Nalanda has been described in great detail by Huan Tsang, the Chinese traveler who visited India in the 7th century AD and who studied there. Nalanda which is considered to be the first residential university of the world is also the first university of Buddhist learning. The University besides being the supreme centre of Buddhist teaching and learning also provided lodging facilities. It had nine storied library where Buddhist religious texts were meticulously copied and produced.
The word Nalanda is said to be derived from the two Sanskrit words "nalam" which means ‘lotus’ and “da” which means ‘to give'. Since Lotus is supposed to represent knowledge, Nalanda, means "the giver of knowledge". The construction of the University started in the 2nd century AD especially under the Kingship of Shkraditya and later on by the successive kings. However, the University was at its peak in the 5th century AD during the reign of Kumaragupta I, 456 CE. Emperor Ahoka built many monasteries, temples and Viharas here.
Although Nalanda is one of the places distinguished as having been blessed by the presence of the Buddha, this famous centre of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th-12th centuries. Hiuen Tsang who was also a student of the Nalanda University in the 7th century, wrote in his memoirs, very detailed descriptions of the excellent education system and integrity in which the monastic life was practiced here. In this first residential international university of the world, 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied here. The Gupta kings patronised these monasteries, built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard. Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons who built temples and monasteries here.Nalanda was brutally wiped off the map by the Muslim invader Bakhtiyar Khalji in the 12th century. A few valuable manuscripts were rescued by some of the monks who were able to flee the onslaught. Thus Nalanda became a land of ruins and was lost to history.
ATTRACTIONS IN NALANDA
Recent excavations have unearthed the ruins of 11 monastaries and 5 temples which were once elaborate structures here.
The university was established in the 5th century AD and was one of the oldest Universities of the world. The ruins of the university is spread over an area of 14 hectares and has the ruins of 11 monasteries and 3 temples. Sariputta’s stupa is the most imposing structure standing in the south a few minutes walk from the main gate.
It was established in 1971 and houses many ancient manuscripts and Buddhist statues. The museum also contains several objects like coins, pottery, inscriptions of Maurya and Gupta period.