Nalanda University: An Ancient Indian Ivy-League Institution
Nalanda-first Ancient university
By Techno Trace - October 30, 2021 - In Blog, History
Nalanda district, Bihar, India
Centre of learning, ancient university
240 m (800 ft)
490 m (1,600 ft)
12 ha (30 acres)
King Kumaragupta I
Ransacked by Bakhtiyar Khalji in c. 1200 CE.
Source - Wikipedia.
Nalanda was an acclaimed Mahavihara, a large Buddhist monastery in the ancient kingdom of Magadha. The oldest universities in the world are Takshashila and Nalanda. Bakhtiyar Khalji destroyed Nalanda University in 1202 AD. Muḥammad Bakhtiyar Khalji was a Turkic invader. At that time Bakhtiyar Khilji had captured some areas ruled by Buddhists in North India and once he became quite ill.
Ancient Nalanda university
During the rule of Harsha, the fame of the university reached far and wide. Under the Pala ruler Dharampal, the glory of the university reached its zenith. The renowned Chinese traveler Hiuen-Tsang, who came to India during the rule of Harshvardhan in the 7th century and studied at Nalanda, has referred to Nalanda University in glowing terms. From his accounts, it can be said that the university was a great center of education and was famous even in far-off countries.
Not only in India, globally students used to visit this university because of its greatness.
According to Hiuen-Tsang, the number of students at the university was 10,000 and the faculty consisted of great minds drawn from different parts of India. Separate buildings were used for the study of the students. Some buildings had a seating capacity of 10,000 students. The library of the university was very large and consisted of three buildings, one of them nine-storied.
Admission to Nalanda University was difficult. The rules of the university were tough and had to be obeyed. Students were not required to pay any fee. The expenses of the university were met by the donations given by the rulers and the rich.
Nalanda University Architecture
Nalanda was regarded as an architectural masterpiece. Enveloped by a lofty wall and a huge gate, the institution comprises several temples, viharas (educational and residential buildings), compounds, stupas, classrooms, and meditation halls. Parks and lakes also adorned the institution’s grounds. One of the highlights of Nalanda was its well-equipped and colossal library housed in three large multi-storied buildings called the Ratnasagar (Ocean of Jewels), the Ratnaranjaka (Jewel-adorned), and the Ratnodadhi (Sea of Jewels). Ratnodadhi was where the most sacred manuscripts of the institution were kept and this building was nine stories high.
The university was so well planned from ancient times, people still wonder.
The university was attacked thrice by the invaders- Huns, Goudas and Bhaktiyar Khilji
During the reign of Skandagupta, Huns were the first ones who tried to destroy the university under Mihirakula. But the library was restored and improved with bigger buildings and better faculties by Skanda’s successors. The second invasion was done by the Gaudas which was again restored by Harshavardhana; the Buddhist king. Khilji was an illiterate person who was hired by some Turkish rulers due to his military skills. But the army led by Turkish leader Bakhtiyar khilji did the most destructive attack in 1193 who tried to destroy the roots of knowledge, Buddhism, and Ayurveda, from the country.
Huns were the first ones who tried to destroy the university under Mihirakula.
The library kept burning for more than 5 months
The Library was a very prestigious and renowned repository of Buddhist knowledge throughout the world. The library of the Nalanda University was called Dharma Gunj which meant the “Mountain of Truth”. The library consisted of three main buildings, which stood up to nine stories. It was 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.
With the smoke, all the knowledge that mankind has collected and stored went into the flame.
Till today, several ruined structures survive at the ruins of the university. The excavated ruins are known to extend over an area of about 150,000 square foot meters. According to the report, it is believed that 90% of the remains at Nalanda University are still unexcavated.
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