Nalanda, founded in the 5th century AD, is famous as the ancient seat of learning. The ruins of the world’s most ancient university lies here which is 62 km from Bodhgaya and 90 km south of Patna. Though the Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous center of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th-12th centuries. Hieun Tsang stayed here in the 7th century AD and left detailed description of the excellence of education system and purity of monastic life practiced here. He also gave a vivid account of both the ambiance and architecture of this unique university of ancient times. In this first residential international university of the world, 2,000 teachers and 10,000 monks students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied here. The Gupta kings patronized these monasteries, built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard. Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons who built temples, monasteries and viharas here. Recent excavations have unearthed elaborate structures here. An International Center for Buddhist Studies was established here in 1951. Nearby is Biharsharif, where an annual urs is celebrated at the Dargah or tomb of Malik Ibrahim Baya. Baragaon, 2 km away has a sun temple, famous for Chhath puja. To be visited are Nalanda museum & Nava Nalanda Mahavihar in addition to the great ruins.
- Altitude: 67 metres
- Temperature (Max./Min.) Deg C: Summer 37.8/17.8 Winter 27.8/10.6
- Rainfall:120 cm (June to September)
- Best Season: October to March
What To see
Nalanda University Ruins Archaeological Complex: The total area of the excavation is about 14 hectares. All the edifices are of the red brick and the gardens are beautiful. The buildings are divided by a central walk way that goes south to north. The monasteries or “Viharas” are east of this central alley and the temple or “Chaiyas” to the west. The Vihara-1 is perhaps the most interesting with its cells on two floors built around a central courtyard where steps lead up to what must have been a dais for the professors to address their students. A small chapel still retains a half broken statue of the Lord Buddha.
The enormous pyramidal mass of the Temple no .3 is impressive and from its top commands a splendid view of the entire area. It is surrounded by smaller stupas, many of which studded with small and big statues of the Lord Buddha in Various poses or “Mudras”
Nalanda Archaeological Museum: Opposite the entrance to the ruins of the university and houses, there is a small but beautiful collection of Buddhist and Hindu bronzes and a number of undamaged statues of the Lord Buddha that were found in the area. Two enormous terra-cotta jars of the first century stand intact behind the museum in a shaded enclosure. The collection includes copper plates and stone inscriptions, coins, pottery and samples of burnt rice (12th century AD) found among the ruins here. Open during 10.00 to 17.00. Closed on Friday.
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara: Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is devoted to study and research of Pali Literature and Buddhism. This is a new institute, where students from foreign countries also study.
Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall: A new construction in memory of the great Chinese traveler, Hieun Tsang.
How to Get There
- Air: The nearest airport is at Patna 89 km. Indian Airlines connect Patna to Calcutta, Ranchi, Bombay, Delhi and Lucknow.
- Rail: Though Rajgir (12 km) is the nearest railway station to Nalanda yet the nearest convenient rail head is at Gaya 95 km.
- Road: Nalanda is connected by good road with Rajgir 12 km, Bodh Gaya 110 km, Gaya 95 km, Patna 90 km, Pawapuri 26 km, Bihar Sharif 13 km etc.
- Local Transport: There are no taxis available in Nalanda. Cycle rickshaws and tongas are the only modes of transport