Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A brief about Nalanda University


Nalanda is the name of an ancient center of higher learning in Bihar, India. The site of Nalanda is located in the Indian state of Bihar, about 55 miles south east of Patna, and was a Buddhist center of learning from the fifth or sixth century CE to 1197 CE. It has been called “one of the first great universities in recorded history”. The Gupta Empire also patronized some monasteries. According to historians, Nalanda flourished between the reign of the Śakrāditya (whose identity is uncertain and who might have been either Kumara Gupta I or Kumara Gupta II) and 1197 CE, supported by patronage from Buddhist emperors like Harsha as well as later emperors from the Pala Empire.

The complex was built with red bricks and its ruins occupy an area of 14 hectares. At its peak, the university attracted scholars and students from as far away as China, Greece, and Persia. Nalanda was ransacked and destroyed by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khalji in 1193. The great library of Nalanda University was so vast that it is reported to have burned for three months after the invaders set fire to it, ransacked and destroyed the monasteries, and drove the monks from the site. In 2006, Singapore, China, India, Japan, and other nations, announced a proposed plan to restore and revive the ancient site as Nalanda International University.

Etymology

The Chinese pilgrim-monk Xuanzang gives several explanations of the name Nālandā. One is that it was named after the Nāga who lived in a tank in the middle of the mango grove. Another – the one he accepted – is that Shakyamuni Buddha once had his capital here and gave “alms without intermission”, hence the name.

Sariputta died at the village called ‘Nalaka,’ which is also identified as Nalanda by many scholars.

History

Founding of the university and the Gupta heyday

Some historical studies suggest that the University of Nalanda was established during the reign of a king called Śakrāditya. Both Xuanzang and Prajñavarman cite him as the founder, as does a seal discovered at the site.

As historian Sukumar Dutt describes it, the history of Nalanda university “falls into two main divisions–first, one of growth, development and fruition from the sixth century to the ninth, when it was dominated by the liberal cultural traditions inherited from the Gupta age; the second, one of gradual decline and final dissolution from the ninth century to the thirteen–a period when the tantric developments of Buddhism became most pronounced in eastern India.”
In the Pāla era

A number of monasteries grew up during the Pāla period in ancient Bengal and Magadha. According to Tibetan sources, five great Mahaviharas stood out: Vikramashila, the premier university of the era; Nalanda, past its prime but still illustrious, Somapura, Odantapurā, and Jaggadala. The five monasteries formed a network; “all of them were under state supervision” and there existed “a system of co-ordination among them . . it seems from the evidence that the different seats of Buddhist learning that functioned in eastern India under the Pāla were regarded together as forming a network, an interlinked group of institutions,” and it was common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among them.

During the Pālā period, the Nālānda was less singularly outstanding, as other Pāla establishments “must have drawn away a number of learned monks from Nālānda when all of them . . came under the aegis of the Pālās.”
Decline and end

In 1193, the Nalanda University was sacked by the Islamic fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turk; this event is seen by scholars as a late milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, in his chronicle the Tabaquat-I-Nasiri, reported that thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism and plant Islam by the sword; the burning of the library continued for several months and “smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills.”

The last throne-holder of Nalanda, Shakyashribhadra, fled to Tibet in 1204 CE at the invitation of the Tibetan translator Tropu Lotsawa (Khro-phu Lo-tsa-ba Byams-pa dpal). In Tibet, he started an ordination lineage of the Mulasarvastivadin lineage to complement the two existing ones.

When the Tibetan translator Chag Lotsawa (Chag Lo-tsa-ba, 1197–1264) visited the site in 1235, he found it damaged and looted, with a 90-year-old teacher, Rahula Shribhadra, instructing a class of about 70 students. During Chag Lotsawa’s time there an incursion by Turkish soldiers caused the remaining students to flee. Despite all this, “remnants of the debilitated Buddhist community continued to struggle on under scarce resources until c. 1400 CE when Chagalaraja was reportedly the last king to have patronized Nalanda.”

Ahir considers the destruction of the temples, monasteries, centers of learning at Nalanda and northern India to be responsible for the demise of ancient Indian scientific thought in mathematics, astronomy, alchemy, and anatomy.

