The 900-Year Journey of Nalanda University

The 900-Year Journey of Nalanda University

“Nalanda is not just a name, it is an identity and respect. Nalanda is a value and mantra… fire can burn books, but it can’t destroy knowledge.” – Prime Minister Narendra Modi

In the heart of Bihar, India, an ancient beacon of knowledge has been rekindled. Nalanda University, inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi in 2014, stands as a symbol of resilience and a tribute to the world’s first residential university โ€“ Nalanda Mahavihar.

Nalanda Mahavihar: The Medieval Ivy League

Centuries before Oxford or Cambridge graced the European landscape, Nalanda Mahavihar flourished as a global center of learning. Established in the 5th century CE during the Gupta Empire, it attracted over 11,000 students and 2,000 teachers from across Asia and beyond.

Imagine a time when Europe was still in the Dark Ages, yet Nalanda was a bustling hub of intellectual and cultural exchange. Its curriculum was remarkably diverse, encompassing Buddhist teachings, logic, grammar, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy.

The university’s library, Dharmaganja (Treasury of Truth), was said to house an astonishing nine million manuscripts. This vast repository of knowledge, tragically, met its demise when the Turco-Afghan invader Bakhtiyar Khilji ransacked Nalanda in the 12th century. The fire he ignited in the library is said to have raged for three months, consuming countless invaluable texts.

The 900-Year Interlude

Nalanda’s destruction was a devastating blow to the intellectual world. For nearly 900 years, it lay dormant, its once vibrant campus reduced to ruins. Yet, the spirit of Nalanda never truly died.

A Phoenix Rises: Nalanda University

In the 20th century, efforts began to revive Nalanda’s legacy. The establishment of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (New Nalanda Mahavihara) in 1951 marked the first step towards reclaiming the region’s educational heritage.

Finally, in 2014, Nalanda University was officially inaugurated, with the aim of resurrecting the spirit of its ancient predecessor. While a modern institution, it draws inspiration from the interdisciplinary approach and global outlook that defined Nalanda Mahavihar.

A Symbol of Resilience and Hope

The revival of Nalanda is a testament to the enduring power of knowledge. It’s a story of how even the most devastating destruction cannot extinguish the human thirst for learning. It’s a phoenix rising from the ashes, a beacon of hope in a world often marred by conflict and ignorance.

Ironically, to reach the new Nalanda University, one previously had to disembark at Bakhtiyarpur railway station, named after the very invader who sought to obliterate its legacy. Yet, Nalanda’s resurgence proves that knowledge, like a lotus, can bloom even in the most unlikely of places.

The story of Nalanda is a reminder that education is not just about acquiring facts and figures; it’s about fostering critical thinking, cultural exchange, and a lifelong pursuit of wisdom. It’s about building bridges across borders and centuries, connecting us to our past while paving the way for a brighter future.


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