A Buddhist Sunday – Nālandā

Nālandā (नालन्दा) was a huge Buddhist Monastery complex (a mahāvihāra) in what is now Bihar, India. It was also known as a centre of learning and is by some historians called a university.

It predates European universities like Oxford by at least 500 years.

Nālandā attracted people from all over India, Nepal, Tibet, China and even as far as Korea. Many great Buddhist teachers and scholars spent time here, including Dharmakīrti and Nāgārjuna.

Nālandā has been attracting Buddhist practitioners and scholars since at least 500 CE, and although the site in Bihar is now in ruins (probably the site was ransacked in 1200 CE by invading forces), it still attracts practitioners, scholars and tourists alike.

As a practitioner myself I have had the fortune of visiting Nālandā twice. Once in February 2005 and again in December 2013.

Great attempts are made in the reconstruction and conservation of the place.

Reconstruction/Preservation work

The site is huge and it is almost impossible to see it all in just a day.

There are remnants of small temples, some still with a stone Buddha statue inside, although usually badly damaged. The accommodation for the monks is easily recognised. Small stūpas worn down by rain and wind scatter the landscape, while a huge brick building dominates the area.

The bricks have the same colour as the earth, and when the winds pick up, even the sky turns a brownish red.

Nālandā is a beautiful and very impressive place to visit. It is inspiring and humbling to imagine that 1500 years ago people were living, practising and studying in this place.

Nālandā University seems to be making a restart as there are plans for a revival of the ancient Buddhist University with constructions for a new campus in Rajgir.

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