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.
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