An ancient centre of learning, Nalanda is located in the state of Bihar. The city was once a flourishing centre of learning and monks and students came from far and wide to study. It is also renowned for its Buddhist sites and monuments.
The city shot into prominence between the fifth and 12th century. It flourished during the regime of several rulers like Sakraditya, Gupta rulers as well as Buddhist emperors like Harsha and emperors from the Pala Empire.
It is believed that Nalanda was formed by two words ‘Nalam’ meaning Lotus and ‘da’ which meant ‘to give’. According to Hieun Tsang, a Chinese Buddhist monk who visited the city in the seventh century AD and left detailed descriptions about the university, a serpent was the inspiration behind the name of the city. The city is also known as the birthplace of Sariputra, a follower of Lord Buddha.
The city was a famous centre of learning in the ancient era; however, only ruins of the university remain today. Much of what is known today is through the writings of Hieun Tsang. The Chinese traveller also gave a brief description about the ambiance and architecture of the university.
According to Hieun Tsang, the university was world’s first residential international university and about 2,000 teachers and 10,000 monk-students from around the Buddhist world studied and lived here.
Near the university ruins, there are several stupas, monasteries, temples and chaityas which were built by the Gupta Kings, Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana.
Apart from the university ruins, other attractions of the city are Nalanda archaeological museum, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall.