Explore The Nalanda Mahavihara Site, Bihar
Explore The Nalanda Mahavihara Site, Bihar
We’ve all heard the saying, “Getting there is half the fun”. But where exactly is “there”? Our Explore series tells you where to go, how to get there, and what to do when you arrive. Happy travelling!
The Nalanda Mahavihara Site (Nalanda University) At Nalanda, Bihar
Nalanda, established in the 5th century AD, is world famous for being an important seat of learning in the ancient time. Now, the ruins of this prestigious university rest in Bihar, 62 kms. away from Bodh Gaya and 90 kms. south of metropolitan Patna. Though Buddha visited Nalanda several times in his life, this famous centre of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, between the 5th-12th centuries.
2,000 teachers and 10,000 monk students from all over the world lived and learnt in this first residential university of the world, which accepted foreign students too. Kings of the Gupta dynasty patronised these monasteries, built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard. Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana were among its most celebrated patrons. They added to the construction of temples, monasteries and viharas here. In fact, recent excavations have unearthed elaborate structures and priceless artefacts from the past.
To keep the traditions alive, an International Centre for Buddhist Studies was established here in 1951. Don’t leave here just having visited the ruins, step foot on the grounds of Nalanda Archaeological Museum and the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara.
What To See & Do
#1 Learn About The History Of Nalanda University Ruins
All the edifices are of the red brick and beautiful gardens dot the region. A small chapel retains a half-broken statue of the Lord Buddha. An enormous pyramidal mass of Temple no .3 is impressive and its top commands a splendid panoramic view.
The monasteries or “Viharas” are east of this central alley and the temple or “Chaiyas” are to the west. The Vihara-1 is perhaps the most interesting one, with its cells on two floors built around a central courtyard. The steps lead up to what must have once upon a time been a dais for the professors to address their students.
#2 Nalanda Archaeological Museum
Opposite the entrance to the ruins of the university and houses, there is a small but beautiful collection of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain antiquities sculpted with stone, bronzes, stucco, and terracotta. These have been excavated from the Nalanda University and preserved here, along with a number of undamaged statues of Lord Buddha that were found around the area. Two enormous terracotta jars of the first century stand intact behind the museum in a shaded enclosure. The reserve collection includes copper plates, stone inscriptions, coins, pottery and samples of burnt rice (12th century AD) among other ruin artifacts.
Note: It is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and it remains closed on Fridays. There is an entry fee of 5 rupees per head.
#3 Nava Nalanda Mahavihara
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is an institute which functions along the same lines of ancient Nalanda University. It is devoted to the study and research of Pali Literature, along with courses offering teachings in Japanese, Tibetan, and Chinese culture. The principle focus is on Buddhism. The campus is located on the southern bank of historical lake Indrapuskarani, while the ruins of ancient Nalanda University lie to the north. This school of enlighted learning keeps a limit on the number of students, including those who come from abroad.
How To Get There
- By Air: The nearest airport from Nalanda is around 89 km away in Patna. Regular flights connect Patna to Kolkata, Delhi, Ranchi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Lucknow, and Kathmandu.
- By Rail: The nearest railway station from Nalanda is in Rajgir.
- By Road: Nalanda is connected through a good road network with Rajgir (12 kms.), with Bodh Gaya (50 kms.), Patna (90 kms.), Pawapuri (26 kms.), and Bihar Sharif (13 kms.).
Best Time To Visit
- The best season to visit is from October to March.
- The temperature during summer can reach a maximum of 37.8°C while the minimum temperature dips down to as low as 10.6°C in winters.
- Monsoon arrives in this region in June and continues till September.