Nalanda University, founded by the Buddhist monks around 2,500 years ago, was an extraordinary centre of excellence for art and learning. It remained so for a period of about 700 years beginning from the 6th century till the 13th century A.D. The trem ‘Nalanda’ was derived by a combination of three Sanskrit words –Na+Alam+Daa, which meant ‘no stopping of the gift of knowledge’. That’s exactly what scholars practiced here at Nalanda until 700 year ago when it was destroyed. When Nalanda was at its peak, it hosted about 10,000 glorious students and world renowned faculty of fifteen hundred teachers. The students pursuing their studies were not just Buddhists; they comprised of various other cultures and religious beliefs. The education was completely free here and this is the main purpose of naming the place as Nalanda, as the word ‘Daa’ at the end of Nalanda was the short form for ‘Daana’ which meant ‘gift’. Nalanda University no doubt was something that Indians were, are and will be proud of for generations to come. But, do you think you need enough about Nalanda University? Read on to learn about 8 really amazing facts about this university.
The main aim of Nalanda University was to create a prodigy of most intellectual and spiritually matured individuals, who would qualify and contribute to various aspects of the society as a whole. Today, we own only ten percent of the information about the massive university and we ought to be primarily indebted to the Chinese pilgrims Fa-Hien from the 5th Century A.D., Hiuen Tsang from 7th Century A.D. and I-Tsing again from the 7th Century A.D. Their recordings of the various events they witnessed during their stay here in Nalanda provides us an estimable character of Nalanda during its sublime epoch.
Nalanda was founded by the Buddhist monks with the basic purpose of creating a place fit for meditation. It is described that Gautama Buddha stayed at Nalanda several times and as such his various educational centers were erected here in order to provide the monks with a conducive and congenital learning and meditating environment.
The historical studies and evidences indicate that the renowned University of Nalanda was established during the reign of the Kumaragupta, the famous Gupta emperor. Prajñavarman and Xuanzang, both of them cite him as the laying founder of the university, which is also proved by the seal discovered at the site.
The mighty library of the Nalanda University was called as Dharma Gunj which meant the Mountain of Truth. It was by far the most prestigious and renowned repository of the Buddhist knowledge throughout the world, at that time. The library is said to be composed of hundreds and thousands of volumes of books. This is quite evident from the fact that it took about 3-6 months for it to burn down completely, at the time when it was set aflame by the Muslim invaders. The library at Nalanda University constituted of three main buildings, which rose to about nine stories. The three library buildings were called upon by their respective names that included Ratnasagara-The Sea of Jewels, Ratnarañjaka-Delighter of Jewels and Ratnodadhi-The Ocean of Jewels.
According to the Tibetan tradition, the University held “four doxographies”, that were taught in Nalanda. These included:
According to the writings of Yijing, the matters of administration and discussion at the Nalanda University would require assembly of everybody, including the residing monks and the consensus on decision was reached jointly by everyone present in the assembly. Administrative system of the University, in a way, was democratic.
Majority of students comprised of the Tibetan Buddhism cultures of the Vajrayana and Mahayana cultures, which even included the teachers at Nalanda. The great scholar Dharmakirti, known as one of the primary theorists of Buddhist atomism and also one of the Bhuddist founders of the Indian philosophical logic, is said to have taught here.
Till today, a number of ruined structures survive here at the Nalanda University. The excavated ruins are known to extend over an area of about 150,000 square foot meters. It is believed that 90% of the remains at Nalanda University still remain unexcavated.