Nalanda

Nalanda
Buddhist monastic centre, often spoken of as a university, in northern Bihar state, India.

Though it is traditionally dated to the time of the Buddha (6th–5th centuries BC), archaeological excavations date its foundations to the 5th century AD. It housed a population of several thousand teachers and students. Topics studied included logic, grammar, astronomy, and medicine. The Chinese pilgrims Xuanzang and Yijing provided vivid accounts of Nalanda in the late 7th century. Nalanda continued to flourish through the 12th century and became a centre of religious sculpture. It was probably sacked during Muslim raids с 1200 and never recovered.

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▪ Buddhist monastic centre, India
      celebrated Buddhist monastic centre, often spoken of as a university, southwest of Bihār city in northern Bihār state, India. Nālanda's traditional history dates to the time of the Buddha (6th–5th centuries BC) and Mahāvīra, the founder of the Jaina religion. According to a later Tibetan source, Nāgārjuna, the 2nd–3rd-century AD Buddhist philosopher, began his studies there. Extensive excavations carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India indicate, however, that the foundation of the monasteries belongs to the Gupta period (5th century AD). The powerful 7th-century ruler of Kanauj (Kannauj), Harṣavardhana (Harṣa), is reported to have contributed to them. During his reign the Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-tsang (Xuanzang) stayed at Nālanda for some time and left a clear account of the subjects studied there and of the general features of the community. I-ching, another pilgrim a generation later, also provided a minute account of the life of the monks. Nālanda continued to flourish as a centre of learning under the Pāla dynasty (8th–12th centuries), and it became a centre of religious sculpture in stone and bronze. Nālanda was probably sacked during Muslim raids in Bihār (c. 1200) and never recovered.

      According to pilgrims' accounts, from Gupta times the monasteries of Nālanda were surrounded by a high wall. The excavations revealed a row of 10 monasteries of the traditional Indian design—oblong brick structures with cells opening onto four sides of a courtyard, with a main entrance on one side and a shrine facing the entrance across the courtyard. In front of the monasteries stood a row of larger shrines, or stupas, in brick and plaster. The entire complex is referred to on seals discovered there as Mahāvihāra (“Great Monastery”). A museum at Nālanda houses many of the treasures found in the excavations.

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Universalium. 2010.

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