Nalanda University

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Nalanda University, a World Heritage Site. It flourished between 5-12th century. It housed about 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. It is amongst the world''s oldest universities after Takshila. It is 15kms from Rajgir and about 2-3 hours drive from Patna. You see the most famous Main Temple and Stupa. Ruins part of a garden complex, very well maintained and clean.

Board outside main gate. Key points - history goes back to 6th century B.C. Nalanda was the place of birth and nirvana of Sariputra one of the famous disciples of Buddha. It rose into prominence as a centre of learning in 5th century. It was founded by Kumaragupta (413 to 455 A.D.) of the Gupta dynasty. Decline started in 12th century after invasion by Bakthiyar Khilji. Excavations took place between 1915-37 and 1974-82. Area covered is a sq km but Guide said original area much larger.

Modern day entrance to University. There was a rigorous oral entry examination conducted by erudite gatekeepers and many students were turned away. There are 13 temples and monasteries as numbered today. The numbering and location is not in any sequence. We present them as we saw them. Guide rate Rs 100/ per hour. Normally show you monastery 5,4,1,3, but ask them to show you all and explain.

As you enter there is a long corridor. At beginning on right is monastery no 5 and 4. On left is monastery no 1. At the end of corridor you come to a huge garden - on left is no 3 and right are others. Nalanda was maintained out of the revenues of 100 villages specially endowed for its upkeep. The only rival to Nalanda as a centre of learning in India in the 7th century was Valabhi in Kathiawar Gujarat.

This is the layout of Nalanda. Right in front in a straight line left to right are monastery 1,4,6,7,8,9,10,11. Single structure in front is temple 2. On left of monastery of 1 are monasteries 1A,1B after which is Stupa site temple 3. In the same line are temples 12,13,14. Dividing the monasteries and temple is a long corridor. Keep atleast two hours for a good study. It opens at 9am.

Board outside monastery no 5 ie self-explainatory. When u enter from main gate it is on your right. Resident monks were known for their high character. Monks spent their time wholly on study and debates. In the 18 branches of learning were included the 4 Vedas, the 6 Vedangas, Purana, Nyaya, Mimamsa, Dharmasastra, Dhanurveda, Gandharva-Veda and Arthasastra.

Big staircase connects you with left of picture. Brick red structures that you see in front are ruins of monastery nos 6 to 11. Right of pic are eight cells referred to in board. 3 cells referred to are in next pic. Hiuen Tsang observed that children, after finishing a work called ''The 12 Chapters'' are introduced in the 7th year to a group of 5 sciences ie science of grammar, science of arts and crafts, science of medicine, science of reasoning and science of the Internal.

3 cells referred to earlier. Similar size. They must have been covered in earlier times. Tsang junior I-tsing wrote ''the children, we were told began the work called ''Siddha-composition'' in their 6th year and mastered it six months. In the 8th year they took up Panini Sutras and Dhatupatha which they completed in 8 months.''

Staircase that takes you to monastery no 4. The staircase height indicates that this monastery was atleast double storeyed. Observe carefully to get a sense of the height of structure.

Board outside monastery no 4. In their 10th year they began and finished within 3 years the 3 Khilas ie the ashadhatu dealing with cases and numbers of nouns as well as tenses and ending of verbs, two is manda and three the Unadi dealing with the suffixes of verbal roots. In the 15th year young students began the Kasikavritti on Paninini grammar which he finished in 5 year time.

Cells for monks. Left centre of pic is the teachers platform in front of the shrine. Like the residential cell that you see in front there are cells all around the courtyard. From detailed account of I-tsing it is clear that grammar formed a major part of the course of studies in the 7th century a.d.

Front view of courtyard. In centre is teachers platform. U can also see a WELL hole. On left and right of pic u can see small pieces of stone butting out. It is the stone base of pillars that supported the courtyard which means this courtyard area was covered.

To left of staircase there is a ventilator for light and wind to come in. You see a Vietnamese lady coming down the steps with support. She was on a wheel chair but the descent was too steep so walking down. Left of pic is monastery 4 that we just saw and right is monastery 1.

