Mar 13, 2016

The ancient Seat of Learning- Nalanda

Temple-3 ruins at Nalanda Bihar India
The icon of Nalanda Temple-3

The private mini bus was jam-packed to the last step. I could only see through the window, the outside world looked big and green. The sights of rural Bihar were not much different from that of Uttar Pradesh. I was heading south from Patna towards Nalanda to visit the ruins of Mahavihara of ancient Kingdom Magadha. 90KM south of the capital city Patna, this place of importance is much visited by tourists as well as Buddhist and Jain pilgrims. From the minibus I was the only one to get off. I was surprised to see the ruins crowded with tourists, probably because it was a Sunday. In comparison, ruins at Vaishali were deserted and devoid of tourists!

Nalanda Ancient University Bihar India
It was a delight to watch this couple trying to concentrate on their studies amidst a huge tourist crowd

Per history, Lord Buddha visited Nalanda several times. Founded and patronized by the Gupta kings during 5th and 6th centuries AD, the Mahavihara or the university was later thrived by the contributions of Harshavardhana- the King of Kannauj. The Buddhist university had two thousand teachers and ten thousand students from all over the Buddhist world it seems. The huge library building was nine stories high! The subjects taught were Buddhist scriptures, Vedas, logic, grammar and medicine. The grandeur and the purity of this teaching seat was documented by Hieun Tsang who visited the place sometime in 7th century and studied here for over a decade. Today the ruins of temples and monasteries silently tell the story of past glory. This residential university was built in Kushan style with well baked red bricks.

Temple at Nalanda Ancient University Complex Bihar India
Temple ruin a bit away from rest of the other ruins

I learned that the architecture was very well planned and was advanced with drains, wells, equipped kitchens, cells, walkways and beautiful gardens. The massive block of Temple-3 or say the icon of Nalanda sheds some light on how magnificent the architecture might have been. Every niche on the wall has Buddha statues in different poses, Hindu deities and different motifs of makara and peacocks. The massive staircases, platforms, walls and walk ways give an insight on the population that once occupied this place. Well, like many other monuments and temples this mahavihara too was destroyed by muslim invaders. There is a lot of information about the ruins in Wiki.

Temple and small stupas at Nalanda Ancient University Complex Bihar India
A temple and small stupas in the University ruins comples

Nalanda University Archaeological Complex is being inspected and reviewed as a potential World Heritage Site. There are many more structures to be excavated. Many of them are still standing amidst forests. Nearby is the Nalanda Archaeological Museum which houses bronze and rock carved Buddha statues and other related artefacts. Little bit away is the peaceful and impressive Hieum Tsang Memorial Hall which depicts the life and journeys of the great ancient traveller. All the three monuments have entrance fees.

Hieun Tsang Memorial Nalanda Bihar India
A Memorial for the great traveler Hieun Tsang

On the way to the memorial there is a Black Buddha statue sheltered in  a small temple. The huge statue of Buddha in black stone in Bhumisparsha mudra is beautiful! The statue was found during the excavation and the shelter was added recently. Locals call it Tili Buddha. Also, Nalanda is popular among Jains. During the prosperous time of the city Lord Mahavira visited the place several times to preach. There is a beautiful marble temple just a KM away from the university ruins complex. Kundalpur Jain temple is birthplace of disciples of Mahavira and hence is important pilgrimage center for Jains.

Black Buddha at Nalanda Bihar India
Tili Buddha or Black Buddha- The statue found
during excavation
I took a cycle-rikshaw driven by an old man who pleaded me to take his service so that he can have food that day! But, one can actually venture around by foot very easily. My rikshaw driver mentioned that during weekends thousands of tourists throng this place but, common people walk around and rich people come in cars. Well, I heard his story when I rode between the tourist attractions. Then on I took cycle-rikshaw in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa wherever there was a some distance to be covered on foot. Because these people were not begging but working hard for living. The Indian Government should do something for these people, like replacing their carts by a battery-operated ones so that they don't have to peddle under the hot sun.

When I was walking out of the ancient ruins complex I encountered a situation which kind of shook me! Well, it happened an year ago, my post comes out too very late :) Backpacking India was never a journey to accumulate miles, monuments, national parks or counting temples. I wanted to know my country. Its greatness in diversity. I wanted to visit every that place which had importance in the Vedas, Puranas. Like any other person I follow and have faith in my religion and respect every other person's beliefs. Earlier, my journey was about experiences with nature, people, cultures, languages, souvenirs and vegetarian food. Well, without pilgrimage there is no journey in India. Now, I am tempted to add 'caste based harassment' to the list. Though it was made to look like 'caste-based' but the main intention was to loot the lone tourist! All of this at the doorstep of an ancient seat of education!

Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts and constructive feedback. If you have enjoyed this article then connect with Google+, Twitter, Facebook or subscribe through email for more exciting updates!

Related articles-
Sarnath where Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma
Khushinagar- where Buddha bid final adieu to the mortal world
The great stupa of Sanchi
Backpacking India Part II- A Parallel Journey
Stories from Backpacking India

If you want pictures please ask me :)
Creative Commons License
Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Welcome back. I wonder where you have been traveling to in your absence.

    1. Yes! I did travel these days! Now a days traveling is more fun and blogging has become boring :)

  2. Hey keep posting such good and meaningful articles.

  3. Nice blog and very informative thank you for sharing such a great blog.

  4. Nalanda is really beautiful. I will definitely visit this place. And your photography is awesome.

  5. As much as I know about Nalanda. This place was famous for Budizam.

  6. Wow, its a really great blog - I will definitely visit this place.

  7. I've been reading all your Bihar and Eastern UP blogposts. You have a wonderful blog.
    I'm planning to do the Buddhist circuit. Is it possible to chat with you to take some tips?


I would appreciate to have your precious thoughts, suggestions and kind encouraging words in comments. Please do not include self-promotional links.I am encountering some problems because of these links and hence I may not publish them.