According to some Indian historians, increasing pressure was felt on Nalanda from society over the course of the 10th century. In his Social history of India, the historian Sadasivan states, “the enormous manuscript library of the University was set on fire by Trithikas due to the mounting jealousy they nurtured against the great center of learning.”
Overview

Nalanda was one of the world’s first residential universities, i.e., it had dormitories for students. It is also one of the most famous universities. In its heyday, it accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. The university was considered an architectural masterpiece, and was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. Nalanda had eight separate compounds and ten temples, along with many other meditation halls and classrooms. On the grounds were lakes and parks. The library was located in a nine storied building where meticulous copies of texts were produced. The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of learning, and it attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. During the period of Harsha, the monastery is reported to have owned 200 villages given as grants.

The Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang left detailed accounts of the university in the 7th century. Xuanzang described how the regularly laid-out towers, forest of pavilions, harmikas and temples seemed to “soar above the mists in the sky” so that from their cells the monks “might witness the birth of the winds and clouds.” Xuanzang states: “An azure pool winds around the monasteries, adorned with the full-blown cups of the blue lotus; the dazzling red flowers of the lovely kanaka hang here and there, and outside groves of mango trees offer the inhabitants their dense and protective shade.”

The entrance of many of the viharas in Nalanda University ruins can be seen with a bow marked floor; the bow was the royal sign of the Guptas.
Libraries

The library of Nalanda, known as Dharma Gunj (Mountain of Truth) or Dharmagañja (Treasury of Truth), was the most renowned repository of Buddhist knowledge in the world at the time. Its collection was said to comprise hundreds of thousands of volumes, so extensive that it burned for months when set aflame by Muslim invaders. The library had three main buildings as high as nine stories tall, Ratnasagara (Sea of Jewels), Ratnodadhi (Ocean of Jewels), and Ratnarañjaka (Delighter of Jewels).
Influence on Buddhism

A vast amount of what came to comprise Tibetan Buddhism, both its Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, stems from the late (9th–12th century) Nalanda teachers and traditions. The scholar Dharmakirti (ca. 7th century), one of the Buddhist founders of Indian philosophical logic, as well as and one of the primary theorists of Buddhist atomism, taught at Nalanda.

Other forms of Buddhism, such as the Mahāyāna Buddhism followed in Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan, flourished within the walls of the ancient university. A number of scholars have associated some Mahāyāna texts such as the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, an important sūtra in East Asian Buddhism, with the Buddhist tradition at Nālandā. Ron Epstein also notes that the general doctrinal position of the sūtra does indeed correspond to what is known about the Buddhist teachings at Nālandā toward the end of the Gupta period when it was translated.

According to Hwui-Li, a Chinese visitor, Nālandā was held in contempt by some Sthaviras for its emphasis on Mahayana philosophy. They reportedly chided King Harṣa for patronizing Nalanda during one of his visits to Orissa, mocking the “sky-flower” philosophy taught there and suggesting that he might as well patronize a Kapalika temple. When this occurred, Harṣa notified the chancellor of Nālandā, who sent the monks Sāgaramati, Prajñāraśmi, Siṃharaśmi, and Xuanzang to refute the views of the monks from Orissa.
Ruins

A number of ruined structures survive. Nearby is the Surya Mandir, a Hindu temple. The known and excavated ruins extend over an area of about 150,000 square metres, although if Xuanzang’s account of Nalanda’s extent is correlated with present excavations, almost 90% of it remains unexcavated. Nālandā is no longer inhabited. Today the nearest habitation is a village called Bargaon. li|Pali]] (Theravadin) Buddhist studies was founded nearby by Bhikshu Jagdish Kashyap, the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara. Presently, this institute is pursuing an ambitious program of satellite imaging of the entire region.

The Nalanda Museum contains a number of manuscripts, and shows many examples of the items that have been excavated. India’s first Multimedia Museum was opened on 26 January 2008, which recreates the history of Nalanda using a 3D animation film narrated by Shekhar Suman. Besides this there are four more sections in the Multimedia Museum: Geographical Perspective, Historical Perspective, Hall of Nalanda and Revival of Nalanda.
Plans for revival

On 9 December 2006, the New York Times detailed a plan in the works to spend $1 billion to revive Nalanda University near the ancient site. A consortium led by Singapore and including China, India, Japan and other nations will attempt to raise $500 million to build a new university and another $500 million to develop necessary infrastructure.

