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File:Nalanda University India ruins.jpg
The ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara
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Location Nalanda district, Bihar, India
Coordinates Lua error: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Type Centre of learning
Length 800 ft (240 m)
Width 1,600 ft (490 m)
Area 12 ha (30 acres)
Founded 5th century CE
Abandoned 13th century CE
Events Likely ransacked by Bakhtiyar Khilji in c. 1200 CE
Site notes
Excavation dates 1915–1937, 1974–1982[1]
Archaeologists David B. Spooner, Hiranand Sastri, J.A. Page, M. Kuraishi, G.C. Chandra, N. Nazim, Amalananda Ghosh[2]:59
Public access Yes
Website ASI [archive]
Official name Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) at Nalanda, Bihar
Type Cultural
Criteria iv, vi
Designated 2016 (40th session)
Reference no. 1502 [archive]
State Party India
ASI No. N-BR-43[3]

Nalanda (IAST: Nālandā; /naːlən̪d̪aː/) was an acclaimed Mahavihara, a large Buddhist monastery in the ancient kingdom of Magadha (modern-day Bihar) in India. The site is located about 95 kilometres (59 mi) southeast of Patna near the town of Bihar Sharif, and was a centre of learning from the seventh century BCE to c. 1200 CE.[4]:149 It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site[5][6]

The highly formalized methods of Vedic learning helped inspire the establishment of large teaching institutions such as Taxila, Nalanda, and Vikramashila[7] which are often characterised as India's early universities.[4]:148[8]:174[9][10]:43[11]:119 Nalanda flourished under the patronage of the Gupta Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries and later under Harsha, the emperor of Kannauj.[12]:329 The liberal cultural traditions inherited from the Gupta age resulted in a period of growth and prosperity until the ninth century. The subsequent centuries were a time of gradual decline, a period during which the tantric developments of Buddhism became most pronounced in eastern India under the Pala Empire.[12]:344

At its peak, the school attracted scholars and students from near and far with some travelling all the way from Tibet, China, Korea, and Central Asia.[8]:169 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 travelled to the Mahavihara 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.[12]:334 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.[7][12]:332–333[13][14]

Nalanda was very likely ransacked and destroyed by an army of the Mamluk Dynasty of the Muslim Delhi Sultanate under Bakhtiyar Khilji in c. 1200 CE.[15] 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 a part of the Buddhist tourism circuit.


A number of theories exist about the etymology of the name, Nālandā. According to the Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim, Xuanzang, it comes from Na al,lllam dā meaning no end in gifts or charity without intermission. Yijing, another Chinese traveller, however, derives it from Nāga Nanda referring to the name (Nanda) of a snake (naga) in the local tank.[16]:3 Hiranand Sastri, an archaeologist who headed the excavation of the ruins, attributes the name to the abundance of nālas (lotus-stalks) in the area and believes that Nalanda would then represent the giver of lotus-stalks.[17]

Early history[edit]

File:Buddha Statue, Nalanda, Alexander E Caddy, 1895.jpg
A statue of Gautama Buddha at Nalanda in 1895.

Nalanda was initially a prosperous village by a major trade route that ran through the nearby city of Rajagriha (modern Rajgir) which was then the capital of Magadha.[18] It is said that the Jain thirthankara, Mahavira, spent 14 rainy seasons at Nalanda. Gautama Buddha too is said to have delivered lectures in a nearby mango grove named Pavarika and one of his two chief disciples, Shariputra, was born in the area and later attained nirvana there.[4]:148[12]:328 This traditional association with Mahavira and Buddha tenuously dates the existence of the village to at least the 5th–6th century BCE.

Not much is known of Nalanda in the centuries hence. Taranatha, the 17th-century Tibetan Lama, states that the 3rd-century BCE Mauryan and Buddhist emperor, Ashoka, built a great temple at Nalanda at the site of Shariputra's chaitya. He also places 3rd-century CE luminaries such as the Mahayana philosopher, Nagarjuna, and his disciple, Aryadeva, at Nalanda with the former also heading the institution. Taranatha also mentions a contemporary of Nagarjuna named Suvishnu building 108 temples at the location. While this could imply that there was a flourishing centre for Buddhism at Nalanda before the 3rd century, no archaeological evidence has been unearthed to support the assertion. When Faxian, an early Chinese Buddhist pilgrim to India, visited Nalo, the site of Shariputra's parinirvana, at the turn of the 5th century CE, all he found worth mentioning was a stupa.[9]:37[16]:4

Nalanda in the Gupta era[edit]

File:Rear View (2) of Baladitya Temple, Nalanda, by Joseph Beglar, 1872.jpg
Rear view of the ruins of the Baladitya Temple in 1872.

