States of India
Nalanda is known as the ancient seat of learning, where ruins of the great ancient university have been excavated, is situated at a distance of 90 km south east of Patna by road & 62 kms from Bodhgaya. It falls on way to Rajgir. It is also linked by rail with Patna, Rajgir and Bakhtiyarpur (on Delhi-Howrah main track).
Hieun Tsang, the renowned Chinese traveller of the seventh century, says that according to tradition the place owed its name to aNaga of the same name which resided in a local tank. But he thinks it more probable that Lord Buddha, in one of his previous births as Bodhisatwa, became a king with his capital at this place and that his liberality won for him and his capital the name Nalanda or "Charity without intermission". The third theory about the name of the place is that it derived from Nalam plus da.
Nalam means lotus which is a symbol for knowledge and Da means given the place had many lotuses.
Nalanda has a very ancient history. It was frequently visited by Lord Vardhamana Mahavir and Lord Buddha in the 6th century BC. during his sajourns, the Lord Buddha found this place prosperous, swelling, teeming with population and containing mango-groves. It is also supposed to be the birth place of Sariputra, one of the Chief disciple of the Lord Buddha.
The University of Nalanda was founded in the 5th century by the Gupta emperors. There were thousands of students and teachers. The courses of study included scriptures of Buddhism (both Mahayana and Hinayana Schools), Vedas, Hetu Vidya (Logic), Shabda Vidya (grammar), Chikitsa vidya (medicine) etc. The university received royal patronage of the great emperor Harshavardhana of Kannauj and also pala kings.It was a great centre of learning and students from foreign centre of learning and students from foreign countries were also attracted to this university. Hieun Tsang received here the Indian name Mokshdeva. Nalanda acquired a celebrity spread all over the east as a centre of Buiddhist theology and ecucational activities. Its importance as a monastic university continued until the end of the 12th century. The ruins extend over a large area and represent only a part of the extensive extablishment. Excavations have uncovered nine levels of occupation.
The great stupa flanked by flights of steps and terraces, votive stupas and beautiful sculpture give the present day tourists a glimpse of the past glory that once was Nalanda. Many of the stupas were two or even three times built one over the other on the same spot. In the course of excavation it has been found that the very small original structure was enlarged by later temples built over and around the ruins of the earlier ones. The main stupa is the result of seven successive accumulations of the shrine-chamber on the top, facing both, can be approached by the staircase of the sixth period. It presumably contained a colossal image of the Lord Buddha, as the pedestal therein would indicate.
A row of monastery sites lies from south to north. By and large all of them are of the same pattern. But most important of them is site no.1, entrance of which lies in the west wall through a large portico of which the roof rested on pillars. At a later period this portico was converted into a porch with an ante-chamber by the addition of two walls. Flanking this door there existed stucco figures which having been badly damaged by fire in ancient days fell to pieces as soon as they were exposed. Effects of this fire are still visible on the western walls. The monastery consisted, as usual, of a number of monk's cells with wide verandas in front, originally set round an open quadrangular court, but later separated from it by a high wall. It was originally a building of two, or probably more storeys, as is apparent from the existence of stairs in the south-east corner. In the courtyard there used to be Lord Buddha's shrine and a well in each monastery.
Treasures of Nalanda :
The Nalanda University Archaeological Complex:
The total area of the excavation is about 14 hectares. All the edifices are of red brick and the gardens are beautiful. The buildings are divided by a central walkway that goes south to north, the monasteries or "Viharas" are east of this central alley and the temples of "Chaiyas" to the west. The Vihara-1 is perhaps the most interesting with its cells on two floors built around a central courtyard where steps lead up to what must have been a dais for the professors to address their students. A small chapel still retains a half broken statue of the Lord Buddha.
The enormous pyramidal mass of the Temple No.3 is impressive and from its top commands a splendid view of the entire area. It is surrounded by smaller stupas, many of which are studded with small and big statues of the Lord Buddha in various poses or 'Mudras'.
The Nalanda Archaeological Museum :
Opposite the entrance to the ruins of the university and houses, it has a small but beautiful collection of Buddhist and Hindu bronzes and a number of undamaged statues of the Lord Buddha that were found in the area. Two enormous terracotta Jars of the first century stand intact behind the museum in a shaded enclosure. The collection includes copper plates and stone inscriptions, coins, pottery and samples of burnt rice (12th century AD) found among the ruins here. Open during 10.00 to 17.00 hours. Closed on Friday.
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara :
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is devoted to study and research in Pali Literature and Buddhism. This is a new institute, where students from foreign countries also study.
Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall :
A new construcion in memory of the great Chinese traveller, Hieun Tsang.
Other Places of Interest :
Silao :In between Nalanda and Rajgir, there is a village namely Silao, where a very popular local sweet "Khaja" is prepared.
Surajpur Baragaon : The lake with its temple to Surya, the Sun god, is a pilgrim destination twice a year in 'Vaishakha' (April-May) and in "Kartika" (October-November), during the Chhath Puja or sun Worship.
Altitude: 67 metres.
Temperature (deg C): Summer- Max. 37.8, Min. 17.8. Winter- Max.27.8, Min.10.6.
Travel Info :
Air : The nearest airport is Patna 93 KMs.
Rail : The nearest railway station on Delhi-Howrah (Calcutta) main line is Bakhtiyarpur 38 Kms. Though the loop line connects nalanda.
Road : Nalanda is connected by Road to Patna, Rajgir, Gaya, Delhi and Calcutta.