Ninety kms south of Patna, here once stood the world-famous Buddhist University, Nalanda, accommodating 10,000 students. The Buddha had preached here and Emperor Asoka had built a monastery in commemoration of that event. Lord Mahavira too lived here.

The excavated ruins are immensely impressive—with chapels, monasteries, and lecture halls spreading symmetrically over a large area. A museum exhibits rare examples of sculpture and archaeological finds.

Rabindranath Tagore writes of this ancient university: "The religion of the Buddha, with its vast network of philosophical principles, its code of discipline, and its varied schools of realization, had entered the heart of India. The establishment of Nalanda was prompted by a desire to channelize this many-branched stream of Buddhism towards a common centre, so that all men may purify themselves in it and quench their thirst. That this longing was deep, truthful, generous and dynamic is borne out by the glowing accounts of Nalanda given by Hiuen-Tsang.”

The sculpture and architecture of Nalanda were designed to inspire a sense of dignity but not awe, and give a feeling of serenity most conducive to study and meditation. Speaking of Hiuen-Tsang, it is significant that while camping here he once had a strange dream: the beautiful buildings had disappeared. Instead of scholars, the place was full of buffaloes. This dream almost came true when the huge university library was reduced to ashes by a fire, caused by Muslim invaders.

The huge stupa standing at the centre of the site can be ascended by a steep flight of stairs. The hills of Rajgir can be seen at some distance. Below the stupa spreads a vast complex of the ruins of the various faculties of the ancient Nalanda—walled enclosures, pillars, shrines and tanks.

From Patna to Nalanda the road lies through charming landscape.

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