On 28 May 2007, Merinews reported that the revived university’s enrollment will be 1,137 in its first year, and 4,530 by the fifth. In the ‘second phase’, enrolment will reach 5,812.

On 12 June 2007, News Post India reported that the Japanese diplomat Noro Motoyasu said that “Japan will fund the setting up an international university in Nalanda in Bihar”. The report goes on to say that “The proposed university will be fully residential, like the ancient seat of learning at Nalanda. In the first phase of the project, seven schools with 46 foreign faculty members and over 400 Indian academics would come up.” … “The university will impart courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects. A renowned international scholar will be its chancellor.”

On 15 August 2007, The Times of India reported that Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has accepted the offer to join the revived Nalanda International University sometime in September 2007.”

NDTV reported on 5 May 2008 that, according to Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, the foundation of University would likely be in the year 2009 and the first teaching class could begin in a few years from then. Sen, who heads the Nalanda Mentor Group, said the final report in this regard, is expected to be presented to the East Asia Summit in December 2008.

On 11 May 2008, The Times of India reported that host nation India and a consortium of East Asian countries met in New York to further discuss Nalanda plans. It was decided that Nalanda would largely be a post-graduate research university, with the following schools: School of Buddhist studies, philosophy, and comparative religion; School of historical studies; School of International Relations and Peace; School of Business Management and Development; School of Languages and Literature; and, School of Ecology and Environmental Studies. The objective of the school was claimed to be “aimed at advancing the concept of an Asian community…and rediscovering old relationships.”

Read more: http://goo.gl/n36js

The new nalanda University


Nearly 90 km from Patna lies a morsel of the past. Though dead and mostly buried, it jibes at the present: it speaks of a legacy that the state of Bihar perhaps so undeservedly lays claim to. Till recently, no one listened to the ruins of Nalanda. Now, their silence is being heard.

In a visionary gesture, the Nitish Kumar Government has decided to revive the university that was perhaps the biggest international seat of learning between 5th and 12th centuries AD, the first residential academic centre that attracted scholars from as far as China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. Some of these countries, including China and Japan, are now coming together to bring Nalanda to life.

“You can gauge the enthusiasm from the fact that the issue figured in the recent talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao and then with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. It also figured in the East Asian Summit held in January in Philippines this year and is likely to be raised again at the summit in November in Singapore,” says N.K. Singh, Deputy Chairman, State Planning Board.

Though countries from East and Southeast Asia—for whom Bodh Gaya and Nalanda were crucial pilgrimages—had always wanted to revive the university, it took concrete shape when it was pursued by outgoing President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He had outlined the contours of the proposed university during his special address to the Bihar Legislature last year. Of the 10 suggestions for a prosperous Bihar, revival of the university figured as crucial.

The Nitish Administration lapped up the idea, with the Chief Minister taking a keen interest in the project. He, perhaps, realises that the project can transform Bihar’s image in the international arena and yield long-term benefits for the state in terms of investment. Within a short span and at a surprising pace, the Government identified around 500 acres of land for setting up the international university and had a bill enacted by the state assembly. “By next week, we hope to take possession of around 450 acres,” says Nalanda District Magistrate Anand Kishore.

The proposed university will be situated 16 km from the ruins of Nalanda at the foot of the hills in Rajgir (earlier known as Rajgriha) and start functioning from 2013. It will be unique in the sense that it will be owned jointly by several countries, especially from South and Southeast Asia. The University Act clearly talks about setting up a consortium of international partners and friendly countries, and the project has already attracted the attention of some of the most dynamic economies of East and Southeast Asia, ringing hope in a state lagging far behind in all indices of development. The Nalanda project hopes to revive the historical ties this region enjoyed in areas like trade, science, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy.

Possibly the first of its kind in the world, it intends to recreate the spirit of its ancient counterpart. “The architecture and the buildings for the university and its campus shall be carefully designed so as to reflect its vision and mission as set out in the objectives of the university,” the Act for the university states.

