Reviving Ancient India Glory : Nalanda University !
Students and scholars from all over the world will soon be converging again at ancient capital of Magadha kings - Rajgir, Bihar to study at the new Nalanda International University.
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.
As Bihar Government was also toying with the idea it unanimously passed the University of Nalanda Bill in March 2007. In the mid-March 2006 Singapore showed interest in the development of Nalanda as part of Buddhist circuit for the growth of tourism and as a site for a twenty first century learning institution linking South and East Asia.
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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.
It is envisaged that the revival of the University will lead to the growth of Buddhist circuit giving a boost to the tourism industry.
Harking back to the time when Nalanda University was the biggest centre of learning in the Magadha empire the modern university too would like to associate and build linkages with the people living in the 200 odd villages surrounding Nalanda since ancient times. Setting up cottage industries and teaching students of the villages is being undertaken.
The University shall function as a public-private partnership and the funds shall be provided on voluntary basis by the Government of Member States of East Asia Summit.
The Nalanda International University planned to be a seat of learning, scholarship, philosophy and statecraft will be a non-state, non-profit, secular and self-governing international institution with a focus to attract the brightest and the most dedicated students from all countries of Asia. The objective of the university is “aimed at advancing the concept of an Asian community...and rediscovering old relationships.”
Several countries like Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Japan ,China, have shown interest in funding the University. Singapore has pledged US$4-5 million for building a library at Nalanda University. The huge library of ancient Nalanda University had been burned down. On December 16, 2010, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao contributed US$ 1 million dollars for the Nalanda University during his visit to India.
Eminent Sociologist Gopa Sabharwal has been appointed the first Vice Chancellor of Nalanda International University. Professor of Sociology at Lady Shri Ram College, Dr Gopa Sabharwal is an alumnus of Delhi School of Economics and had set up the Department of Sociology in Lady Shri Ram College of Delhi University in 1993.
The Nobel laureate Amartya Sen who is the Chairman of the Governing Board says, “Excellence and fairness in educating people in courses which are intellectually challenging and practically useful would be the guiding principles of the university.”
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