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Nalanda College Revived After 800 Years

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If Xuan Zang, the Seventh-century-ce Chinese language traveler, and Buddhist scholar, had been to go to his beloved alma mater at Nalanda College within the current-day state of Bihar, he’d discover solely a portion of its ruins accessible and excavated. Viewing the uncovered brick buildings, he would have reminiscences of how they had been as soon as pristinely lime-plastered. He would develop into nostalgic as he strolled via the vihara, a Buddhist monastery, the place he lived, studied, and taught. He is likely to be pained to see the stupas of his revered lecturers in dilapidated form, however as a clever man, he would perceive the vicissitudes of time.

Landscape view of today's Nalanda University Guest HouseLandscape view of today's Nalanda University Guest House
Panorama view of at the moment’s College Visitor Home

Sprawling, redesigned Nalanda College campus is now open for college kids and college

He would see individuals he thought he knew, however they weren’t the scholars and lecturers he remembered. Slightly, they had been guests from world wide—reminiscent of there had been in his time as properly.

Based in 427 CE as a Buddhist monastic college, Nalanda was purportedly the world’s first residential faculty, at one time drawing as many as 10,000 college students from throughout Asia.

The college, which reopened in 2014, was based throughout the Gupta Empire. The Hindu Gupta monarchs acknowledged the energy and worth of Buddhist mental inquiry. Nalanda actually means “the giver of data,” and the college is credited with having nurtured the best Buddhist students. After learning there, Xuan Zang carried 657 Sanskrit texts again to China, translated them, and contributed to the event of Buddhism in China. The college flourished, surviving two assaults, proper as much as the Pala dynasty within the twelfth century, till its remaining demise by Turko-Afghan invaders.

The open-air auditorium at Nalanda UniversityThe open-air auditorium at Nalanda University
The open-air auditorium on the College

Xuan Zang Traveler & Scholer

Xuan Zang can be sorrowful to understand how his college, with its library of 9 million books, had been ransacked and burned for 3 months. However he would acquire solace from the sight of the sprawling new Nalanda College campus within the metropolis of Rajgir, simply south of the Nalanda ruins. He would see how the event of this new college takes inspiration from his personal campus. Xuan Zang, avid traveler, and thinker that he was, would simply journey the currents of time and settle for that what lies earlier than him may very well be a brand new manifestation of his college, this one belonging to the twenty first century and growing the minds of recent college students so they may contribute to the current instances.

Do learn: Bihar Handicrafts to Purchase as Souvenirs

Campus Infrastructure and Design of Nalanda College

I arrived on campus within the late night, passing via a gate designed to resemble a chaitya—a excessive roof with a particular rounded profile. As we accomplished the entry formalities, the close by stupa started to endure a mesmerizing transformation of colours. I used to be struck by the great thing about the lighting round me. Lit buildings had been mirrored in ponds. I handed the Indian flag fluttering proudly on prime of a 108-foot pole as I used to be led to a trendy guesthouse. The workers took nice care to determine for me the varied buildings we handed.

Academic spine view at Nalanda UniveristyAcademic spine view at Nalanda Univeristy
Panorama view of Tutorial Backbone
Guided Tour

The next morning, I used to be handled to a guided tour by Dr. Mir Islam and Manoj Ji, each integral members of the engineering staff answerable for establishing the campus. With its quite a few ponds, the realm proved to be an idyllic setting for an early morning stroll. The campus structure, characterised by the weird shapes and uncovered crimson brick buildings, exuded an environment of nostalgia, mystique, and intrigue.

Manoj pointed to what regarded like inverted gray stupas throughout a pond. As I used to be naturally anticipating stupas on a campus impressed by a Buddhist vihara, I requested, “For what motive are the stupas inverted?” He defined that they weren’t stupas in any respect, however moderately amphitheater lecture rooms with rising seating capability to sit down as you go up. He requested me to deal with the unfavorable area between the stupas after which I caught on. A meditating Buddha sat within the center. It occurred to me that such imaginative play with area is what we frequently miss in trendy Indian structure.


We reached two crimson brick pavilions erected beside one other physique of water. These buildings resembled medieval Baradari, the 12-door open courtyards that we see in lots of royal buildings round India. However the comparability ended there once I realized how these buildings stand on water storage tanks, part of the College’s distinctive water administration system. The campus makes use of the age-old native conventional system of water administration referred to as ahar-pyne. Water runs via a sequence of channels referred to as pyne, which hook up with retention ponds referred to as ahar.

