Nalanda Tour involves visit to ruins of magnificent university

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Nalanda - Quick Facts

Area: 2354 sq. km.
Population: 23,68,327
Altitude: 67 metres
Season: October to March
Clothing: Summer- Light Cotton Winters- Heavy Woollen
Rainfall: 120 Cm
Language: Hindi, Bhoj puri & English

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.

By Air
The nearest airport is at Patna 89 km. Indian Airlines connect Patna to Calcutta, Ranchi, Bombay, Delhi and Lucknow.

By Rail

Though Rajgir (12 km) is the nearest railway station to Nalanda yet the nearest convenient rail head is at Gaya 95 km.

By 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.

Destroyed almost completely in the 12th century AD by invaders, this ancient university never regained its past glory. The ruins of Nalanda bear witness to the sad and dramatic fate of this once famous center of learning. Before meeting its fate, Nalanda continued to be one of the major universities of the world for over 9 centuries. Some scholars date this university to an even earlier date. Today, the ruins are among the major destinations that make up tourism in Bihar. The tourist attractions in Nalanda include the ruins of the university, a museum, a research center and some nearby sites that are equally interesting. Some of the main tourist attractions in Nalanda are being discussed below.

The Ruins

The ruins of Nalanda are spread over 14 hectares of land. This is supposedly only a fraction of the immense area that is believed to have supported 10000 students and 2000 teachers, apart from a large number of support staff. Among the ruins can be seen many Buddhist structures including stupas, chaityas, temples and monasteries. The dormitories of the students indicate the residential status of the university.

Stupa of Sariputta

This is one of the most noticeable structures among the ruins. Sariputta was one of the most prominent disciples of Buddha and became a celebrated Arhat, believed to have attained salvation. He was born in Nalanda and died here as well, according to beliefs. The stupa of Sariputta is an impressive structure. It has a pyramidal shape and towers above the entire complex. This place seems to have been surrounded by pillared structures which must have been a grand sight during the heydays of Nalanda.

Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall

This hall is believed to have been erected in memory of the famous Chinese scholar who reportedly stayed here for 12 years as part of his tour of India in the 7th century AD. Whatever the purpose of this hall was, it is a reminder of the grandeur of the Nalanda University.

Surya Temple
This temple is dedicated to the Sun God, greatly revered since the Vedic ages in India. It is an important and interesting spot in Nalanda, and is considered among the major Nalanda tourist attractions. A five feet high statue of Goddess Parvati is the chief attraction of the temple, in addition to some beautiful statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities.

Nalanda Museum

This was established in 1971 with the chief aim of preserving the heritage of this spot and educating the visitors about the history of Nalanda. The museum is one of the chief tourist attractions in Nalanda and exhibits a large number of artifacts that include manuscripts, seals, and statues. This place should not be left out during tours to Nalanda.

Nav Nalanda Vihar

This institution was set up in 1951 by the Bihar government. The aim was to bring back the status of Nalanda as a seat of education. The institute teaches the Pali language and other aspects of Buddhism to Indian and foreign students. It is also an interesting place to visit for the offers all inclusive online information about the tourist attractions in Nalanda in Bihar, and other important tourist places in India.

Rajgir (15 km)

The ancient capital of Magadhan empire which flourished in the 6th century BC. Its association with Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira hallows the place. The first Buddhist council immediately after the Mahaparinirarvana of Lord Buddha, to pen down his teachings, was also held at Rajgir. There are a number of Hot Springs. The hill town of Rajgir, surrounded by seven hills is in the midst of lush green forest.

Gaya (95 km)
It is a very sacred pilgrim center for the Hindus. Oblations are offered for salvation of their dead parents and forefathers. The temple of Vishnupad on the bank of river Falgu attracts a very large number of pilgrims from all over the world.

Bodhgaya (110 km)

It is the holiest amongst holy places of Buddhist World., where Prince Sidharaha attained the supreme enlightenment and became the Buddha, the enlightened one. The Buddhism was born here. The present Bodhi Tree is fifth in succession of the original tree under which Lord Buddha had attained the enlightenment. The ancient Mahabodhi Temple, the railings and the Ashokan pillar are of great historical as well as architectural importance. The modern monasteries of Japan, Thailand, China, Tibet, Mayanmar, Bhutan and Sri Lanka built in their national architectures are very colorful and remain humming with religious activities.

Pawapuri (25km)

A sinless city it is a great pilgrimage center of the Jains. Lord Mahavira, the greatest propounder of Jainism had delivered his last sermon took Mahaparinirvana and was cremated here. Jalmandir and Samosharan are two beautiful temples here of exquisite architecture built in white marble.

Patna (95km)
The ancient city of Patliputra, where the capital of Magadhan Empire shifted from Rajgir, is situated on the main line of eastern railway and is well connected with air services. The ruins of the ancient Patliputra have been excavated at Kumrahar; Patna saheb is also famous for being birth place of the tenth and last Guru of the Sikh, Guru Govind Singh. Harmandirji consecrates his birth place. The museum, Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, Martyr's Memorial, Golghar and Khuda Baksh Oriental Library are other places of tourist interest at Patna.

Local Arts & Craft, Stone Sculptures and Madhubani Paintings.

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