The remains of Ancient Buddhist Monastery in Nalanda, Bihar, India is famous world over as the remains of an ancient Buddhist Monastery & university during 5th to 1200 century B.C., which was visited by scholars from world over, most notably Chinese scholar Hiuen Tsnag I was in Nalanda district some time back on work and did not let go of the opportunity to visit the archaeological site of Nalanda Vihara, which is an UNESCO world heritage site.
Nalanda UNESCO World heritage site is located around 95 kilometers from the capital city of Patna in the state of Bihar. As it is part of the Buddhist circuit of Bihar (which includes Bodh Gaya and Rajgir), the connectivity to this site is very good, with road condition fairly better than in most parts of the state. The ASI maintains the site in a very good condition, with pretty laws, walkway paths and neatly maintained mounds/structures.
Recommended Read : Visiting Bodh Gaya in Bihar
The UNESCO Website says about Nalanda “The Nalanda Mahavihara site is in the State of Bihar, in north-eastern India. It comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE. It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal. Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent. It engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years. The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.”
There are many theories and research on the rise, flourishing and decline of Nalanda Mahavira and one can get that on the internet. For me, the site signifies human grit, quest for knowledge and learning. As I was going around the site and reading on the different mounds, structures and their possible uses as per archaeological research, it struck me that universities and colleges in essence have remained quite same in their structure. There were various dorms, kitchen area, and auditoriums placed out in almost the same way as in colleges of present times.
Walking around Nalanda site on a humid yet breezy day, in the golden hours, it felt quite surreal to be seeing this ancient university from many centuries before. It felt like I was in a time capsule.
Nalanda UNESCO world heritage site is a beautifully preserved part of Indian & world heritage and a visit here is recommended for heritage lovers if in Bihar.
You may also like to read my following travel experiences in Bihar: