Nalanda University was one of the earliest Universities in the world founded in the fifth century. Know more about Nalanda University history and its magnificent library through images of the ancient ruins of this University.
Nalanda University History
The Ancient University of Nalanda is believed to be founded by the Gupta Dynasty who were ruling at the parts of present-day India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. If we look at the Gupta Empire dynasty, Nalanda University was founded around the kingdom of Chandragupta one or Samudra Gupta. In its middle phase of life, Nalanda University was supported by the Buddhist emperors and later in the last phase, by the Pala kings who ruled mostly the south and eastern part of India.
Entrance to the ruins of Nalanda University
A glance at Nalanda University ruins:
The whole complex of Nalanda University was protected around by the thick walls of red bricks varying in their height. It is believed that the whole University campus is spread across over 15,000,000 square meters and only 10% of which has been excavated while rest of the ruins still lie earthen under the ground.
The classroom system at Nalanda university:
There were around 10000 students and 2000 teachers in the university. The curricula of the university offered the study of abstract knowledge like Philosophy, religion, Buddhism and scientific thoughts in astronomy, mathematics, anatomy etc. in each classroom, there used to be hundreds of students and they were not allowed to go outside until the lecture was over.
To add to their facility, even a well was there in most of the classroom to quench the thirst of the students if they were thirsty. There were around 8 colleges with tens of classrooms.
A classroom of Nalanda University: Teacher sat on the dash and students on the ground
Dormitory of the students:
Nalanda University was the first of its kind which was a boarding university in the true sense. The whole boarding system was divided into three layers or floors of the dormitory. New students lived in the basement, middle-level students at the ground and dormitory captain and more experienced students at the top floor. There was a stairway system to connect the floors. There were as many as 300 rooms.
Students dormitory and floors
Ventilation system at the dormitory:
There were no proper windows. However, fresh air and sunlight were ensured by the ventilation system at the dormitory was an opening. These openings where wide and inclined in nature to allow the air and sunlight to come in through.
Ventilation system (The inclined wall near the stairway)
The drainage system was also hierarchical in nature. There was the main drainage system which carried the water of the whole settlement then there was smaller drainage which was from households. This drainage system was more or less inspired by the Harappan culture.
The bigger drains were seated deeper in the earth while the smaller drains were shallow. so that smaller drainage could flush in the bigger and dipper seated drainage.
Drainage system and Markings of the bricks on the drainage wall
The open cooking mud-oven called Chullah:
The Chullah were set in the open and could be used from both sides. A number of items could be used simultaneously at the chullah while chullah could be burned from both the sides.
Bi-faced Oven, can be fired from the top & bottom at the same time
Apart from the open oven, the cooking area also has an octagonal well which is scientifically proven now that the well somehow used the filtering system to keep the water always fresh. Besides well and open over, there were also quarters for the cooking staff and the whole cooking area formed a part of the university complex.
Cooking area, Oven in the center-right of the photo surrounded by staff quarters
The Nalanda university complex:
The Nalanda university complex was divided by a central walkway which went from south to North. The east side was called ‘Viharas'(Monasteries) and the west side was called ‘ chiayas'(temples). Thus the central allay divided the personal life and study life of the students.
Inside the monasteries, the students were given knowledge and on the temple side, they lived. Each monastery had a dais on which the teacher would sit and give Gyana to the students. The walk-way was surrounded by the water-pools, grass-lawns and flowers.
The central walkway dividing the monasteries and the temples
Nalanda University Library:
The most talked and the impressive building of in the lost history of the Nalanda university is its library. The library itself used to be a grand complex to house thousands of sacred and rare scriptures. Furthermore, it was divided into three buildings and each buildings into further categorical smaller sections.
There were different libraries for the Hindu and Buddhist scholar. Even sacred texts were kept in the special cells. Some of the library buildings were as high as nine stores. Exact volume of the books are still not known.
Temples and library
Destruction of Nalanda University complex by Bakhtiyar Khilji:
At its peak period when the university had students from as far as Tibet, China, Greeze, Persia, it was attacked by a muslin ruler names Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193 and the whole university was brutly ransacked and destroyed by the Muslim king. It is said that most of the peaceful Buddhist students could not offer any counter to the ruthless attack.
Persian historian in his chronicle Tabaqat-I-Nasiri writes that the monks were driven away, burned alive and thousands of them were beheaded to uproot the Buddhism. It is also believed that the library burned for more than three months and the sky had almost turned grey because of the heavy black smokes.
To save their life, remaining monks fled away to Tibet or to other monasteries which are now in West Bengal and Bangladesh which were also a part of this University.
A few years later, a few of the monks dared to return to the site but it had turned black and due to the heartless rage of the Muslim king terror, even though tried, but Nalanda University could not gain much attraction.
Nalanda University in modern days:
The Government of Bihar has taken an initiative for Nalanda Open university for subjects like Philosophy , peace study, Buddhist studies etc. The project has been funded by many of the Buddhist as well as non-Buddhist countries. To know more about the new University click here
Another place of interest nearby Nalanda is Bodhgaya famous for Mahabodhi temple, a UNESCO world heritage site.