Classrooms and water tank in the campusClassrooms and water tank in the campus
Lecture rooms and water tank within the campus

Prior to now, this method helped the area to resist unpredictable floods and droughts. I used to be reminded of the same system I had seen on the Kanheri Caves in Mumbai, the place stone-carved water tanks turned crammed to the brim with rainwater, which then ran to a tank at a decrease degree. Sringaverpur in Uttar Pradesh has the same historic tank system that shops extra water from the Ganga throughout the wet season. Right here on the Nalanda campus, the water administration system supplies water not just for on a regular basis use however for ongoing constructing functions as properly.

Do learn: Darbhanga, Bihar Locations to go to

Water Our bodies

In the event you had been to construct a brand new college campus, what can be the important thing parts or options of its infrastructure and design? I might have cherished to watch the primary conferences of those that deliberate the brand new Nalanda. I prefer to think about them writing with old style chalk on a giant blackboard: “Water.” Water can be foreseen to be essential for the longer term, and college students who will form the world should perceive its worth.

The campus is unfold over 455 acres, gifted by the federal government of Bihar in 2011. Forty hectares—roughly 100 acres—of the campus space is water. The truth is, campus development started with excavating ponds in order that water for development exercise may very well be retained. With 100% rainwater assortment, the campus can meet the water necessities of 5,000 individuals with ample buffer for 18 months. Handled wastewater is recycled for flushing or landscaping via a devoted provide community.

No Floor Water

No groundwater is used on the campus—a big achievement for long-term sustainability targets. Moreover, native and aquatic crops will likely be launched to make sure pure air purification and to make the campus local weather resilient. In a couple of years, one ought to have the ability to see orchards of native fruit timber reminiscent of mangos.

The campus’s designers may need additionally brainstormed round “earth.” Throughout excavation, the highest, fertile layer of soil was preserved for horticulture functions. The mud was used to construct roads in addition to compressed blocks for buildings.

The tall brick buildings, tapering in the direction of the highest, resemble the gopurams of South Indian temples. Manoj ji confirmed that they’re certainly impressed by gopurams and there are as many as 108 of them unfold throughout the campus. As well as, there are 4 stupas and 22 chhatris, or cenotaph-like buildings. Even utility buildings like water tanks had been offered a personality by being coated by crimson bricks. “So many bricks!” I exclaimed, pondering of the horrors of brick kiln air pollution.

Do learn: Bihar Museum, Patna – 10 Should-see issues

Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks

However I used to be advised these should not frequent burnt clay bricks, however moderately Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB) which are created in situ utilizing native soil. The soil is dampened, blended with a chemical binder reminiscent of Portland cement, mechanically pressed at excessive stress, after which dried. These are economical, non-toxic, resistant to fireplace, bugs, mould, and sound, and are recognized for higher thermal management for exterior temperature adjustments.

Photo voltaic and different different energies had been additionally built-in into the campus design. On the fringe of the campus is a 20-acre photo voltaic park that may generate as much as 6.5 MW of electrical energy. Diagonal photo voltaic panels are unfold out to benefit from the plentiful sunshine. This park can produce ample vitality to maintain the entire campus. Waste generated on the campus, together with horticulture waste, is transformed into vitality utilizing a bio-methanation digester. Photo voltaic vitality is used throughout the daytime, and biomass-generated electrical energy is used at night time. When the campus is absolutely occupied by its deliberate 5,000 individuals, the waste generated will give ample biomass vitality, the second renewable supply of vitality.

Nalanda University, Rajgir lit up at nightNalanda University, Rajgir lit up at night
Nalanda College, Rajgir lit up at night time

Kamal Sagar

Kamal Sagar or “tutorial backbone” was to me essentially the most stunning a part of the campus. Right here you see a row of stupas subsequent to a pond, with a serene open-air amphitheater in crimson stone. The linear placement of the stupas brings to my thoughts a caravanserai. However essentially the most intriguing buildings are those who intersperse the stupas and amphitheater and appear like tall UFOs or umbrellas. These are open mini-amphitheaters for the scholars to work together. Every has a barely totally different design—some are approached via a staircase from the bottom, whereas others are entered from the highest. Every has concentric steps on which college students or lecturers can sit whereas engaged in group discussions.


