Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Unique Design, Green air-cooling system for Nalanda University

Architects building the Nalanda International University at the ancient seat of learning in Bihar have decided to use the desiccant enhanced evaporative (Devap) air-cooling system. This is the first time such a system will be used in India.

The Devap system works by using “dessicant” material that removes moisture from the air using heat, as also evaporative technologies that bring about cooling by using up to 90 percent less energy than conventional means.

“We plan to use the Devap system in Nalanda International University for the first time in India, as it gels with the concept of the ancient seat of learning,” said Rajeev Kathpalia, principal architect of the Ahmedabad-based company Vastu Shilpa Consultants, selected last month to design the university.

Kathpalia said the Devap system had not been tried in India till now. “It will be an experiment in Nalanda,” Kathpalia told IANS, adding that it had shown satisfactory results in the US and Japan.

Kathpalia, along with B.V. Doshi, the firm’s principal architect, visited the site at Rajgir, some 100 km from Patna, where the university will be built, and discussed the design with Vice Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal.

Sabharwal said construction work on the 446-acre plot, located 12 km from the ruins of the ancient seat of learning, would begin by December.

She said the first phase of the varsity, an initiative of the Indian government and supported by the East Asia Summit, would be completed in two years.

The university will begin its academic session from 2014, initially offering masters degrees in ecology, environment and historic studies, Sabharwal said.

Kathpalia pointed out that the buildings would be designed on the concept of “net zero” energy consumption. The university would generate its own energy using photo voltaics. It would also collect the biomass of neighbouring villages to generate its own electricity and harvest rainwater.

The university, which will have seven schools, will be fully residential, like the ancient Nalanda university. It will offer courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism, along with social sciences.
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Sunday, June 2, 2013

India's ancient Nalanda university returns to life !!

Nalanda University was an eminent centre of learning long before Oxford, Cambridge and Europe's oldest university Bologna were founded. Nalanda University in northern India drew scholars from all over Asia, surviving for hundreds of years before being destroyed by invaders in 1193.

The idea of Nalanda as an international centre of learning is being revived by a group of statesmen and scholars led by the Nobel prize winning economist, Amartya Sen, The group wants to establish a new world-class residential university with top students and researchers from around the world, on a site close to ruins of the ancient Buddhist institution in the Indian state of Bihar.

The new Nalanda International University will focus on the humanities, economics and management, Asian integration, sustainable development and oriental languages.
Old foundations ,but building a top university from scratch, let alone one in a poor under-developed part of India, is a tall order. Some doubt that an international university can flourish in such an under-developed area.

"Are top students and faculty going to be attracted to rural Bihar?" says Philip Altbach, director of the Centre for International Higher Education at Boston College in the United States.
Amartya Sen Nobel laureate Amartya Sen is the university's first chancellor

Amartya Sen, the university's chancellor, is undaunted.

"Our job is to get the new Nalanda University going and establish the teaching. This is just the beginning - the old Nalanda took 200 years to come to a flourishing state. We may not take 200 years but it will take some decades."

"After Nalanda was destroyed in the 1190s it lingered on for a while - from time to time some people noticed that there was some teaching going on in the following couple of hundred years, but it wasn't anything like the university it had been. There is now absolutely nothing. We have to start from scratch."

In 2006, India, China, Singapore, Japan and Thailand announced the plan to revive the university based on the vision of the old Nalanda. And it was backed by the East Asia Summit which also includes South East Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the US.
International staff

The new university will be built in Rajgir, 10 kilometres from the ancient site with buildings planned on old Buddhist principles.

For now temporary premises have been secured and the postgraduate university has already published invitations to research fellows and scholars from around the world.
Dalai Lama The Dalai Lama has spoken of the historic importance of Nalanda

The first two faculties will be history and ecology and the environment with the first intake of students due next year.

Prof Sen says there will be active co-operation with Yale's school of forestry studies, Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University department of history, Seoul University in South Korea and Peking University in China.

This international outlook could boost India's higher education sector which is seen as inward looking and less internationalised than other countries in Asia, including China.

The new Nalanda will be "Asian in inspiration, Asian in motivation but it is not Asian in terms of its knowledge or the range or expertise or personal involvement. If the knowledge works in Asia, it ought to work in Africa or Latin America as well," said Prof Sen.

If all goes well, it will do Nalanda's ancient reputation proud despite the intervening 800 years.
'Soaring into the clouds'

Founded around the 5th Century, Nalanda once had over 10,000 students, mostly Buddhist monks, many of them from China, Japan, Korea and countries across south-east, central and western Asia.

The Chinese monk Xuanzang, who studied there in the 7th Century, left behind an eye-popping account of the thriving, wealthy university, describing a nine-storey library "soaring into the clouds."

Shanghai-based author Mishi Saran followed Xuanzang's route across Asia in her book Chasing the Monk's Shadow.
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    It could show that India is present in Asia not only economically and militarily but also intellectually”

Prof Sukh Deo Muni

"Xuanzang was looking to study with the people who knew the (Buddhist) texts best. Nalanda was already reaching the heights of its power and prestige. It was known in Korea and Japan - its reputation had spread through the Asian trade routes," she said.

