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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Reviving the glory of Nalanda University, the pride of Bharat

Nalanda was the world’s leading education center for decades, long before Cambridge and Oxford were even architectural designs on a map. Providing rich and valuable information and knowledge to thousands of Bhartiya students and students from all over Asia- Tibet, China, Korea, Vietnam, etc.- to study at this prestigious institution. Nalanda is described in Jain and Buddhist texts as a ‘sacred space.’

PC: Swarajya

A Popular educational Hub

Renowned Archeologist KK Muhammad, who was a part of the team which had declared that a Ram Temple existed before the controversial Babri structure was built in the 15th century, said,  “Seven-eight hundred years before the modern universities in the West were built, you had a bigger university in Bharat, where students came not only from the Bhartiya subcontinent….but from several other countries, from Japan, China. Hiuen Tsang was himself a student at Nalanda University. He studied for two years at the university. He then became a teacher here. Similarly, students from Indonesia and Malaysia also came to study here.”

According to Republic World,

Nalanda University has been documented as an open school of discussions. Scholars would hold frequent arguments and study Buddhist and Hindu scripture studies, including Vedas, Yogasastras, and Panini’s grammatical works. A center for higher studies, it attracted foreign scholars and experts from China, Korea, Tibet, and Tokhqara who would collaborate and debate under one roof. Chinese traveler I-tsing describes Nalanda as a ‘democratically governed body.’

Destruction by Islamic Invaders

Nalanda University remained one of Asia’s most popular educational spots for many centuries  but there was a decline in the footfall of students after the Islamic invasion. It is known that Nalanda was destroyed three times. It was ransacked and ruined during the reign of Delhi Sultanate’s Bakhtiyar Khilji, in 1193.

PC: Nalanda.nic.in

Reconstruction by the Bhartiya Government

The idea of reconstructing the Nalanda University was first mooted by former President, APJ Abdul Kalam in 2006. Subsequently, many countries in Asia and many Asian summits and committees proposed the reconstruction of Nalanda to the government of Bharat. 

The Nalanda University Act, 2010 was passed in both houses of the parliament, and 450 acres of land (planned for an eventual 7000 population) at the base of Rajgir Hills was identified and acquired for its construction. The center has full ownership of the university. On 1st September 2014, the academic sessions at NU began. NU recently launched a global master’s program in Hindu Studies (Sanātana) and has begun witnessing admissions from Students from all over the world.

Image: Pralhad Joshi (Twitter)

Gopa Sabharwal, the former Vice Chancellor of Nalanda, said that one of the biggest challenges would be establishing a modern university in the 21st century while maintaining its original heritage. She said, “The reconciliation of the historical with the contemporary is being done at many levels and in many ways – in the physical structure, in the ideas that guide the choice of the schools, the curriculum’s focus areas, and so forth. Hence interdisciplinarity, inter-Asian linkages, and a connection with the immediate surroundings are the guiding principles of the university,”

The master plan integrates sustainable practices at every phase of the project, from site planning of the campus to creating infrastructure and cost-effective ways to reduce natural resource consumption and minimize dependency on off-site building materials. The plan allows for incremental growth and flexible expansion and phasing while preserving the agricultural and environmental basis of the region. The master plan is transitional, demonstrating the campus’s integration into a prominent site ecosystem. The project aims to combine state-of-the-art technologies with planning principles of erstwhile Nalanda University to create a carbon-neutral and zero-waste campus.

The new complex would contain the academic blocks and Student hostels. There will be a sports complex and a school along with a creche would be built as well which would provide facilities like classes nursery to 12, labs, libraries, and activity rooms. 

Universities like Nalanda are proof of Bharat’s rich and diverse knowledge and educational heritage before the Islamic invasion dismantled it. Reconstruction of Nalanda and other such heritage and historical sites are bringing in a new wave of reviving our culture and returning to our roots. 

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