Nalanda's datable history begins under the Gupta Empire[19] and a seal identifies a monarch named Shakraditya (Śakrāditya) as its founder. Both Xuanzang and a Korean pilgrim named Prajnyavarman (Prajñāvarman) attribute the foundation of a sangharama (monastery) at the site to him.[9]:42 Shakraditya is identified with the 5th-century CE Gupta emperor, Kumaragupta I (r.c. 415 – c. 455 CE), whose coin has been discovered at Nalanda.[8]:166[12]:329 His successors, Buddhagupta, Tathagatagupta, Baladitya, and Vajra, later extended and expanded the institution by building additional monasteries and temples.[16]:5

The Guptas were traditionally a Brahmanical dynasty. Narasimhagupta (Baladitya) however, was brought up under the influence of the Mahayanist philosopher, Vasubandhu. He built a sangharama at Nalanda and also a 300 ft (91 m) high vihara with a Buddha statue within which, according to Xuanzang, resembled the "great Vihara built under the Bodhi tree". The Chinese monk also noted that Baladitya's son, Vajra, who commissioned a sangharama as well, "possessed a heart firm in faith".[9]:45[12]:330

The post-Gupta era[edit]

The post-Gupta period saw a long succession of kings who continued building at Nalanda "using all the skill of the sculptor". At some point, a "king of central India" built a high wall along with a gate around the now numerous edifices in the complex. Another monarch (possibly of the Maukhari dynasty) named Purnavarman who is described as "the last of the race of Ashoka-raja", erected an 80 ft (24 m) high copper image of Buddha to cover which he also constructed a pavilion of six stages.[9]:55

However, after the decline of the Guptas, the most notable patron of the Mahavihara was Harsha, the 7th-century emperor of Kannauj. Harsha was a converted Buddhist and considered himself a servant of the monks of Nalanda. He built a monastery of brass within the Mahavihara and remitted to it the revenues of 100 villages. He also directed 200 households in these villages to supply the institution's monks with requisite amounts of rice, butter, and milk on a daily basis. Around a thousand monks from Nalanda were present at Harsha's royal congregation at Kannauj.[4]:151[16]:5

Much of what is known of Nalanda before the 8th century is based on the travelogues of the Chinese monks, Xuanzang (Si-Yu-Ki) and Yijing (A Record of the Buddhist Religion As Practised in India and the Malay Archipelago).

Xuanzang in Nalanda[edit]

Xuanzang (also known as Hiuen Tsang) travelled around India between the years of 630 and 643 CE,[11]:110 and visited Nalanda first in 637 and then again in 642, spending a total of around two years at the monastery.[20]:237 He was warmly welcomed in Nalanda where he received the Indian name of Mokshadeva[16]:8 and studied under the guidance of Shilabhadra, the venerable head of the institution at the time.[9]:111 He believed that the aim of his arduous overland journey to India had been achieved as in Shilabhadra he had at last found an incomparable teacher to instruct him in Yogachara, a school of thought that had then only partially been transmitted to China. Besides Buddhist studies, the monk also attended courses in grammar, logic, and Sanskrit, and later also lectured at the Mahavihara.[20]:124

In the detailed account of his stay at Nalanda, the pilgrim describes the view out of the window of his quarters thus,[21]

Moreover, the whole establishment is surrounded by a brick wall, which encloses the entire convent from without. One gate opens into the great college, from which are separated eight other halls standing in the middle (of the Sangharama). The richly adorned towers, and the fairy-like turrets, like pointed hill-tops are congregated together. The observatories seem to be lost in the vapours (of the morning), and the upper rooms tower above the clouds.

Xuanzang was a contemporary and an esteemed guest of Harsha and catalogued the emperor's munificence in some detail.[9]:55 According to Xuanzang's biographer, Hwui-Li, Nalanda was held in contempt by some Sthaviras for its emphasis on Mahayana philosophy. They reportedly chided King Harsha for patronising Nalanda during one of his visits to Odisha, mocking the "sky-flower"[clarification needed] philosophy taught there and suggesting that he might as well patronise a Kapalika temple.[12]:334 When this occurred, Harsha notified the chancellor of Nalanda, who sent the monks Sagaramati, Prajnyarashmi, Simharashmi, and Xuanzang to refute the views of the monks from Odisha.[22]:171

Xuanzang returned to China with 657 Buddhist texts (many of them Mahayanist) and 150 relics carried by 20 horses in 520 cases, and translated 74 of the texts himself.[11]:110[20]:177 In the thirty years following his return, no fewer than eleven travellers from China and Korea are known to have visited famed Nalanda.[16]:9

Yijing in Nalanda[edit]

File:Map of Nalanda by Alexander Cunningham, 1861-62.jpg
A map of Nalanda and its environs from Alexander Cunningham's 1861–62 ASI report which shows a number of ponds (pokhar) around the Mahavihara.

