Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ruins of Nalanda

Nalanda; a famous,  an  international recognized Buddhist University in India during the era of 5th to 12th AD. To study or to have studied at Nalanda,  once was a matter of great prestige in my childhood, I had read in my texts books. Since then, it was my dream to visit Nalanda and to see with my own eyes the ruins of Nalanda.

If you want to destroy some one culture, burn their literature and libraries;  seems the theme of these attackers, whether Hindus or Muslims. The hate behind this,  is beyond our mind and thought that how they were able to did all this nonsense.

Buddha, the preacher of Pragna, Karuna and Mudita; the deity of peace, how would have they dare to broke His head. The
Archaeological Survey of India's gallerias spread here and there, are full of  broken heads of Buddha statues. No body either Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Christians visitor could stop their eyes to become wet while moving along these gallerias.

   Nalanda is approx. 65 Km away from Bodhgaya. Bhante Nagsen advised us to visit Nalanda during my Bodhgaya visit on the event of International Tipitaka Chanting Ceremony in Dec 2014. S That 2,000 teachers and 10, 000 students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied here. That it was the first residential university in the world.

A walk in the ruins of the university take you an era, that saw India leading in imparting knowledge, to the world, the era when the India was a coveted place of studies. The university flourished  during the 5th and 12th century.

Although Nalanda is one of the places distinguished as having been blessed by the presence of Buddha, it later became particularly renowned as the site of the great monastic university of the same name which was to become the crown jewel of the development of Buddhism in India.

This place saw the rise and fall of many empires and emperors who contributed in the development of Nalanda University. Many monasteries and temples were built by them. King Harshvardhana gifted a 20 M high statue of Buddha and Kumar Gupta endowed a college of fine arts era.

The famous Chinese traveler and scholar Hieun Tsang stayed here and has given a detailed description prevailing at that time.

The excavation of the place had reveled many Stupas, monasteries, hostels, stairs cases, meditation halls, lecture halls and many other structures which speaks of the splendor and grandeur this place enjoyed, when the place was a center of serious study.

A large number of ancient Buddhist establishments, Stupas, Chaityas, temples and  monasteries sites have been excavated and they show that this was one of the most important Buddhist center  of worship and culture.

Rajagriha (now known as Rajgir) was capital of Magadha. It is said, Mahavira Vardhana spent 14 rainy seasons at Nalanda.  Buddha visited several time and delivered lectures here. Sariputta, one of his chief disciples was born and later attained Nirvana in Nalanda.

It is said, the great Ashoka gave offering to Chaitya Sariputta at Nalanda and erected a temple there. Taranatha mention this and also that Nagarjuna, the Mahayana philosopher of the 2nd century AD studied at Nalanda. Nagarjuna later became the high-priest there.

Modern historians have  tentatively dated the founding of monastery in the 5th century AD. But, Nagarjuna who came here, was born 150 AD. Further, his teacher Rahulbhadra  is said to have lived here for some time before that.

A row of monastery sites lies from South to North. Almost all of them have the same pattern. The monasteries consisted of a number of monk's cells with wide verandas in front, initially set round an open quadrangular court, but later separated from it by a high wall. It was originally a building of two or probably more stories as  the existence of stairs in the south-east corner shows. In the court yard of monasteries, there set to be Lord Buddha's shrine and a well.

Excavation work is approx. over 14 hectares. All the structures are of red bricks with beautiful garden. The complex has, the central passage and a temples to the west.

During his stay at Nalanda (630-643 AD), the Chinese traveler Hieun Tesang wrote-

"Moreover, the whole establishment is surrounded by a brick wall, which encloses the entire convent from without. One gate opens into the great college, from which are separated eight other halls standing in the  middle(of the Sangharam). The richly adorned towers, and the fairy-like turrets, like pointed hill-tops are congregated together. The observation seem to be lost in the vapours (of the morning) and the upper rooms tower above the clouds."

Another Chinese traveler Itsing inspired by the journey of Hiuen Tsang, visited Nalanda during 673-695 AD. He spent 14 years in Nalanda.  He described there being 8 halls with many as
300 apartments.

The British rule who gave us new era in many directions and fields, the excavation of Nalanda, Sanchi, Bodhgaya etc. is one of them. The mounds of earth and debris here and there drew their attention. Alexander Cunningham and the newly formed Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is conducted systematic excavation of ruins from 1861.

Presently, a bid to revive that Nalanda is a project of Government of India. It would be interesting to see the fate of this project

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