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Excavations At Nalanda 1

Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Highest Self—Enlightened One!

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Published: 2014-07-11

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Nalanda is one of the most ancient international centres of education and learning equivalent to modern universities, with a very rich library. An inscribed seal written 'Sri-Nalandamahavihariy-Arya-Bhikshu-Sanghasya' identifies the site as Nalanda Mahavihara.

Nalanda has a very ancient history and goes back to the days of Mahavira and Buddha in sixth and fifth centuries B.C. Many references in the Pali Buddhist literature mention about Nalanda. It is said that in course of his journeys Buddha often halted at this place. It is also the place of birth and nirvana of Sariputra, one of the famous disciples of Buddha.

The place rose into prominence in 5th Century A.D. as a great monastic—cum—educational institution for oriental art and learning in the whole Buddhist world, attracting students from like Hiuen Tsang and I—Tsing from China and other distant countries. The galaxy of luminaries associated with it includes Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Vasubandhu, Dharmapala, Suvishnu, Asanga, Silabhadra, Dharmakirti, Shantarakshita. Another important mention in history, is that around second century, Suvishnu built one hundred and eight temples at Nalanda to prevent the decline of the Hînayana and Mahayana schools of Buddhism.

Nalanda University Excavated Site, Bargaon, Bihar, India. View Full Map >>
Various subjects like theology, sabda—vidya grammar, hetu—vidya (logic), astronomy, metaphysics, chikitsa—vidya medicine and philosophy were taught here. The accounts of pilgrim state that Nalanda was bustling with literary activities.

Nalanda had now acquired a celebrity spread all over the east as a centre of Buddhist theology and educational activities. This is evident from the fact that within a short period of thirty years following Hiuen Tsang's departure, no less than eleven Chinese and Korean travelers are known to have visited Nalanda.

Life lead by Nalanda monks is regarded as the ideal to be followed by the Buddhist all over the world. This celebrity status persisted through ages. It is also attributed that a detailed history of Nalanda would be the history of Mahayanist Buddhism.

The institution was maintained by the revenue collected from the villages bestowed specifically for the purpose by the contemporary rulers as evident from inscriptions. Royal patronage was therefore the key note of the prosperity and efficiency of Nalanda.

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Cultural Resources of Nalanda

Nalanda is primarily a archaeological site exposed during the excavations conducted by Archaeological Survey of India during 1915—37 and 1974—82. There are references that the city was spread over an area of sixteen square kilometers of which only an area of around square kilometer is excavated. The extensive remains are of six brick temples and eleven monasteries arranged on a systematic layout.

It has a central monumental axis thirty meter wide running north—south with the row of temples on the west and monasteries on the east. The dimension and disposition of rooms within monasteries is almost identical. The most imposing structure is Temple No. 3 at the southern extremity which was constructed in seven phases. This follows the pancharatna concept of planning consisting of a central shrine and four subsidiary ones in the corner.

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Other than structures, the cultural resources of the site include many sculptures and images in stone, bronze and stucco. Significant among the Buddhist sculptures are Buddha in different postures, Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Tara, Prajnaparamita, Marichi, Jambhala etc. A few images are of Brahmanical deities like Vishnu, Siva—Parvati, Mahishasur—Mardini, Ganesha, Surya etc. Other noteworthy discoveries of excavation include the murals, copper plates, stone and brick inscriptions, sealings, plaques, coins, terracottas, potteries etc.

The antiquities have been exhibited for the visitors in the nearby museum maintained by Archaeological Survey of India.

May all be happy and well!


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