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Sunday, 15 May 2011





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Nalanda: Crest jewel of education

The monastic Indian Universities like Nalanda, Vikramasila, Jaggaddala, Vickramapuri and Odantapuri became not only great universities, but also cultural centres of repute, which influenced the whole of Asia, and through it, the mental life of humankind.

Out of all these Universities or seats of learning in ancient India, the Crest Jewel was the University of Nalanda.

In the southern east of Patna, the capital ancient city of Pataliputra, there is a village known as Bada Gaon. In close proximity to this village, there lies the renowned and famous ruins of the world's leading university - Nalanda.

It is an educational institution that provides instructions and facilities for research in many branches of advanced learning, and confers degrees to its members collectively.

The first European University was Salerno in Italy, established in the 9th century, followed by Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Cambridge in the 12th century. St. Andrews the first Scottish university was founded in 1411, and Trinity College, Dublin in 1591.

The oldest universities in the U.S.A. are all private Harvard-1636, William and Mary - 1693, Yale - 1701, Pennasylvana - 1741, and Princenton - 1746. There are many universities in the world.

In Sri Lanka the leading universities are University of Peradeniya, Colombo, Sri Jayawardenapura, Moratuwa and Kelaniya. The largest Buddhist University of Asia Nalanda was founded in the 5th century A.D. According to the available records, there were 10,000 students and about 2,000 lecturers, Professors, Deans of various Faculties, including Medicine, Law, Arts, Languages, Management, Engineering Astronomy, Astrology to name a few faculties.

Then there were cultural studies, Humanities, Sociology, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Degree in sciences etc. Various philosophers, thinkers and political leaders were regularly invited as guest speakers. Debating, Literary activities and Fine Arts added colour to this ancient University - Nalanda.

To be an Alumini at the University or to be an undergraduate of Nalanda was very rare honour. Nalanda was the first Residential International University in the world. the Nalanda University flourished from the 5th to the 12th century.

This great seat of learning, university of Nalanda, was destroyed and about 12,000 undergraduates, lecturers. erudite scholars were killed by Muslim invaders led by Bakthiyar Balaji. According to the Buddhist traditions and literature, the Buddha visited Nalanda when he was residing at Pavarika Mango Grove. One of the ten major disciples of the blessed one, foremost in wisdom. Sariputta born in close proximity to the great university Nalanda, a village called Nalakagama. In a University, it is the Vice-Chancellors, Academics and Lecturers, Professors and students that matter. For example, even today, some of the past graduates in Sri Lanka, proudly mention the names of their Vice-Chancellors of repute Sir Ivor Jennigns, Sir Nicholas Attygalle, Dr. Walpola Rahula and their Professors and Lecturers. Even in the ancient University of Nalanda, there were many erudite scholars and Professors of the calibre of Nagarjune, - the Mahayana Philosopher, Dinnaga the dean, the founder of the School of Logic and Dharmapala, the great Brahmin Scholar who taught specialized disciplines. According to writings found, the Chinese traveller and scholar Hiuen-Tsian, I Ching too were scholars of the university.

The excavations I witnessed at the ancient University site is amazing. The structures of stupas, monastery, hostels, stair cases, Meditation Halls, Lecture Halls, Library, archaeological remains speaks volumes of splendour and grandeur of this ancient university of Nalanda. It was one of the greatest seats of learning in the world.

The great Buddhist Monastery/ University Nalanda, was located seven miles to the North of Rajgir in Bihar, India. In ancient times, as a centre of Buddhist study, particularly of Madhyamika Philosophy, prospered from the fifth (5) through twelfth (12) centuries. Nalanda University was founded by Kumaragupta (414 - 455) King of Gupta Dynasty known as Shakraditya.

Thereafter, the Monastery was enlarged during the late Gupta Period. Buddhist University in India, founded by Sakraditya, King of Magadha.

Harshavardhana of Kanauj - 606-647 AD, a great patron of Buddhism, donated revenue of hundred villages for the maintenance of this great seat of learning - Nalanda.

According to the records the Baberic invaders when destroying this Crest Jewel of Education - University of Nalanda, burned down the most complete library in the world containing the rare books in Asia.

It was believed that the fire of the library covered the skies continuously for more than three to six months. This gives an indication of the number of books that were there, when it went on flames - a great tragedy - probably the worst in the world.

It is evident that the University of Nalanda was greatly influenced by Mahayana Philosophy. During the reign of Pala rulers 8th - 12th century, era, University of Nalanda rose to great heights, prosperty and fame. One of the luminaries of the university Padmasambhava, went to Tibet and found Tantrism there. The great monastic University - Nalanda Mahavihara was the Crown Jewel in the development of Buddhism in India. Probably, our own Mahaviharaya of Anuradhapura period must also be considered as a seat of learning.



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