Ruins of Nalanda UniversityNalanda once a seat of knowlede today is a most visited tourist destination in Bihar. It represents rich ancient legacy and dates back to fifth century AD. Located about 88 kilometres of Patna this religious center of learning was built by the Gupta emperors in the fifth century.The place rose into prominence as a great monastic-cum-educational institution for oriental art and learning and attracted students even from distant parts of the world. Various subjects like theology, astronomy, grammar, metaphysics, logic, medicine, philosophy etc were taught here.
Some of the great intellectuals associated with the Nalanda University include Nagarjuna, Asanga, Aryadeva, Suvishnu, Vasubandhu, Silabhadra, Dharmakirti, Shantarakshita and the Chinese travellers Hiuen-Tsang and I-Tsing. They have described the monasteries and shrines at Nalanda in their travelogues, translated into various languages. However this learning center was destroyed by the fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turkish invader in the year 1193, leading the loss of many valuable scientific and religious manuscripts. It is said that the vast library, a treasurehouse of manuscripts continued to burn for several months.
Excavation of Nalanda RuinsExcavation over an area of 14 hectares have so far unearthed a number of monasteries running north to south. In the complex, the buildings are divided by a central walkway that goes south to north, A row of built in temples face these monasteries. In the centre, a small stupa built of half-baked bricks made of earth mixed with straw and rice, the remnants of a 24 metre high clay statue of Buddha and beautiful wall paintings of human and animal figures have been excavated recently. The stupa of Sariputta, the foremost of the disciples of Lord Buddha is mostly seen in all the images of Nalanda. Many sculptures and images of Buddha in different postures, Vishnu, Siva-Parvati, Ganesha, Surya etc have been unearthed from the ruins.
Remains of monasteries unearthed from the site
Monastery no 1The excavations at Nalanda have unearthed the remain of this monastery which is considered to be the foremost among the group of monasteries as it reveals nine layers of occupation evident from the superimposed structures, drains and floors. The lower monastery was supposed to be a hostel for the monks.
Monastery no 3
This temple has seven phases of construction and is larger in comparison to the other structures. A number of stupas and miniature shrines have been constructed around this temple by the devotees at the different points of time.
Monastery no 4It has about twenty cells for the monks with a beautiful shrine in the middle.
Monastery no 5This monastery does not conform to the nature and is different in structure compared to other monasteries. It is connected to Monastery No 4 by means of a large winding staircase.
Monastery no 6From the top of this monastery, one can get a glimpse of the whole area. A special feature of this monastery is the two sets of double ovens in the upper courtyard which might have been used for community cooking or for some practical demonstrations to the students.
Monastery no 8This one is similar to other monasteries it has common features like verandah all around and the cells for the monks, well, shrine in the middle Modern concrete lintels have replaced age-old wooden lintels for the sake of conservation.
Monastery no 9Almost similar to other monasteries in size and plan it has thirty four cells that serve as a hostel for monks. The court contains a well, six ovens and drain for disposal of water.
Monastery no 10What makes this monastery unique lies in its structure. Central Court and entrance fro the west are two important feature of this complex. During excavation shrine chamber, cells for monks, veranda, court, staircase and skylight provision etc. also came into light. But some structures like the arched door opening of rooms, a massive wall in place of pillars, a platform like structure with stairs and a cistern like structure interior veneered with flag stones are worth mentioning.
Monastery no 11This monastery is known for features that includes central court, thirty rooms, pillared veranda, provision for skylight and staircase and entrance towards the west.
Monastery no 12It contains remains of temple which is adorned with beautiful designs and patterns.The temple stands in the center while four corners are occupied by four subsidiary shrines containing the remnants of stucco image installed on pedestal.
How to Reach ? 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 site, for about Rs.30.
Timings and Entry FeesEntry Fee: Rs 5 for Indians, Rs 100 for foreigners, Rs 25 for video camera
Visiting Hours: 09:00 AM to 5:30 PM (Or Sunset whichever is earlier)
Even after so many years after destruction, tourists are left speechless by the vivid impression of serene and ordered life and learning that once prevailed in the ancient India, evident from the university ruins. A walk through the university ruins feels like visiting India’s centuries old history and its glorious past. This temple of learning is immortal as it carries the rich history, tradition and culture of a great nation- a nation that one must be proud to be associated with.