History has it that Nalanda was an architectural marvel and its sprawling campus could accommodate nearly 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. It had a nine-storey library, eight compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. The ancient university was multidisciplinary and the scholars jostled to take lessons in subjects ranging from fine arts and medicine to philosophy and astronomy. Mathematics and politics were the other crucial disciplines along with warfare. Nalanda’s most celebrated scholar was perhaps Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang, who not only studied here but also taught and spent nearly 15 years at the university. In fact, India and China have recently erected a memorial at Nalanda to honour Tsang.

The Union Government has also set up a Mentor Group, which would be headed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, have members drawn from different countries and Foreign Secretary as its ex-officio member-secretary. Singapore Foreign Minister George Hui, Wangei Hui, Director, Institute of Indian Studies, Beijing, Prof Sugata Bose (Harvard), Lord Meghnad Desai and Prof D.N. Jha of Delhi University are some who have consented to be members.

“The Mentor Group will give a report on pedagogy, syllabus, academic calendar, funding and organisational structure of the university. The group’s first meeting is scheduled in the middle of July in Singapore. After that it will hold three more meetings in Tokyo, Beijing and India to give a final shape to the plan. The report is expected by the end of the year,” says Singh.

“The report will be given a final shape in consultation with the university’s Visitor—likely to be Kalam after his term as President ends—and it will then be submitted to international agencies for funding,” says Bihar Human Resource Development Secretary Madan Mohan Jha. Nitish Kumar will formally offer the Visitor’s post to Kalam after he leaves the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The Bihar Government has already had a detailed project report (DPR) prepared by Educational Consultants of India Limited (EDCIL) for the establishment of the university, which is expected to incur a total expenditure of Rs 630 crore and an annual recurring expenditure of Rs 375 crore. Once international funding is assured for the University of Nalanda, the state government hopes that its other projects for developing tourist infrastructure would also receive international support.

To begin with, the new university will have seven Schools of Learning, including Philosophy and Buddhist Studies, Information and Communication (Informatics), Basic and Applied Sciences, Development Studies, Natural Resource Management, International Studies and Languages. The final structure will, however, depend on the report of the Mentor Group.

In the first phase, the university will offer only postgraduate, research, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees, and it expects to attract students from several countries. A scholar of international repute will be the university’s chancellor.

According to the DPR, in the first year, the university will have 1,137 students and the number will increase to 4,530 by the fifth year. The university will maintain a 1:10 teacher-student ratio and a minimum proportion of academic and non-academic staff in the ratio of 70:30. The faculty members shall be so selected that they are culturally tuned to the vision and mission of the university.

Friday, August 19, 2011

NALANDA - THE ANCIENT SEAT OF LEARNING


Founded in the 5th Century A.D., Nalanda is known as the ancient seat of learning. 2,000 Teachers and 10,000 Students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied at Nalanda, the first Residential International University of the World.

A walk in the ruins of the university, takes you to an era, that saw India leading in imparting knowledge, to the world - the era when India was a coveted place for studies. The University flourished during the 5th and 12th century.

Although Nalanda is one of the places distinguished as having been blessed by the presence of the Buddha, it later became particularly renowned as the site of the great monastic university of the same name , which was to become the crown jewel of the development of Buddhism in India. The name may derive from one of Shakyamuni's former births , when hewas a king whose capital was here.Nalanda was one of his epithets meaning "insatiable in giving."

This place saw the rise and fall of many empires and emperors who contributed in the development of Nalanda University. Many monasteries and temples were built by them. Kingarshwardhana gifted a 25m high copper statue of Buddha and Kumargupta endowed a college of fine arts ere. Nagarjuna- a Mahayana philosopher, Dinnaga- founder of the school of Logic and Dharmpala- the Brahmin scholar, taught here.

The famous Chinese traveller and scholar,Hieun-Tsang stayed here and has given a detailed description of the situations prevailing at that time. Careful excavation of the place has revealed many stupas, monasteries,hostels,stair cases,meditation halls, lecture halls and many other structures which speak of the splendour and grandeur this place enjoyed,when the place was a centre of serious study.

