Wednesday, July 15, 2020

An old seat of learning

Aug 28. 2015
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By The Statesman
Asia News Netwo

The ancient Nalanda University is in the running for World Heritage status
The ancient seat of Buddhist leaning, the Nalanda University, located in Bihar is in the running for World Heritage site status. A team of experts from the Unesco and the Paris-based International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) visited the site near the capital city of Patna in Bihar to see whether the monument qualified as a world heritage, state officials said last Wednesday.
“The ancient Nalanda University is a step closer to becoming the second World Heritage site in Bihar after the Mahabodhi Temple dedicated to Lord Gautama Buddha in Bodh Gaya,” a district official in Nalanda, 100 km from the state capital of Patna, said.
The Unesco-Icomos experts took stock of the architectural remains of the university and inspected the walls and the ramparts of the structure. The team, officials said, is in the process of speaking to local inhabitants to understand their ancient lifestyles and traditions that the university had nurtured.
Built in the 5th century AD, the university flourished as a seat of higher learning according to Buddhist traditions till the 12th century with 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from across Asia.
The university saw the rise and fall of many empires, who pitched for the development of the university.
King Harshawardhana gifted a 25 metre high copper image of Buddha, Kumargupta endowed a college of fine arts, monks Nagarjuna, Dinnaga and Dharmpala taught in the school. 
The noted Chinese Hieun Tsang stayed at the university and compiled a detailed description of the university comprising “stupas” or “pagodas”, monasteries, hostels and wide meditation halls – symbolic of Spartan grandeur. The university of Nalanda existed until 1197 AD and attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, among others. Though it was devoted to Buddhist studies, the ancient varsity also trained students in subjects like fine arts, medicine and mathematics.
The university witnessed a symbolic revival in 2014, when a new university named the Nalanda International University in Rajgir, opened doors to students for post-graduate and doctoral studies.
The idea to build a new Nalanda University modelled on the old one was first suggested by the late former President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam in 2006. A year later, the Indian government set up a Nalanda Mentor Group chaired by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen to look into the structure of international collaboration and feasibility of the university.
 

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