I discover the design good—you’ve personal area, but you’re out within the open, within the parts of nature.

A round construction with a stupa-like roof is a chanting room. Its acoustics enable chants to reverberate; I might solely think about how the collective chanting resounds inside the room and sends particular vitality far past.

Even the extra conventional blocks of lecture rooms present innovation. On the Nalanda ruins, you may see the totally different layers of development stretching again greater than 700 years. Pyramidic staircases climb at the moment’s tutorial buildings, reflecting historic foundations constructed upon much more historic foundations. Most progressive are the interiors, with state-of-the-art interactive lecture rooms that make use of the most recent in digital know-how.

The open-air mini theaters in the campusThe open-air mini theaters in the campus
The open-air mini theaters within the campus

After protecting loads of floor, my tour ends with buildings nonetheless below development. Considered one of these is a 2,000-seat auditorium; the opposite, in a round form, will develop into a multi-floor library. I’m wondering if sooner or later the library will likely be as spectacular as its predecessor. All its books will likely be RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) enabled, making it actually belong to the twenty first century.

Whereas massive campuses usually have one or two buildings that may be labeled as “inexperienced,” Nalanda College has 200 sustainably inexperienced buildings. Using rising applied sciences, the campus design embraces the very philosophy that the college needs to ship out into the world—educating concord with nature and fellow human beings. Following my tour, I want to study in regards to the concepts the campus will generate via the courses in its distinctive eco-friendly areas. What are the themes to be taught, and who decides upon them?

Do learn: Information to Madhubani Work from Mithila

Goal and Mission – Nalanda College

In 2006, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the visionary former president of India, proposed re-establishing the traditional Nalanda College. Across the similar time, serendipitously, Singapore despatched a proposal to the Indian authorities to revive Nalanda. The subsequent yr, the then sixteen member international locations of the East Asia Summit endorsed the proposal to rebuild Nalanda College and thereby re-establish their conventional ties throughout Asia. The varied member international locations at the moment had been Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

What a uncommon scenario it’s that sixteen international locations would come collectively, readily sharing a standard imaginative and prescient and dedicated to realizing it! A mentors group was established with the well-known economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as its head, and in 2009 extra member states joined the Summit. Whereas India remained the lead participant in establishing the college, member states contributed endowment funds for numerous packages. Australia, for instance, gave assist to the College of Ecology and Environmental Research for a interval of three years.


Think about you had been taking part in a mentor group, establishing the departments and programs for a brand new worldwide college. I might have preferred to pay attention to the discussions about the place to offer emphasis. The outdated Nalanda was well-known for Buddhist philosophy, arithmetic, astronomy, and anatomy. It additionally had programs within the effective arts and the artwork of struggle. At present, which programs might carry distinctive data from Asia to the entire world—a world that struggles with so many points associated to peace, well being, ecology, poverty, equal alternative, and extra?

One of many college’s mandates is “to contribute to the promotion of regional peace and imaginative and prescient by bringing collectively future leaders of East Asia, who by relating it to their previous historical past, can improve understanding of one another’s views and share that globally.” Professor Sunaina Singh, former Vice Chancellor of the college, defined to me {that a} core worth of Nalanda College is character constructing in order that college students can contribute to a peaceable and tolerant society sooner or later.


Whereas the training is tutorial, it additionally emphasizes the understanding of religions that belong to the Indian subcontinent. There are grasp’s and PhD packages in Buddhist research, philosophy, and comparative religions, and masters in Hindu research.

What’s enticing to college students, most of whom are working towards an MA or PhD, is the inter-disciplinary strategy permitting them to select and select programs from a menu of topics, moderately than comply with a prescribed course of examine. This strategy is rooted within the historic data methods wherein Shruti, Smriti, Vedanta, Purana, and Itihasa texts weave collectively numerous forms of data. Such fluidity between totally different streams of examine encourages pondering out of the field and leads college students to be extra progressive, inventive, and humanistic in no matter they finally select to do.

An engineer can select to do his masters in historical past or a physician can select to do a masters in Hindu Research or world literature. You possibly can drop the bags of your previous research, though the minimal qualification clauses as talked about on the web site for numerous programs do apply. Whereas the system is useful for college kids who might wish to change streams, all college students will discover their paths invigorated by a cross-pollination of concepts.


