Nalanda Archaeological MuseumThe Nalanda Archaeological Museum that came into being in 1917 includes the relics of the old Nalanda University and offers an insight into the art and architecture of Gupta and Pala periods. Maintained by Archaeological Society of India (ASI) it houses the antiquities mainly those excavated from Nalanda and Rajgir. Nalanda which was the earliest university cum monastery complex has is spread in acres and has reveled many layers of in-habitation during excavations.
The museum is situated in front of the ruins of the Nalanda University and boasts of rare and beautiful collection of Buddha's bronze statues, copper plates, manuscripts, stone inscriptions, pottery, coins and images of various Gods & Goddesses. Majority of the sculptures excavated from Nalanda have been carved on Basalt stone but some are made of stone, bronzes, stucco, terracotta etc.
Galleries in Nalanda Archaeological MuseumThe Museum has four galleries. Out of the 13463 excavated antiquities, 349 are on display in the four galleries of the museum. Dating between 5th to 12th century AD antiquities from Nalanda are of great historical importance. In addition to a number of Buddhist images, there are also images belonging to Jain and Hindu religion. In the central place of the main hall, an artistic scale model of the Nalanda university ruins is the main highlight and draws huge crowds. There are sixteen sculptures in the key gallery, prominent among them include Samantbhadra, Parshvanath, Nagaraj, Buddha in Varad, Dharmachakra and Bhumisparsh posture, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya. The descriptions of the various galleries are as given.
First GalleryThe fifty seven images and sculptures displayed in this gallery include Hindu gods and goddesses like Surya, Kuber, Lakshmi, Shiva-Parvati, Ganesh and Rishabhanath. Among the Buddhist sculptures those of Heruka, Khasarpana,Vagesvari, Marichi, Buddha in varad mudra are the significant ones.
Second GalleryThis gallery has a huge collection of about One hundred fifty objects including stuccos, terracotta images, iron implements, seals and inscriptions. The is a teracotta seal with legend “Sri Nalanda Mahavihariya arya bhikshu sanghasya”, inscribed in it, is the special feature of this gallery. Nalanda University Seal. One can find stone inscriptions of Yashovarmana, terracotta tiles showing swastika and kirtimukha imprints and Dharmachakra, fragmentary tablet of Nidanasutta, Votive Stupas in pipal leaf motiff and sample of charred rice at the gallery. You can also find a bizzare multi spouted pot found from the mountains of Rajgir at the gallery.
Third GalleryIn the third gallery altogether ninety-three specimens of bronzes have been displayed. Two images of Buddha in boon giving posture, Tara, Loknath, Prajnaparmita, Bodhisattava padmapani depiction of a Buddhist temple, etc. are some important images related to Buddhist faith. Another popular image is of Lord Buddha in earth touching posture that has been kept preserved in this gallery. These are evidences, proving that a majority of people in Nalanda were followers of the Buddhist faith. The gallery also consists of images of Surya, Ganesh, Indrani, Kamadeva and Vishnu etc. belonging to the Brahmanical religion.
Fourth GalleryThere are about thirty-six stone sculptures and images in this gallery. Kinnaras worshiping kalpadrum (2 panels), Vishnu, crowned Buddha in preaching pose with important events of his life, Buddha in Bhumisparsh-mudhra with eight events Vajrapni, Marichi and Padmapani Bodhisattvas are the special highlights of this gallery.
One can also spot two enormous terracotta jars in intact condition at the shaded enclosure of the museum. A large number of stone sculptures and images, terracotta, bronzes and other antiquarian objects are preserved in its reserve collection. There is a Tibetan style bell outside the museum. Also there is a beautiful lush green garden adjoining the museum inside the complex, where the tourists love to take a stroll.
How to reach Nalanda Archaeological Museum ?Nalanda has a well-organized transport network connecting it to all major destinations. One can take any shared auto or bus from Rajgir to Bihar sharif and get down at Nalanda circle (about 10 km). From Nalanda circle, catch any tonga or riskshaw for remaining 3 km to Nalanda archaeological museum opposite Nalanda University Ruins.
Timings and Entry FeesOpening Hours: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
Closed on – Friday
Entrance Fee : Rs. 2/- per head (Free for children, under 15 years)
Thus a stroll around the Archaeological museum feels like revisiting the great ancient university before it was mercilessly destroyed. The sculptures and images in this museum speak volumes about the golden era- an era when India was the leading center, imparting knowledge to thousands of students from all over the world, whereas other countries were still in their initial stages of development. The existence of this museum proves the fact that the great temple of learning- Nalanda University is indeed immortal and cannot be destroyed by mere physical actions.