Day 11/30: The ruins of Nalanda, Bihar photofest
Here’s another selection of unedited photos of the ruins of Nalanda, the world’s most ancient university. Again this little historical and architectural gem is found in Bihar, a couple of hours drive from Bodh Gaya. As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s not as developed as the main cities, but there are improvements! I have to admit I was shocked to see so many tourists, during my 2002 visit, my brother and I were the only people at the ruins, it wasn’t well kept at all and at most there were three very tiny stalls outside. You may wonder why there’s pictures of random walls, it’s to show how thick the walls are (around 6 ft!!), also you’ll be able to see the rooms/dormitories for the student monks. They don’t look too comfortable! It’s amazing how much foresight they had and how solid the building is.
For anyone who wants to learn something new, here’s a tiny bit of paraphrased information from the Bihar Tourism website and Wikipedia:
Nalanda is home to the ruins of the world’s most ancient university. Founded in the 5th century AD, it was famous as the ancient seat of learning. Nalanda shot to fame much during 5th-12th centuries. Hieun Tsang stayed here in the 7th century AD and left detailed description of the excellence of education system and purity of monastic life practiced here. It was the first residential international university of the world, 2,000 teachers and 10,000 monks students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied in Nalanda. The Gupta kings patronized these monasteries, built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard.
Evidence in literature suggests that in 1193, the Nalanda University was sacked by the fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turk during the period of Muslim conquest in India. The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, in his chronicle the Tabaqat-I-Nasiri, reported that thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism the burning of the library continued for several months.
Anyway, have a gander at the photos!