Memorandums of understanding with main universities in member international locations in addition to different main institutes world wide encourage additional range in thought. Nalanda College just lately joined the launch of AINU, the ASEAN-India Community of Universities, establishing very important linkages between premier establishments within the area. School alternate, scholar alternate, and joint analysis are key actions of this consortium. I see AINU as a key initiative of India’s “Look East” and now “Act East” coverage that seeks better collaboration between Asian international locations with frequent cultural ties.

Do learn: Locations to go to in and round Patna

School and College students at Nalanda College

Whereas the college has set its priorities when it comes to topics, it faces a giant problem in attracting extremely certified school from metropolitan cities to come back to show within the distant city of Rajgir. Bihar nonetheless carries the notion of being backward, with few trendy amenities, and there are security issues. With medical amenities restricted—a small well being heart operates on campus—not many wish to transfer right here with their households or go away them behind. However studying from the times of the lockdowns, the college has launched on-line courses with the intention to entry prime school from world wide.

Additionally it is introducing small programs for which they will invite visiting school to be on campus for shorter durations. In April 2023, famous economist Arvind Panagariya was appointed chancellor, and little doubt he will likely be constructing a powerful school within the years to come back.


Scholar enrollment is one other concern, nevertheless it has been rising steadily for the reason that College opened in 2014. Professor Singh identified that whereas most universities and institutes want time and sources to construct a powerful model, Nalanda College has a legacy branding of being a Vishwa Guru, the data chief of the world. Presently, there are 800-1,000 college students, 80 % of whom are worldwide. The primary batch of scholars arrived on the makeshift campus in 2014. By 2019, the brand new campus was operational with its first 5 buildings. At present, college students from over 30 international locations are learning.

Round 250 of them, enrolled in Masters and PhD packages, stay on campus, whereas the remaining examine remotely in short-term programs.

College students

At an on-campus, semi-open-air café I approached college students engaged in casual discussions. They advised me they recognize the calm atmosphere that permits one to assume and ponder. I concur. I’m a stressed individual by nature, particularly when touring, wanting to maneuver round and expertise and see as a lot as attainable. However on the Nalanda campus, I needed to sit down and take into consideration the that means of my work and the way it impacts the world round me. In a pure setting, distanced from the enterprise of metropolis life, you may focus.

I spoke to a scholar from Türkiye learning Buddhism with the purpose of understanding philosophies of world religions, with a purpose of constructing a profession in a not-so-popular topic in her nation. She was clearly benefitting from the liberty to pursue her pursuits in a supportive atmosphere.

Do learn: Mithila’s Madhubani artist Ganga Devi & her work

College students Ideas

College students advised me they recognize that the college is so accessible, in distinction to college in different establishments. Some professors taught throughout late evenings as a substitute of the same old educating hours. After all, some college students had been lonely or bored, however I think about over time they are going to recognize the open area and calm for thought and studying that Nalanda College supplies. College students have many choices for recreation. Some had been taking part in badminton, and an enormous sports activities complicated was nearing completion. I questioned if there is likely to be a examine that bridges the traditional bodily disciplines like Kalaripatayu martial arts and Hatha Yoga with trendy video games like soccer and tennis.


Most college students stay on campus in a superbly designed hostel. Two dormitories remind you of those who you see at Nalanda ruins, however they’ve modern-day amenities. Because the campus is provided with radio frequency antennas, the scholars have steady wifi. In a state-of-the-art eating room, beneath an enormous hanging globe, college students take pleasure in cuisines from world wide. Above, conical-shaped roofs acquire rainwater that runs via channels hid inside pillars out to the bottom and surrounding water our bodies.

This water system helps preserve the buildings cool, lowering the necessity for air-con by not less than 30 %, via what is known as the Desiccant Enhanced Evaporative (DEVAP) know-how. Moreover, thick cavity partitions inside a double-skin envelope assist to retain warmth throughout winters and preserve coolness throughout summers—a form of pure thermal insulation.

Do learn: Barabar Caves – First ever caves of India in Bihar

Choices for Aspiring College students of Nalanda College

Nalanda is completely a graduate college, at present providing grasp’s programs and physician of philosophy packages. The tutorial framework accommodates Foundational, Bridge, Superior, and Specialised programs that target rising analysis domains and India-ASEAN interconnections. It consists of programs on languages, Nalanda heritage, geo-informatics, biodiversity and conservation, Buddhist research, comparative faith, ecology and environmental research, historic research, masters in administration streams, world literature, and Hindu Research.