Board outside monastery 1. I have shown the next few pics as monastery 1. Hope it is that and not monastery 1A, 1B. We learn from Hiuen Tsang that the course studies comprised of not only the works of the 18 schools of Buddhism but also the Vedas, the hetuvidya (logic), sabdavidya (grammar), chikitsavidya (medicine), Atharvavidya, the Sankhya and so forth.

These massive steps in the west take you to the upper storey of the monastery 1. Interestingly a diferent course of study was prescribed for the agricultural and business class.

In the upper monastery you see the cells are 34 in number (you see one) containing bed platforms for monks (u see two in this cell) and area between them on left of pic corner is for keeping books and valuables. Similar to monastery no 4 it has a courtyard not shown in pic.

From the upper monastery level you take these steps to come down to the platform. U take further steps to go into a courtyard where there is a well, grainhouse, temple, shrine etc. This shows that this monastery had many many levels and originally was at some height. Board says there were nine levels of occupation. When you see next few pics u shall get an idea.

Clicked this from top of stairs area in earlier pic u see a rectangular courtyard. Left what u cannot see is a well. Left to right is grain storage area, extreme back of pic is teachers platform with remains of pillars base, right of pic 2-3 feet brick structure is a shrine. This originally contained a colossal seated Buddha. At end of pic were pillared residential cells (u do not see pillars now). In the centre you see a oblong shrine.

This is well referred to in earlier pic. Notice the height from the top ie verandah level to well. Visit the Nalanda Museum, got some great sculptures. Outside Nalanda gate local restaurents service lovely aloo ka paranthas and curry. Or visit the Bihar Tourism restaurent close by.

This is the platform with a number of stone column-bases, might have been used to address students seated in the courtyard. Top is the verandah and the cells. Hiuen Tsang said that he had seen a 80 feet high copper image of Buddha.

U exit from the courtyard and enter this long corridor that has rooms on its left. Important in this pic is to see the drainage system. There is a outlet from each room which flows into a central exit point.

Entrance to room referred to in earlier pic. Left hand side you see a whole in wall - that was for door to stand. Padmasambhava, a great Buddhist scholar from Nalanda visited Tibet and credited with founding the institution of Lamaism in Tibet.

When you come out of that corridor enter this area. Niche in wall that you see in centre of pic is where an image of Buddha was kept.

Board monastery 1A and 1B.

Let me explain this. Square area has residential cells all around it. In centre you see mouth of well. Holes that you see right in front of pic is where cooking took place. Low one foot wall that you see around courtyard had bases for pillars that probably covered the entire area. U can see pillar base in next pic.

This is the stone based pillars that covered the courtyard referred to in earlier pic.

Board of temple no 3 the most maginificient and important structure. It is known for its design, size, stucco images placed in the niches of the exterior walls of the temple. Decorative solid towers were made in 4 corners but only 2 are visible. Unlike other temples in complex this one is facing North. The pedestal top probably once had a giant image of Buddha. A number of votive stupas and smaller shrines were added around the temple at various points of time of which a chariot shaped shrine near the south-east is worth mentioning.

Pic taken from monastery 4. When I saw this temple thought of the blockbluster Johy Mera Naam which was shot here - Dev Anand and Hema Malini. Right of pic u can see stairs that take you to top of temple. Due to some mishap tourists not permitted to go there. Do walk around the temple to get a understanding of the structure.

This is the west facing side. U can see number of small stupas around the main temple. The Guide will usually not get u here, make excuses, insist he takes u around this temple.

This is the south facing side. U can see number of votive stupas. End of temple wall right hand side you see white tower, u shall see that in next pic. The votive stupas sometimes contain in their core bricks inscriptions with sacred Buddhists texts.

White tower referred to in earlier pic description. U see can see various images inside it. They seem to be in meditative pose, most likely Buddha since we were not allowed to go closer.

View of temple from eastern side. Note tower on left and stupas.

On western side of temple adjoining the wall was this colorful farm. All through my Bihar trip in February found the fields green with signs of prosperity.

