Bihar: Nalanda

 

Nalanda, the ancient and traditional city, is famous for the unmatched class of the ancient Nalanda (“Nalam” means “Lotus” and “da” means “to give”) University which is in ruins now. Tourists from all over the world come here to be a part of the history of the university, situated at a height of 67 meters from the sea level. Nalanda is known as the centre of learning. Even though the king Ashoka is the one who had built the city but Nalanda is well known to the world for its educational excellences since the time of the kings of Kushan Empire. Students used to come from different parts of the world for studies in its glorious days.


The Chinese traveler, Hiuen Tsang came to Nalanda University in 637 and studied in the university for 5 years. According to the descriptions of Hiuen Tsang the university had 10, 000 students and 2000 professors at that point of time. The university used to earn from the 1200 villages that were there under its control. The king Mahipal had rebuilt the university in 1300.


The excavation has revealed the history of the university and the city. The excavation has confirmed the existence of 11 Buddha math, stupa (shrine), Buddha idol, student hostel, class rooms, and temples. The remnants of Nalanda University were spreading over a rambling area of 50 square km. The entrance of the city was in the western side of Nalanda, the railway station was in the southern side of Nalanda, the museum was in the eastern side of the city and Bargaon road was in the northern side. Don’t forget to see the shrines (3) which were built by the king Ashoka. It is quite evident that the architectures of these shrines have been changed many times due to the restructuring of the shrines after its actual establishment. The present shrine is built on the relics of the ancient one.


The chief deity of Nalanda was Tara Devi. Two out of four pillars around the idol still exist with its antique memories. The architectural gracefulness of the pillars was eye catching. Apart from Tara Devi, there were many more deities. The temple, surrounded by a wall, was built by the king Harshabardhan. It is believed that the temple also had an idol of Buddha.


Tourists should not miss out the grandeur of the numerous Buddha monasteries of Nalanda. The Buddha pilgrimage spot also houses a lot of temples. The university compound around the vicinity was really very big. A lot of monuments, Naba Nalanda Mahavihar, and art galleries have come up around the university.


Excavated items are kept in a museum, situated at the right hand side of the entrance of the city. There is also a research centre on the Pali literature and Buddha religion. Indira Gandhi Open University, Thai temple, and Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall are the other coveted destinations.


Enthusiasts can visit the Surya temple and Lake of surajpur-Bargaon village, about 2 km away towards the northern side of Nalanda. The main festival of the place is Chot. You can also go to Jagadishpur, another Buddhist pilgrimage spot.


How to reach: Nalanda is a railway station on Bakhtiarpur-Rajgir railway track. A lot of trains are going to Nalanda from Rajgir but not many direct trains are available from Kolkata to Nalanda. Refer to our travel planning link below for details on the itinerary.


Where to stay: PWD IB, Nalanda rest house, Burmese, Japanese and Jain rest house. Refer to our hotel booking or tour planning link below.
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