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Nalanda

From Academic Kids

Nalanda is a historical place in central Bihar, India, 90 km south-east of the state capital of Patna. It is not inhabited now, and the nearest habitation is a village called Bargaon. Nalanda is important to the history of India, and that of Buddhism. Nalanda literally means the place that confers the Lotus.

The Mahavira Jain attained Moksha at Pavapuri, which is located in Nalanda. However, the site is better known for its importance in Buddhist history. The famous Nalanda University had been established at the site by the 5th century BCE and the Buddha is believed to have visited it and given sermons near "the Mango Grove of Pavarika". Later, Nalanda University became an important Buddhist centre of learning, at its peak accommodating up to 10,000 students. Among the famous teachers there was Nagarjuna. The Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang left detailed accounts of the university in the 7th century.

In 1193, the Nalanda University complex was destroyed by Turkish Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khalji; this event is seen as the final milestone in the decline and near extinction of Buddhism in India.

A vast amount of what is considered to be Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) actually stems from the late (9th-12th century) Nalanda teachers and traditions. Other forms of Buddhism, like the Mahayana followed in Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan, found their genesis in the hallowed portals of the ancient university. Theravada, the other main school of Buddhism, followed in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and elsewhere, and later the mystic Theravada schools also developed here.

A number of ruined structures survive. Nearby is the Surya Mandir, a Hindu temple. The known and excavated ruins extend over an area of about 150,000 square metres, although if Xuanzang's account of Nalanda's extent is correlated with present excavations, almost 90% of it remains unexcavated.

In 1951, a modern centre for Pali (Theravadin) Buddhist studies was founded nearby, the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara. Presently, this institute is pursuing an ambitious program of satellite imaging of the entire region.

The Nalanda Museum contains a number of manuscripts, and shows many examples of the items that have been excavated.

See also


Nalanda is also the name of the modern administrative district of Bihar in which the ancient university ruins are found.


Nalanda is also the name of two modern-day colleges, one in Sri Lanka and one in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and of a monastery in France.

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