A large number of ancient Buddhist establishments, stupas, chaityas, temples and monastery sites have been excavated and they show that this was one of the most important Buddhist centres of worship and culture.Regarding the historicity of Nalanda, we read in Jaina texts that Mahavira Vardhamana spent as many as fourteen rainy seasons in Nalanda.

Pali Buddhist Literature , too, has ample references to Nalanda, which used to be visited by Lord Buddha. During the days of Mahavira and Buddha,Nalanda was apparently a very prosperous temple city, a great place of pilgrimage and the site of a celebrated university. It is said that King Asoka gave offerings to the Chaitya of Sariputra at Nalanda and erected a temple there.Taranath mentions this and also that Nagarjuna, the famous Mahayana philosopher of the second century A.D.,studied at Nalanda.Nagarjuna later became the high-priest there.

The Gupta kings patronised these monasteries, built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard.Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons who built temples and monasteries here. Recent excavations have unearthed elaborate structures here. Hiuen Tsang had left ecstatic accounts of both the ambiance and architectureof this unique university of ancient times.

Modern historians have tentatively dated the founding of a monastery at Nalanda as being in the fifth century.However, this may not be accurate. For example,the standard biographiesof the teacher Nagarjuna, believed by most historians to have been born around 150 AD, are quite specific about his having received ordination at Nalanda monastery when he was seven years old. Further, histeacherRahulabhadra is said to have lived there for some time before that. We may infer that there were a monastery or monasteries at Nalanda long before the foundation of the later Great Mahavihara.

Read more http://www.nalanda.nitc.ac.in/about/NalandaHeritage.html

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Reviving Ancient Glory : Nalanda International University of India


The name Nalanda in Sanskrit means “giver of knowledge”: a combination of “nalam” (lotus, representing knowledge) and “da” (“to give”). Nalanda University of yore was founded according to historians in the fifth century (427 A.D.) as a place of learning for Buddhist monks and is known to have been one of the first great residential universities in recorded history. Today Nalanda is a World Heritage site. The ruins of the monastery are located about 55 miles south east of the modern Indian city of Patna.

The University taught a wide range of subjects besides Buddhism including fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, war tactics, and politics. Over ten thousand students were taught by a faculty of 2000 in the idyllic forested green surroundings. The ruins at Nalanda even today attracts a large number of tourists.

As part of an international effort the world renowned ancient Nalanda university is now being revived with the setting up of a modern university as an international centre of excellence.

The Nalanda International University is scheduled to begin academic activities from the 2013-14 session from rented premises with two subjects - Historical studies and Environment and Ecological studies - till the construction of its own campus is completed work on which is continuing.

Way back in 2006 former President APJ Abdul Kalam while addressing the Bihar Legislature on March 28,2006 stressed the need for establishing a new Nalanda University that would be a place for meeting of minds from the national and international arenas, to carry out research that would link philosophy to science, to technology, economy and spirituality and integrate both ancient and modern thinking.

It was in the East Asia Summit held in Thailand in Oct 2009 that a decision was finally taken by the member countries which included the ten ASEAN countries and Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand, to set up the university. Later several other countries including the US too has given its support to the move.


The Nalanda University Bill was cleared by the Indian Parliament in 2010 to set up the University with a cost of Rs.1005 crore.

The University is initially going to have schools for Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions; Historical Studies; International Relations and Peace Studies; Business Management in relation to Public Policy and Development Studies; Languages and Literature; Ecology and Environmental Studies. There are also plans to add one on Information Technology.

Initially the Planning Commission has allocated Rs. 50 crore as endowment fund in the form of a special grant for the commencement of activities and till such time the Nalanda University becomes sustainable on its own.

