|Four main sites|
|Four additional sites|
Nalanda (Skt. Nālandā; T. nA len+d+ra ནཱ་ལེནྡྲ་; C. nalantuosi 那爛陀寺) was the largest and most famous of the ancient Indian monastic universities, and is associated with some of the greatest figures of the Mahayana school. It is located a few miles north of Rajagriha, in the modern Indian state of Bihar.
Nalanda was a centre of learning from the fifth century CE to c. 1200 CE. It flourished under the patronage of the Gupta Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries and later under Harsha, the emperor of Kannauj.
At its peak, the school attracted scholars and students from near and far with some travelling from Tibet, China, Korea, and Central Asia. Archaeological evidence also notes contact with the Shailendra dynasty of Indonesia, one of whose kings built a monastery in the complex.
Much of our knowledge of Nalanda comes from the writings of pilgrim monks from East Asia such as Xuanzang and Yijing who traveled to Nalanda in the 7th century. Vincent Smith remarked that "a detailed history of Nalanda would be a history of Mahayanist Buddhism". Many of the names listed by Xuanzang in his travelogue as products of Nalanda are the names of those who developed the philosophy of Mahayana. All students at Nalanda studied Mahayana as well as the texts of the eighteen (Hinayana) sects of Buddhism. Their curriculum also included other subjects such as the Vedas, logic, Sanskrit grammar, medicine and Samkhya.
The philosophical tradition of Nalanda was particularly influential in Tibetan Buddhism. The 14th Dalai Lama has said: "To understand Buddhism in Tibet, we must trace its roots back to the Buddha through the Nalanda masters." He states that the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism are based on the Nalanda tradition.
Nalanda was very likely ransacked and destroyed by an army of the Mamluk Dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate under Bakhtiyar Khilji in c. 1200 CE. While some sources note that the Mahavihara continued to function in a makeshift fashion for a while longer, it was eventually abandoned and forgotten until the 19th century when the site was surveyed and preliminary excavations were conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India. Systematic excavations commenced in 1915 which unearthed eleven monasteries and six brick temples neatly arranged on grounds 12 hectares (30 acres) in area. A trove of sculptures, coins, seals, and inscriptions have also been discovered in the ruins many of which are on display in the Nalanda Archaeological Museum situated nearby.
Nalanda is now a notable tourist destination and an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
Nalanda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Scharfe 2002, p. 149.
- Dutt 1962, p. 329.
- Monroe 2000, pp. 169.
- Dutt 1962, p. 334.
- Frazier 2011, p. 34.
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- Buswell & Lopez 2013, Entry for Nālandā.
- Walton 2015, p. 122.
- Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2017, s.v. Buddhism in Tibet.
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- Dalai Lama; Thubten Chodron (2017), Approaching the Buddhist Path, The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, Volume 1, Wisdom Publications
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