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Information about Nalanda

Nalanda is situated about 90 kms. south of Patna. Nalanda literally means the place that confers the lotus. Nalanda was founded in the 5th century AD on an ancient site of pilgrimage and teaching which had been visited by both the Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavir. If Bodh Gaya marked the beginning of Buddhism, Nalanda was the continuation and intellectual nerve centre of Buddhism. Nalanda is known for the world famous Buddhist university. Once 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students lived and studied here. This university was a center of great learning which reached its zenith between 5th and 12th century AD.

History of Nalanda

Fa-hien, the Chinese pilgrim visited Nalanda in the early 5th century. In the 7th century, the Chinese scholar Hiuen-Tsang spent 12 years both as a teacher and as a student in Nalanda which once had over 3000 teachers and philosophers. He also left detailed description of the excellence of education and purity of monastic life practiced here. The monks were supported by 200 villages and a library of 9 million manuscripts attracted men from countries as far as Java, Sumatra, Korea, Japan and China. I-Tsing, another Chinese scholar visited the place in 673 AD and also kept detailed records, describing the severe life-style of the monks. The Buddha had also preached here and Emperor Ashoka built a monastery in result of the event. The King Harshavardhana also donated a 26 m high copper image of the Buddha and Kumaragupta endowed a college of fine arts. The Gupta kings patronised these monasteries, built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard. The Buddhist monastic movement resulted in large communities withdrawing into retreats which can be seen at Nalanda. According to Hiuen-Tsang, in the 7th century, Buddhism was declining except in Bihar and Bengal where it enjoyed royal patronage and the suuport of the people. An international Centre for Buddhist Studies was established here in 1951.

The greatness of Nalanda was hidden under a vast mound for centuries, until the excavations were made in the 1916. The excavated ruins of Nalanda were immensely impressive, with chapels, monasteries, and lecture halls spreading symmetrically over a large area. The remains of 11 monasteries and several temples built by the kings of different periods mainly in red brick, have been found as a well as a large stairway, a library, lecture halls, dormitories, cells, pillars, shrines, tanks, walled enclosures and wells. A stupa built by Ashoka, possibly in the remembrance of the Buddha's first disciple Ananda, who was born in Nalanda, is an extremely impressive structure. The huge stupa standing at the centre of the site can be ascended by a steep flight of stairs. New excavations done to the north east in Sarai Mound show evidence of a brick temple with frescoes of elephants and horses of the Pala period.

Tourist Attractions in Nalanda

Nalanda is mainly known for the Nalanda University. This university was the school of various scholars and later destroyed by Muslim invaders. This university is now in ruins. The other attractions in Nalanda are Nalanda Museum and Nava Nalanda Maha-Vihira.

Ruins of Nalanda University, Nalanda

Ruins of Nalanda University
Nalanda has the ruins of the world famous and oldest Buddhist University. This university accommodated ten thousand students from all over the Buddhist world, two thousand teachers and nine million books and was a center of great learning which reached its zenith between 5th and 12th century AD. This university was destroyed by Muslim invaders.

Nava Nalanda Maha-Vihira
Nava Nalanda Maha-Vihira was set up as a post graduate institute for research in the Pali language and Buddhism. This institute was set up by the Government of Bihar and has collection of many rare manuscripts. This place is now the site of Indira Gandhi Open University. A colourful Thai temple has also been built recently in the typical style in Nalanda.

Lauria Nandangarh
Lauria Nandangarh is situated about 23 km from Bettiah and 14 km from Shikarpur. This place has the famous lion pillar erected by Ashoka. The 8.5 m polished sandstone column also has an edict engraved on it. Nearby are the remains of Nandangarh stupa, believed to contain the ashes of the Buddha.

Nalanda Museum
The Nalanda museum exhibits rare examples of sculpture and archaeological finds. It has a good collection of antiques, Buddhist and Hindu stone sculptures, terracottas and bronze images of the Gupta and Pala period. There are also coins, inscriptions, plaques, selas, pottery and samples of burnt rice found in the ruins at Nalanda and Rajgir.

Lauria Areraj 
A 11.5 m high Ashoka column was erected in Lauria Areraj in 249 B.C. The polished sandstone pillar has six edicts on it. This place is about 30 km from Motihari.

Lauria Nandangarh, Iron Pillar, Nalanda


Bihar-Shariff is situated about 64 km. from Patna. Bihar-Shariff flourished as an important seat of Muslim culture during the 13th-16th centuries. The tomb of the 13th century saint, Pir Makhdum Shah Sharifuddin and Malik Ibrahim Baya is situated in Bihar-Shariff, and a famous pilgrim centre for the Muslims.

Pawapuri is situated about 104 km. from Patna and 25 km. from Nalanda. Pawapuri is also known as Apapuri, the sinless town and a sacred pilgrimage centre of Jains. Pawapuri is the place where Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, attained Nirvana or enlightenment. The lotus pond where the Lord Mahavira bathed and on the banks, where he was cremated has a white marble temple, the Jalmandir. Jalamandir is a temple situated amidst a lake. Samosharan is another Jain temple which is built in Pawapuri. During the Deepavali festival, Jains from all over India gather here to discuss issues concerning their faith.

How to get there

By Air: 
The nearest airport is located in Patna, about 90 kms. from Nalanda. 

By Rail:
The main railway station is located in Patna. The nearest railway station is located in Rajgir. 

By Road:
Nalanda is connected by road to Bodh Gaya, Patna and Rajgir.

States in East India
Bihar || Jharkhand || Orissa || Sikkim || West Bengal

Information about Bihar
Introduction || History || Geography || Economy || Crafts || Cuisine || Festivals || Tourist Attractions

Cities in Bihar
Bodh Gaya || Gaya || Nalanda || Patna || Rajgir || Vaishali

Distances from Cities in Bihar
Gaya || Patna

Festivals of Bihar
Makar Sankranti Mela || Sonepur Fair || Buddha Jayanti || Mahavir Jayanti || Chhath Puja || Pitrapaksha Mela

Frequent group departures...

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