Nalanda has a heritage as an international centre of education for more than 700 years. It was also a prosperous place of spiritual importance during the days of the Buddha. While staying in Nalanda’s vicinity, the Buddha usually resided in Amballathika or at Pavarika’s Mango Grove. XuanZang informs that King sakraditya (5th century CE) established the NalandaMahavira at the site of Pavarika’s Mango Grove. According to the Jataka tales in one of his former lives, the Buddha was a generous king who had a capital here, and thus the name ‘Nalanda’, which means ‘insatiable in giving.’

Sometime after the death of the Buddha, a major famine broke out and Nalanda’s prosperity waned. The King Asoka visited the sacred town again in the 3rd century BCE and it flourished again. It reached its peak between the Gupta and Pala periods (4th to 7 centuries) with the establishment of  theNalandaMahavihara. Nalanda was the place of birth and nirvana of the famous disciple  of the Buddha, Sariputra. It became famous for its religious, philosophical, linguistic, social, and scientific fields of study. It was founded by Kumaragupta (413-455 AD) of the Gupta dynasty, King Harshvardhan of Kannauj (606-647 AD), and Pala kings of est India (8-12 century AD). The decline of the great institutions started in late Pala period but the final blow came in around 1200 AD by the invasion of BakhtiarKilji.

The galaxy of luminaries associated with it includes Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Vasubandhu, Dharampala, Suvishnu, Asanga, Shilbhadra, Dharmakriti, Shantarakshita and celebrated Chinese traveller XuanZiang. Various subjects like Theology, Grammer, Logic, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Medicine, and Philosophy were taught here. The institution was maintained by the revenue collected from the villages bestowed specifically for the purpose by the contemporary rulers. More than 8000 students from all over Asia attended the university, the teachers numbered over 1000. Admissions were strictly scruitinised and were rejected by the gatekeeper, who would pose questions requiring quick and accurate answers.

Today, the 35 acre archaeological park contains a row of temple and monastery ruins. According to XuanZang, the temple ruin actually marks the location of the ‘fragrant’ hut that the Buddha occupied while staying at the Pavarika’s Mango Grove. Over the centuries, the buiding transformed from a simple hut to  a moderate stupa and then to a great temple. The surrounding votive stupas indicate that this site was the most sacred at Nalanda, and UNESCO has declared the monument as a World Heritage Site.


Set up as a tribute to one of the greatest Buddhist scholars and travellers of the time, XuanZang travelled overland to India from China, through Taklamakan Desert and Himalayan mountains, in the seventh century without a map. The tremendous hardship he endured were rewarded by the 15 years of joy he enjoyed as a pilgrim in India. In his epic journal, he left behind a fascinating account of Indian culture, history, and society that he observed during his visits to the sacred sites, and while teaching and learning at Nalanda.

On his journey homewards, the legendary pilgrim carried with him 657 Buddhist texts, which later he translated into Chinese. These works helped clarify many of the misunderstandings of the Dhamma by ealy Chinese scholars, and also helped later researchers to discover many of the lost sacred sites connected to the Buddha’s life.

The complex’s large bell, donated by the Chinese government, contains an inscription of the Heart Sutra, the famous Mahayana text that articulates the empty and insubstantial nature of all existence. The memorial is about 2 km away beyond Nalanda ruins and its hall has beautiful murals that are stylistc replicas of Ajanta and represent of fusion of Chinese and Indian art

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In 1951, BhikkuJagdishKashyap, backed by India’s first President, DrRajendra Prasad founded it with a hope to revive the ancient seat of Buddhist learning. The present campus is located on the bank of a peaceful  lake, two kilometers from the ruins. The university offers diploma and degree courses in Pali, Philosophy and Indian culture.

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Legend has it that when a man woke up one early morning, he noticed a poisonous snake slither over his wife’s arm, and the curled out of the room. He woke her wife, told her about what happened  and about the transitory nature of life. With his wife’s approval he saved his head, sewed a robe from a discarded rags and set out as homeless wanderer in serch of a teacher and meaning of life. Then while resting at Nalanda, the man saw the Buddha approach and offered him his robe to sit on. The Buddha accepted it with smile and then offered his robe in return. Receiving Dhamma instruction from Buddha, the traveller realized the experience of an arahant. This man was the legendary Mahakasssapa. He went off to live in the wild and was soon recognized as the master of aesthetic practices and the Buddha’s fourth ranking disciple (after Kondanna, Sariputta, and Mogallana). For many Buddhist traditions, the famous exchange of robes symbolizes the transmission of the lineage of Teachers.

The Mahadevasthan Temple in Silao village is believed to be spot where the Bddha and Mahakassapa first met.

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