There are devoted facilities for Bay of Bengal Research, Frequent Archival Useful resource, and Battle Decision and Peace Research, making a complete of six faculties and 12 tutorial packages.


The College of Buddhist Research, Philosophy, and Comparative Religions provides a grasp’s diploma and Ph.D. packages in Buddhist Research, Philosophy, and Comparative Religions, together with a grasp’s in Sanatana Hindu Research. This places the college amongst only a handful in India that supply Hindu programs.

There may be particular emphasis on the examine of Buddhist concepts and values in relation to different philosophical and spiritual traditions. The broader social-historical-cultural contexts of the event of Buddhist traditions are examined via an progressive and interdisciplinary curriculum.

The College of Ecology and Surroundings Research, the primary college at Nalanda College, has provided a grasp’s course since August 2014. It goals to advertise training and analysis on the interactions between the pure atmosphere and human actions. The College of Historic Research provides a grasp’s diploma together with elective programs.

Do learn: Vaishali, Bihar – Birthplace of Lord Mahaveer

Languages and Literature/Humanities

The College of Languages and Literature/Humanities provides a grasp’s diploma in World Literature together with diploma and certificates programs in languages like English, Korean, Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan. An MBA in sustainable improvement is obtainable by the College of Administration, with an purpose to be a worldwide chief in accountable administration.

The minimal standards for looking for enrollment is 55% or 2.2/4.0 GPA or equal in an undergraduate diploma. College students coming from any stream can apply for any program, however might not apply for greater than two packages. Be taught extra about this and different elements at nalandauniv.edu.in.

My Takeaways

The brand new Nalanda College has a powerful legacy to comply with, however most vital is the way it turns into related to present and future generations. Whereas the inspiration for a data move rooted in Asian tradition and thought comes from the traditional college, the brand new college caters to the longer term wants of societies inside and past Asia. This uncommon campus, conceived with nice care, exhibits the way in which ahead when it comes to the conservation of water, earth, and vitality.

The tutorial design has each potential to nurture generations of scholars who’re each robust of their fields and devoted to the well-being of the world. If solely Xuan Zang, famend for his writings about his in depth travels within the Seventh century, might write about his time journey to the current Nalanda. I might want to learn his commentary. I consider he’d notice the challenges that the college faces however commend the imaginative and prescient and severe effort shared by the East Asia member states. He would possibly want to sit in on courses to ruminate about topics new to him or to supply recommendation on educating the themes about which he is aware of greatest. Of the campus and its know-how, he’d be in awe.

Do learn: Bodh Gaya – The place Buddha achieved enlightenment

Historic Nalanda

I visited the ruins of historic Nalanda a few years in the past earlier than it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Web site. Once I revisited it after my tour of Nalanda College, a comparability between the 2 was pure. The outdated college has a vihara-style structure. There are rows of lecture rooms with a temple or a stupa and a platform for the instructor. These viharas are surrounded by rooms much like trendy dorms—a row of rooms. Every has a capability to accommodate as much as two college students. Within the new Nalanda College, you don’t see the identical forms of temples, however the open-air mini amphitheaters recreate the aura of the traditional ruins.

Reverence for Nalanda

On the Nalanda ruins I encountered a bunch of monks from Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. Their reverence for Nalanda revealed its significance within the Buddhist world. No surprise there are such a lot of guests to the monuments and so many college students coming from universities throughout Asia. The resurrection of Nalanda College will definitely carry peoples of the japanese area collectively to share a standard ethos. The Archaeological Survey of India’s website museum showcases murtis excavated from the traditional website. You possibly can view outdated photographs of the excavation subsequent to the objects on show. One of many objects that captured my curiosity was a pot with a number of openings used for Naga worship.

It’s clear from the numerous historic monuments, temples, and artifacts within the area how India’s three historic religions Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism flourished right here. For hundreds of years, Nalanda had attracted the best students on the planet, pushing the boundaries of human data and understanding. Now the wealthy story of Nalanda, for a time interrupted, is poised to proceed. Could Nalanda stay the vacation spot of data seekers, a middle of spirituality, and the origin of vital thought that advantages all of the world.

This text by Anuradha Goyal was initially revealed within the Hinduism At present.

That is an edited model.


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