Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Historical evidence shows that that Nalanda was a great Buddhist centre and a center of learning. Today, Nalanda is a part of the Budhist circuit, i.e. all the destinations that were associated with the life of Lord Buddha.
The University of Nalanda, established during Gupta Period, was a center of international repute and a residential university more than ten thousand students. Students from various parts of the world come to Nalanda to study Buddhism, Vedas, Logic, Grammar, Medicine, Meta-Physics, Prose Composition and Rhetoric. Students from China, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Java, and Sumatra would come and study here at the University of Nalanda. The university was involved mainly in research and deep study of intrinsic truth.
The library of the university had a huge collection of literature and books, which according to some scriptures numbered 9 million volumes. The remnants of the university are scattered in an area of some 14 hectares even now. The fact itself shows that the university was flourishing in a large area and catered the need of a huge section of the students.
Chinese traveler Hsuan Tsang, who came here as faculty lived for some twelve years and taught at the university, describes the versatility of the university. Though a large part of the university has been explored, a huge portion remains unexcavated. It is believed that the Nalanda University could accommodate 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers easily. The famous Chinese traveler describes that the university had such a wonderful scholars that each was outshining another.
Later on a monument was built at the place in 12th century AD. Later, invaders destroyed the whole university and burnt the entire campus including the manuscripts. The whole knowledge was in this way was destroyed by the Turkish invader Bakhtiar Khilji. Some of the rare collections are left and can be found in the museum.
Indian government has tried its best to restore the ancient glory of the place, and in this effort in the year 1951 an international center for Buddhist studies was founded. The centre is also accompanied by another modern institution located at the same place- the Nava Nalanda Mahavir Research. The institute houses some of the rare manuscripts.
Hiuen Tsang Memorial At Nalanda
Hiuen Tsang Memorial is one of the major tourist attractions in Nalanda. Hiuen Tsang Memorial is erected in the memory of the famous Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang. During the glorious days of Nalanda University, Hiuen Tsang came to study Buddhism and mysticism in India. He came in India in 633 AD i.e. during the Gupta period and stayed at Nalanda University for twelve years. He traveled the whole India during his stay at Nalanda.
Acharya Shil Bhadra was his teacher from whom he learned Yoga at the place of the present memorial hall. Later on when the memorial hall was destroyed another construction was done at the same spot in the memory of Hiuen Tsang. Hiuen Tsang was a compulsive traveler; he traveled extensively the whole of India. He visited Takshashila, which was a Buddhist center of learning for further extension of dimension of his learning.
According to a legend, Hiuen Tsiang's visit to Nalanda Mahavihara was towards the fulfillment of his life-long wishes. He ever wanted to study in India and learn Buddhism. He appreciated Indian hospitality and ambience for study and profound learning. He learned Buddhism and Yoga from Shilabhadra and Buddhabhadra. Both the teachers who taught him were of great intelligence and Hiuen Tsang learned a lot of things from them. Study of medicine, crafts, linguistic, and craft was done at the famous university.
Hiuen Tsang returned to China in 645 AD and he opted for the same route which route has had come from. On his way to China he lost many crucial documents which were highly relevant for Buddhist studies. On his way to China he stayed at Kusha and Kashghar monasteries and collected some documents and information relevant for Buddhism which he had lost in Indus River. On his return to China, the emperor built a pagoda at the southern gate of the Hogn-Fu temple in Si-gan-fu and entire collection of Hiuen Tsang was kept and protected in it.
Hiuen Tsang had collected relics, golden and sandalwood statues of Lord Buddha, 224 books of the sutras, 192 Shastras, 15 works of the Sthavira schools, 67 books of the Sarvastivada school, and 17 works of the Kasyapiya school to take to China. After seeing Hiuen Tsang, Chinese emperor got upset because of his learning of different religion. Later on the king accepted him and gave him royal welcome in the capital of the state and built a library to keep all the documents gathered by Hiuen Tsang in it, which are relevant source of history writing of Buddhism
Heritage and culture are something which every nation is proud of. Each civilized country in the world has tried to preserve its heritage and the sources from which history of the nation is sketched upon in museums. India too has a great heritage, and university at Nalanda is one such heritage which needs care and preservation. Keeping all these things in mind government of India in the year 1917 established Nalanda Archeological Museum at Nalanda. The museum houses the antiques found at the excavated site at Nalanda University which is in ruins since twelfth century AD.
Nalanda Archeological Museum has a collection of more than 13463 antiques. Out of these 349 are on display in the four galleries of the museum. These antiques found in Nalanda date back to fifth century. Since the university was vandalized by the Turkish invaders in twelfth century, all the collection is of before twelfth century.
The antiques that have been found at Nalanda including sculptures of stone, bronze, stucco, and terracotta have been kept in Nalanda Museum. The main gallery of the museum shows sixteen sculptures inclusive of Trailokya Vijay, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya, and Buddha in Varad, Dharmachakra and Bhumisparsh posture, Samantbhadra, Parshvanath and Nagaraj. The huge collection of the antique products kept here shows that Buddhism had great influence in and around the region and people followed Dhamma.
The museum at the third gallery displays some ninety-three specimens of bronze sculpture including two images of Buddha in boon giving posture, Tara, Prajnaparmita, Loknath, Bodhisattava padmapani. Another sculpture shows Lord Buddha in earth touching posture at Nalanda Museum. Other than these the images of Lord Ganesh, Surya, Kamadeva, Indrani and Vishnu, etc. of Brahminical religion are found in Nalanda Museum.
How to Reach Nalanda
Nalanda is known for its oldest university of human kind. It was a great center of learing during the ancient times. Hieun Tsang, a Chinese traveler, came here during 5th century AD to study the social and political conditions. His descriptions are major source of history writing of Gupta period, also of Buddhism.
Nalanda has a good network of roads, which connect it with other major cities of the state including of Patna, Bodhgaya, Rajgir, Delhi, Kolkata.
The nearest railhead is Bakhtiyarpur at the distance of 38 Kms from Nalanda. Being centrally located on the Delhi-Howrah (Kolkata) main line, most of the trains pass through this station.
The nearest airport from Nalanda is at Patna which is 90 kms away. As Patna is the capital of Bihar there are regular flights through and from cities like, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Bangalore.