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.
WHERE TO STAY
There are several accommodation options. One can find many mid-range and budget hotels in the town. There are no luxury hotels in the town.
WHERE TO EAT
There are many hotels in Nalanda, which pre-dominantly serve vegetarian food. One can find several fast foods joints in the town.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Nalanda is during the months of November to March.
WHAT TO SEE
Nalanda University: Spread over 14 hectares, the university building was built in the fifth century. Built with red bricks in the Kushana architectural style, the university building was three to six storeys high. Many monasteries, hostels and classrooms are built in the Pala dynasty. Excavations have revealed stairways, decorated panels, stupas and dormitories of monks and students, lecture halls, etc. One can see remains of a temple, which depicts household scenes, dancers and floral designs.
Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall: Built in the memory of Chinese monk and traveller, Hieun Tsang, the memorial hall houses writings of Hieun Tsang that provides more information about ancient India. It is said that Hieun Tsang resided here for 12 years in the seventh century. He also learned yoga under the guidance of Acharya Shil Bhadra.
Nalanda Archaeological Museum: Established in 1971, the museum houses relics unearthed from the Nalanda University. The museum is divided into four main galleries housing 13463 relics that have been excavated from 349 sites. The main hall included 16 sculptures of Trailokya Vijay, Maitreya, Buddha in Varad, Dharmachakra and Bhumisparsh postures, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, Parshvanath and Nagaraj sculptures, etc.
Surya Mandir: Also known as Surajpur Baragaon, the temple is situated near the Nalanda University. One can see a five feet high idol of Goddess Parvati. Sun worship, which is also called as the Chhatt puja is held twice a year in Vaishakha and Kartika at Surya temple.
The Great Stupa: The stupa was a result of seven consecutive accretions and is protected by seven layers of construction surrounding it. The structure of the stupa has a pyramidal shape with towers above the whole complex. It is dedicated to the favourite disciple of Lord Buddha, Sariputra.
NEAR TO NALANDA
Patna: One of the oldest inhabited cites in the world, Patna is the capital city of Bihar. Located on the banks of Ganga, the city is the place where four rivers merge with the holy river. It is also one of the sacred places of the Sikh community.
Maner: Located about 30 km from Patna, Maner is sacred to the memory of the 13th century Sufi Saint Maneri. Bari Dargah, his cenotaph and tomb of his disciple Shah Daulat are visited by Muslims in large numbers.
Bodh Gaya: Located about 111 km from Patna, Bodh Gaya is the place where Gautam Buddha obtained enlightenment.
Vaishali: Located about 55 km from Patna, Vaishali is associated with Gautam Buddha and Lord Mahavira. It is popluar for its Buddish structures like Relic stupa, Kutagarasala Vihara, World Peace Pagoda.
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Nalanda is as given below. The best time to visit Nalanda is also specified.