Nalanda a part of the Bihar tourism circuit is situated at a distance of 90 km south east of Patna by road. Tour to Nalanda involves visit to ruins of magnificent university. Founded in the 5th century BC Nalanda was one of the world’s great universities and an important Buddhist centre until it was attacked by marauding Afghans in the 12th century. When Chinese scholar and traveler Xuan Zang visited between AD 685 and 762 10,000 monks and students resided here one of the world's first residential universities Nalanda had dormitories for students. It accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers.
An "architectural masterpiece," the university was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. It had eight separate compounds and ten temples with many meditation halls and classrooms. There were lakes and parks. The library was a nine storied building where students produced meticulous manuscripts. All the fields of learning were covered and it attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.The university received royal patronage of the great emperior Harshavardhana of Kannaui and also Pala kings.Huien Tsang received here the Indian name Mokshdeva.Nalanda acquired a celebrity status all over the east as a centre of Buddhist theology and educational activities.Its importance as a monastic university continued until the end of the 12th century. Architecturally it was masterpiece with eight separate compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. It was sacked by Muslim invaders led by Bakhtiyar Khalji in 1193. When the Tibetan translator Chag Lotsawa visited the university in 1235, he found it damaged and looted, but still functioning with a small number of monks. The etymology of the word Nalanda is uncertain. Different derivations have been proposed.Hieun Tsang the Chinese traveler who visited and studied at Nalanda in 7th century says that “to the south of Nalanda,in the middle of an amra(mango) grove there was a tank where dwelt a Naga (dragon) called Nalanda.”However this was a legendary account.
The second account which Huien-Tsang puts forth is that Tathagat in old days practiced the life of Boddhisattva here and become the king and established his capital in the land. Moved by pity for living things he delighted in continually relieving them. In remembrance of this virtue he was styled ‘Charity without intermission (Na-alam-da; Nalanda). Nalanda was frequently visited by Lord Vardhamana Mahavir and Lord Buddha in the 6th century BC.Lord Buddha during his sojourns found the place prosperous, swelling, teeming with population and containing mango-groves. It is also supposed to be the birth place of Sariputra, one of the chief disciples of the Lord Buddha. The ruins are peaceful and well maintained with large manicured gardens and trees. The brick built remains include the Great Stupa with steps, terraces and few intact votive stupas around it and monk’s rooms. An archeological museum within the campus has Nalanda university seal, sculptures and other remains. The museum is open 10am-5pm from Saturday –Thursday.