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 2009. 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.
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