction will make you reminisce of the old Nalanda Mahavihara at its peak, with red bricks made from the very ground excavated for the project itself.
The governments of the state and centre have spared no expense for this project, with International contributions from the governments of Australia, China and Japan. The proposed budget for the construction of the new Nalanda University is about 500 million US dollars. This price is nothing when compared to the revenue the new Nalanda University will generate. The new university houses acres of land ripe for agricultural use, which the local farmers will use to embolden their financial status and boost the economy of the region. We fervently hope the new university holds up to its former glory and proves as a centre of excellence for years to come.
Just at the dawn of the new decade, the world will yet again marvel at the beauty and wonder of the Nalanda University. The land where Buddha walked, the land which stood the test of time for more than 8 centuries and saw countless dynasties rise and fall, will rise yet again born anew from its ashes, and we hope its brilliance shines brightly upon the entire world. And owing to the origin of its name, Nalanda ( na+alam+daa, which translates to no stopping of the gift of knowledge) the gift of knowledge never stops again.
The new university promises to be a beacon for scientific progress for the betterment of society yet again. The new campus will house eco-friendly initiatives as well, with the proposed electric shuttles which will run across the campus and will be the only transport system in and around the University. The new campus will help also with tourism, as the new campus gathers international fame through media coverage after its inauguration.
A bright hope for the future
We at Social Cube are overjoyed at the prospect of having the Nalanda Mahavihara restored back to its former glory, and with hope for an even better and brighter future. We also appreciate the government for its actions which brought this dream into reality and hope our state’s history of corruption scandals is not repeated and the entire project goes smoothly.
It has been a long time coming, and now that it’s here, we hope the Nalanda University yet again becomes a home for the brightest minds of the generation.