Both the External Affairs Ministry which is acting as the nodal Ministry for this project and Bihar government are closely monitoring the development of this prestigious international project. The government . of Bihar has already acquired about 500 acres of land in Rajgir close to the original Nalanda. An international architecture competition is to be held to finalise the design of Nalanda International University.
Read More: http://goo.gl/jzw5r

Prelude to an Asian awakening


The new Nalanda International University will ‘emphasise the importance of eastern intellectual endeavour’ and as the continent re-emerges on the world stage ‘its civilisational origins will become a subject of intense study and debate’, writes ardhendu chatterjee

AT the 98th Indian Science Congress held at SRM University in Kattankulathur near Chennai in the first week of this month, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, head of the Nalanda Mentor Group, assured the nation that although restoring Bihar’s Nalanda University was a stupendous task given the hype generated over its revival and the huge expectation from the international community, the proposed university — a reincarnation of the world famous seat of learning in ancient India — was “being re-started right now”.
Although the new Nalanda International University was scheduled to be launched in 2009, issues like its basic structure and financial aspects have delayed its second coming. As creating an endowment of at least $1 billion for its re-establishment is badly needed, India’s dithering is understandable.
However, the Indian Parliament already passed the Nalanda University Bill with the Planning Commission following it up by earmarking Rs 50 crore “as endowment fund in the form of a special grant for the commencement of activities and till such time the Nalanda University becomes sustainable on its own.”
It deserves mention that former President APJ Abdul Kalam, during his official visit to Singapore in 2006, first floated the idea of the restoration of Nalanda University with all its pristine glory and excellence in a modern makeover. He then expounded his vision while addressing the Bihar Assembly. The Bihar government lost no time in taking up the matter in right earnest. It passed a bill in 2007 to establish Nalanda University and acquired about 500 acres of land in Rajgir, near the hallowed site of the ruined Nalanda University; acquisition of another 500 acres is also underway. It also succeeded in persuading the Centre to get involved in this massive project and take it over from the cash-strapped state.
The Centre agreed to shore up the state government move with financial support considering the international interest in the proposed university. The role of Singapore has been very commendable. Its sustained effort to spread the idea of the revival of the renowned seat of learning in course of “Nalanda Symposium” in November 2006 caught the fancy of East Asian countries, especially China, Japan and Korea. It also worked in tandem with Japan to raise resources to give a concrete shape to the plan. The move received a further fillip with the Japanese diplomat Noro Motoyasu’s announcement on 28 May 2007 that Japan would fund the university substantially.
The East Asia Summit, a conglomeration of Asean plus six countries ie China, Japan, India, Korea, Australia and New Zealand provided further boost to the project in 2007. Again in 2009, at its fourth summit, it made a fervent plea to its members to make “appropriate funding arrangements on a voluntary basis from government and other sources including public-private partnership” for this “non-state, non-profit, secular and self-governing international institution.”
The conglomeration decided to raise $500 million to build the proposed university and another $500 million to develop infrastructural facilities. A joint communiqué issued by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, who was on a state visit to India from 15-17 December last, also stated that China “welcomed India’s efforts to revive the Nalanda University. Both sides appreciated the work of the Nalanda Mentor Group and the progress made so far. India welcomed China’s contribution of $1 million for the university.”
The new university is likely to embrace the same seal of the ancient Buddhist University as its emblem in deference to its historic legacy.
The announcement of Professor Sen who has “the difficult task of chairing its interim governing body” comes as a fresh breath of air at a time when we do not care to respect the contributions of our centuries-old institutions of higher learning to the advancement of learning and dissemination of knowledge across the globe. The globe-trotting Nobel laureate is quite alive to the problems of re-establishing the university “after a 800-year hiatus”. His task is all the more unenviable in view of the complete faith reposed by his countrymen in his leadership, educational ideals and vision.
One, however, reasonably hopes that the university “aimed at advancing the concept of an Asian community... and rediscovering old relationships” will soon resurrect as an academic melting pot for students and teachers of the whole world as paucity of funds and bureaucratic red tape have not so far been a bottleneck to its restoration.
It is unfortunate that this ancient centre of higher learning, known as “one of the first great universities in recorded history” that served the international academic community for more than 700 years since its establishment in the fifth century ceased to exist after Afghan conqueror Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed it in 1193. Otherwise, it would have been placed on the same pedestal as Oxford and Cambridge universities.
Nalanda could also be compared with the oldest European university at Bologna which, according to Professor Sen, came up when “Nalanda was more than 600 years old… Had it not been destroyed and had it managed to survive to our time, Nalanda would be, by a long margin, the oldest university in the world.” Nalanda was established some 500 years before the Al-Azhar University in Cairo (970 AD.)
It has been decided that the new university would have facilities “including the teaching of and research in humanities such as history, languages and linguistics and comparative religion, as well as the social sciences and the world of practice such as international relations, management and development and information technology”. It would have a School of Buddhist studies, philosophy and comparative religion; School of Historical Studies; School of International Relations and Peace; School of Business Management and Development; School of Languages and Literature; and School of Ecology and Environmental Studies. The visitor of the university would either be the President of India or any other person appointed by him. The university would function as a public-private partnership with funds to be provided voluntarily by the respective governments of the member states. The Mea is expected to relax visa procedures for foreign faculty and students visiting India in this connection.
Professor Sen must be aware that Bihar is now desperately trying to shed its age-old image as a lawless state. The state is registering exponential growth in economy under the dynamic leadership of Nitish Kumar. It has made tremendous headway in education as well with the math wizard and Super 30 founder Anand Kumar winning international accolades. So any effort to delay or dilute the project or shift any of its locations elsewhere would be counterproductive.
The project is expected be the lifeline of Bihar’s economy. It would revive Buddhist cultures, attract scholars from all over the world, promote tourism and develop the economic conditions of people living in the 200-odd villages near the site. The success of this academic venture will strengthen cooperation among the Asian countries and promote mutual understanding. To quote Singapore foreign minister George Yeo, also an NMG member, Nalanda International University would be the “icon of Asian Renaissance… as Asia re-emerges on the world stage this century, its civilisational origins will become a subject of intense study and debate. Asians will look back to their own past and derive inspiration from it for the future”.
Most importantly, it will emphasise the importance of eastern intellectual endeavour and ensure that human cultural understanding is not dominated by the Western civilisational model.
Read more: http://goo.gl/s3K2c