If you look straight from the base of temple 3 u see a big garden ahead with some stupa remains.

Another pic of my favourite temple no 3. Area very clean, green and well maintained. Small structure on right of pic has some Buddha images that you shall see in next pic.

These miniature Buddha images were made by a Tibetan visitor Inte Sang said the Guide.

Board outside Monastery no 6. It has brick paved courts at 2 different levels with pillared verandah and cells all around. Each level has a shrine, 32 cells, a well and a west facing entrance. An interesting feature is the 2 sets of double owens in the upper courtyard that was probably used for community cooking.

An overview of courtyard. End of pic you can see cells. Left of pic u can see pillar base. 2 levels of courtyard clearly visible so is well. Holes in centre of pic is also on right side and is the owen in the upper courtyard.

Another view of the same courtyard. U can see the owen, cells, pillar base and well more clearly.

U see board of temple no 12 which is on the opposite side. Temple is facing east built over a raised square platform approachable through a flight of steps. Main temple stands in centre of structure whereas 4 corners are occupied by 4 subsidiary shrines.

U see temple no 12. Note square structure, platform, steps and corner shrines.

Ornamental pillars on which probably stood a shrine. I wish someone could visualise what the original Nalanda was like and show us a movie with computer images.

Board Monastery no 7. Central court of upper two phases are concrete paved whilst earliest one is of brick. It contains a shrine and a oven. Here there are 3 successive monasteries built on the same site, each upon the ruins of a previous one with a similar plan.

Concrete paved area with cells on the sides as you can see. The parapet round the verandah supported pillars on which rested the roof and of which the square bases are visible clearly.

Board Monastery no 8. Has central court with verandah all around, cells for monks and well. Note the imposing central shrine with a court area in front (that you shall see in next pic) .

U see central shrine with courtyard in front and monk cells behind. The shrine must have been covered as you see ruins of pillar base.

Board Monastery no 9. It contains 34 cells being hostels for monks.

An overview of the monastery. U see the cells, well and oven in centre, pillar base right in front of pic.

Another view of monastery no 9 from the opposite side. End of pic centre is ruins of temple no 13.

Board Monastery no 10. This monastery has all the normal features like other ones ie courtyard, well, monks cells, shrine chamber, skylight provision etc. It has some special features which are on the board. Wish the Tourism Dept got proper boards made so that they are easy to read and photograph. These boards made of tin have caught rust and not clear.

U can see monks cells, centre is teacher platform, courtyard etc. Right in front is pillar base.

Board outside Monastery no 11. This had similar features like others like pillared verandah all around, central court, 31 rooms for monks, shrine. Fragements of stone pillars of its verandah, still standing are worth mentioning.

U get an overview of courtyard, monk rooms, shrine etc. A key feature is the presence of no less than 25 fragmentary stone pillars some of which are still standing on their bases on the parapet walls of the verandah at regular intervals of about one metre. The heights of the roofs of the verandah can be guessed from these pillars.

A close up of the shrine on the eastern side with entrance on the west. The shrine was covered and was probably at a higher level than what u see as is indicated by the steps on the right hand side of picture.

Clicked from monastery 4 this gives you an overview of the area between monastery 4 and 11.

I had some problem finding temple 2 till the security guard showed me the way. There is a pathway between monastery nos 7 and 8, which is what u see, that took me to temple 2.

Ruins of temple 2. Temple is on a plinth with probably a central shrine in the centre. Lower level of plinth has some work that you shall see in the next picture.

Of special interest here is the dado (that you see) of 211 sculptured panels over the moulded plinth. A large variety of scenes are depicted for eg Siva Parvati, Karttikeya on his peacock, Gaja-Lakshmi etc.

Can someone help with the description of this n earlier pic. Photo descriptions taken from The History and Culture of the Indian People published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan and locally produced Nalanda booklet.

Ishwar ki kripa see one more dream holiday come true. Visiting Nalanda was a childhood dream. It gave me a very good sense of how students studied and lived in those days. When you exit after seeing the monasteries this is the lovely garden that you walk into.

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