Ancient India Facts

Nalanda University – Ancient History, Facts and Return to Life

Nalanda University

Nalanda University- Pride of Ancient Educational History of India

From our childhood, we have heard that knowledge is power. Till now, it has not changed even a bit. It was the same during ancient times and even today, the same saying goes by with pure relevance. When someone says Nalanda University, it is obvious for you to think of it as a major part of ancient education. Nalanda University History is very interesting and if you are interested in its origin as well as Who Destroyed Nalanda University, then continue reading. It is said to be the second most-oldest university of India after Taxila University which was in the Indus regions of India (Now part of Pakistan). For several decades it was one of the most renowned places to attain knowledge in various fields such as medicine, science, arts, and philosophical history. 

Nalanda and Its Origin

It is also known as the place of Mahavira and is in the central part of India, Bihar. The place is a revered Buddhist Monastery. The ancient name of Bihar was known as the kingdom of Magadha. It is the place where the first steps of education started in India. If you ever visit the place, you can find that the location is exactly 56 km from east of Patna (Capital of Bihar) and you can see all the ancient buildings where the teaching was first initiated. It is assumed that the writings and the architectures were as old as 5th Century CE. Today, we know the place as one of the most important heritage sites in India and of course, it is included in the UNESCO World Heritage site list. The university was spread across 14 Hectares in total with the establishment of one of the greatest libraries in the world.

Nalanda and Its Origin

The rise of Nalanda University

For more than 800 years Nalanda University was one of the prime places to receive education during ancient times. Scholars from different parts of the world used to visit India just to read in one of the greatest libraries in the world. The educational taught procedures were quite difficult and students attending the classes had to pass through several tests to complete their education. The classes were known to exist in three buildings which were known as Ratnasagara, Ratnadadhi, and Ratnaranjaka.

These buildings were 9 stories high and were known to consist of several different varieties of books ranging from topics such as literature, science, medicine, philosophy, history and many others. Every individual had to pass three tests of various difficulties to get admitted to the university. It is quite astonishing to know that the individual had to showcase his skillset before getting admitted to the university. We must be proud and happy to know that India was one of the world’s most renowned places to receive knowledge and get highly skilled in various sections.

The rise of Nalanda University

So when did it start? It is stated that the university was first set up during the reign of the Gupta period which dates back to almost 2100 years. Nalanda University had its disciples coming to study from several parts of the world ranging from Tibet, China, Greece, and Persia. The subjects that the university taught to its disciples were not only restricted to the Buddhist studies but varied from medicine, art, mathematics, astronomy, politics as well as the art of war.

One must know that, before the university met its destruction, scholars from various parts of the world were a part of the teaching faculty. These faculty members belonged to places such as Korea, greater Iran, China, Tibet, Persia, Japan as well as Greece. Some of the renowned scholars who graduated from the Nalanda university were Suvishnu, Xuanzang, Hwui Li, Dharmapala, Harshavardhanaand several others. During those times, it is believed that the famous mathematician Aryabhatta was the HOD of Nalanda University. As per the history, the university had accommodated around 10000 students and there were around 2000 scholars who were the members of the teaching faculty.

The Fall of Nalanda University

It is quite hard to believe that the university was attacked thrice till date. It is quite shocking to know that the institution of such great stature had to face devastation. As per the literature, the first time that Nalanda University was attacked during the invasion of Huns ruled by Mihirakula. But, to its respite, it was restored to normal during the reign of Skandagupta. The Libraries and all the other buildings were built magnificently by the successors of Skandagupta and it looked even taller.

The Fall of Nalanda University

The second attack that the university faced was during the reign of Goudas around the early 7th century. This time, the restoration of the university was done by the famous king Harshavardhana also termed to be the greatest Buddhist disciple.

Though it was restored twice, the third attack was the most destructive one. It could not bear the severity and well, was never restored till the president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam decided to restore this magnificent university. The attack on Nalanda University was done by the Turkish leader Bakhtiar Khilji. This Muslim leader was more interested in plundering the goods and money from the residents of Bihar. Initially, Khilji had 2 villages under his sector. But as political tension increased in the area, he seized the opportunity to attack several other villages. His true greed led to his decision to attack Bihar. Consequently, Nalanda University was affected by this decision and Khilji had successfully looted the state to his content. It was due to his attack that several literature texts inscribed in the buildings got destroyed and after that, the university was never re-established.

Repercussions of the attack on Nalanda University and the Great Library

Attack on Nalanda University's Library

The attack on Nalanda University by Bhaktiar Khilji had several repercussions. The attack led to the huge destruction of several parts of Maghada (now Bihar) including the important buildings of the university. It is said that the attack by the Mughal emperor destroyed the famous Nalanda University Library. It was his attack that several literature facts got buried with the destruction of the library in the year 1193. This great Nalanda University Library was said to have housed more than 9 million manuscripts. Based on Tibetian sources, it was spread over three large buildings. One of these buildings consisted of nine storeys and it house the most sacred manuscripts. Another astonishing fact is that it took almost three months for the entire structure of the library building to get completely burnt. It was the third and the last attack that the university faced and for the next 800 years, it was never restored.

Attack on Nalanda University

The resurrection of Nalanda University

Now you can see the ruins of the university spread across an area of about 1200 square meter. This is also enough to just imagine how huge this university was. The world-famous Nalanda University has been set up again in nearby Rajgir. 

The resurrection of Nalanda University

In the year 2014, as per the Nalanda University bill, it had its first set of students attending the classes from various parts of the world. The total count of students attending the university was 15 and all of them belonged to several other parts of the world. The university initially started with two schools which were the School of Historical Sciences and School of ecology and environment.

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