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nalanda International University: A Great Initiative


Bihar government presented a Bill for the revival of Nalanda International University at Nalanda. We all should appreciate and give congratulations to the present government with a thumping desk to start the process of the revival of this International University which was known for the ancient seat of learning till 1197 AD.
This university attracted 10,000 students and 2,000 scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a pedestal of higher education in India and produced great scientists in the past, Aryabhatt was one of them who came to Bihar at the age of 13 from Kerala (some people says he was born nearby Patna) and become Vice chancellor of the University. Though it was devoted to Buddhist studies, the varsity also trained students in subjects like fine arts, medicine and mathematics.

In the post independent era, talks were going on for the revival of this university and the demand was started in early 1990s but it took serious turn when our the President of India, Dr. Abul Kalam suggested to revive this university while addressing the both houses of Bihar Assembly. This gave impetus to this process and become an eye opener for Bihar government. Hats off to our beloved President of India. He deserves appreciation for this great initiative.

As per the reports, Japan and Singapore have shown interest in investing about Rs.4.5 billion ($100 million) in the university. Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has offered to donate Buddhist artifacts to the proposed university.

A high-level international team of consultants is going to be formed for the establishment of the International University. In the initial phase, Nobel laureate Prof Amartya Sen and British Economist Professor in London School of Economics & member of the House of Lords, Lord Meghnad Desai have agreed to be part of an international group of consultants. The state government is also in the process of roping experts from Singapore and Japan and other countries for the revival of this unique university.

The report states that in its first phase, the university will offer only post-graduate, research, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. However, the report - prepared by the Educational Consultants of India, a consulting company under the union ministry of human resource development - is also in favor of offering undergraduate courses in specific areas.

The university will impart courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects. An internationally known scholar will be the chancellor of the university and 1,137 students from both India and abroad will be enrolled in the first year. By the fifth year, the number will go up to 4,530 and in the second phase, student enrolment will increase to 5,812.

The university, spread over a 500 acres, will have a 1:10 faculty-student ratio. The 46 international faculty members will receive an estimated $36,000 per annum as salaries.

The University of Nalanda Bill, 2007, states that the international university would strive to create a world free of war, terror and violence.

According to Chief Minister Sri Nitish Kumar, "This (bill), which is not only for Bihar or even India, will act as a facilitator for what will emerge as a centre for renaissance of the east. He strongly feels that the university will become a reference point for international relations and a centre for peace and resolution of disputes.
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