"When Xuanzang was at Nalanda, it was a vibrant place, packed with scholars, with seminars, teaching and debate. It was a kind of Buddhist Ivy League institution - all the deepest ideas about Buddhism were explored and dissected at Nalanda," said Ms Saran.

The influence of those scholars has survived to this day. While at the Jaipur literary festival in Rajasthan in January, the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said "the source of all the [Buddhist] knowledge we have, has come from Nalanda."

The new Nalanda hopes to match the intellectual rigour, but will not be a religious institution.

"Nalanda was not only interested in Buddhism. Even at that time it took from universal principles. It had secular studies, public health, it was interested in logic, astrology and mathematics and languages," said George Yeo, a former Singaporean Foreign Minister and head of the Nalanda international advisory panel.

Nonetheless, the "spirit of Nalanda" is part of the attraction. Nearby, the Buddha achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya.
'Severe doubts'

But Prof Altbach, an expert on world-class universities, has "severe doubts" about the location.

"The site of an academic institution is important," he said. Nalanda "may attract a certain number of big thinkers, but academics like to be where the infrastructure is. They want culture and amenities and coffee shops, and a wider community of intellectuals than that on campus".

Yet Bihar, has also emerged as India's fastest growing state with economic growth of 12% last year.
Orwell's birthplace, Bihar State, India The writer George Orwell was also born in Bihar, northern India

"The countryside looked arid and impoverished. Today there are lush fields. The shops are fuller, the saris have become brighter," said Mr Yeo.

The university itself will help to develop the region, working with some 60 surrounding villages to improve livelihoods in agriculture and tourism, according to Nand Kishore Singh, a member of parliament from Bihar and a member of Nalanda's governing body.

The next two faculties to be put in place will be information technology, and management and economics which will help develop job opportunities "to enable Bihar to catch up with the rest of India", said Prof Sen.

Already a huge amount of infrastructure is planned for Bihar, including roads and an international airport at Gaya, with the Bihar State government fully committed to the university project.

But "building a top-class university is extraordinarily expensive, especially in a rural and undeveloped location, even with assistance of foreign donors and the central government", said Prof Altbach.
Soft power, hard cash

While the land has been provided by the state of Bihar, the Nalanda's supporters estimate around $1bn (£650m) will be needed. Even that is seen as a modest sum compared to some of the world's major universities.

Australia is funding a dean-level chair of ecology and environment. Singapore will design, build and donate library costing up to $7m (£4.5m). Thailand will contribute $100,000 (£65,000), and China has announced $1m (£650,000) in aid for construction.

"I don't see any dearth of money in the region but they are nowhere near the $1bn endowment, so far not many countries have come forward with their huge purses," said Sukh Deo Muni, a former Indian envoy to Laos and visiting professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.
Read more:http://goo.gl/oAaNs

New Look of reviving old Nalanda University !!

 Efforts to re-establish and re-invent the historic and famed Nalanda University in Rajgir, located 12 km away from the monument zone of Nalanda in Bihar, moved ahead.

Plans to build a new campus took shape a few days ago when the international jury comprising four architects from Singapore, Japan, China and India and three members from the University chose the winning design from an international competition.

Of the eight proposals submitted by pre-qualified architectural firms, including five from abroad, the jury selected the design drawn by Vastushilpa Consultants, a well known architecture firm based in Ahmedabad for its “conceptual planning, clarity of thought and ability to take forward the vision of Nalanda.”

Nalanda University, conceptualised as a standalone international institution, would be constructed on a 455-acre site to accommodate 2,500 students and 500 teachers. The University has proposed seven schools of learning including Historic Studies, Buddhist Studies and Information Technology, but only two of them — Historic Studies and Environment Studies — would be built in the first phase.

Rajeev Kathpalia, one of the two principal architects of Vastushilpa Consultants in a telephone interview said that their design ‘envisions the new campus as an institution of future, a beacon of sustainable practices and a model of integration with local community.’ He also explained that they have planned buildings as a close-knit group and located amid a tranquil agrarian landscape. More than half the site is intentionally kept open to take care of the aquifers and recharge them. The overall aim is to create an integrated ecosystem where flow of air, water and energy are channelled in an almost natural way, he added.

Balakrishna Doshi, a Padma Shri awardee, is the senior partner and founder of Vastushilpa Consultants.

Nalanda flourished as an important centre of learning for about 800 years. It fell into ruins in the 13th century, and the British archaeologists discovered the historic remains in the 19th century.

Following the decision to revive the university at the Second East Asian Summit in 2007, the Indian government established Nalanda University in 2010 after passing an Act in Parliament. Many Asia-Pacific countries have extended support for the project. Last year, the University floated the international competition seeking designs for the proposed campus.
Read more:http://goo.gl/MVF5V

A brief and Incredible History of Nalanda University

India has always been revered as a land of learning. From ancient sciences to arts, philosophy, and literature, the country has always be...