Inspired by the journeys of Faxian and Xuanzang, the pilgrim, Yijing (also known as I-tsing), after studying Sanskrit in Srivijaya, arrived in India in 673 CE. He stayed there for fourteen years, ten of which he spent at the Nalanda Mahavihara.[4]:144 When he returned to China in 695, he had with him 400 Sanskrit texts which were subsequently translated.[23]

Unlike his predecessor, Xuanzang, who also describes the geography and culture of 7th-century India, Yijing's account primarily concentrates on the practice of Buddhism in the land of its origin and detailed descriptions of the customs, rules, and regulations of the monks at the monastery. In his chronicle, Yijing notes that revenues from 200 villages (as opposed to 100 in Xuanzang's time) had been assigned toward the maintenance of Nalanda.[4]:151 He described there being eight halls with as many as 300 apartments.[8]:167 According to him, daily life at Nalanda included a series of rites that were followed by all. Each morning, a bell was rung signalling the bathing hour which led to hundreds or thousands of monks proceeding from their viharas towards a number of great pools of water in and around the campus where all of them took their bath. This was followed by another gong which signalled the ritual ablution of the image of the Buddha. The chaityavandana was conducted in the evenings which included a "three-part service", the chanting of a prescribed set of hymns, shlokas, and selections from scriptures. While it was usually performed at a central location, Yijing states that the sheer number of residents at Nalanda made large daily assemblies difficult. This resulted in an adapted ritual which involved a priest, accompanied by lay servants and children carrying incense and flowers, travelling from one hall to the next chanting the service. The ritual was completed by twilight.[12]:128–130

Nalanda in the Pala era[edit]

The Palas established themselves in North-eastern India in the 8th century and reigned until the 12th century. Although they were a Buddhist dynasty, Buddhism in their time was a mixture of the Mahayana practised in Nalanda and Vajrayana, a Tantra-influenced version of Mahayanist philosophy. Nalanda was a cultural legacy from the great age of the Guptas and it was prized and cherished. The Palas were prolific builders and their rule oversaw the establishment of four other Mahaviharas modelled on the Nalanda Mahavihara at Jagaddala, Odantapura, Somapura, and Vikramashila respectively. Remarkably, Odantapura was founded by Gopala, the progenitor of the royal line, only 6 miles (9.7 km) away from Nalanda.[12]:349–352

File:Nalanda University Seal.jpg
Replica of the seal of Nalanda set in terracotta on display in the Archaeological Survey of India Museum in Nalanda

Inscriptions at Nalanda suggest that Gopala's son, Dharmapala, who founded the Mahavihara at Vikramshila, also appears to have been a benefactor of the ancient monastery in some form. It is however, Dharmapala's son, the 9th century emperor and founder of the Mahavihara at Somapura, Devapala, who appears to have been Nalanda's most distinguished patron in this age. A number of metallic figures containing references to Devapala have been found in its ruins as well as two notable inscriptions. The first, a copper plate inscription unearthed at Nalanda, details an endowment by the Shailendra King, Balaputradeva of Suvarnadvipa (Sumatra in modern-day Indonesia). This Srivijayan king, "attracted by the manifold excellences of Nalanda" had built a monastery there and had requested Devapala to grant the revenue of five villages for its upkeep, a request which was granted. The Ghosrawan inscription is the other inscription from Devapala's time and it mentions that he received and patronised a learned Vedic scholar named Viradeva who was later elected the head of Nalanda.[4]:152[9]:58[24]:268

The now five different seats of Buddhist learning in eastern India formed a state-supervised network and it was common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among them. Each establishment had its own official seal with a dharmachakra flanked by a deer on either side, a motif referring to Buddha's deer park sermon at Sarnath. Below this device was the name of the institution which in Nalanda's case read, "Śrī-Nālandā-Mahāvihārīya-Ārya-Bhikṣusaḿghasya" which translates to "of the Community of Venerable Monks of the Great Monastery at Nalanda".[12]:352[16]:55

While there is ample epigraphic and literary evidence to show that the Palas continued to patronise Nalanda liberally, the Mahavihara was less singularly outstanding during this period as the other Pala establishments must have drawn away a number of learned monks from Nalanda. The Vajrayana influence on Buddhism grew strong under the Palas and this appears to have also had an effect on Nalanda. What had once been a centre of liberal scholarship with a Mahayanist focus grew more fixated with Tantric doctrines and magic rites. Taranatha's 17th-century history claims that Nalanda might have even been under the control of the head of the Vikramshila Mahavihara at some point.[12]:344–346[16]:10

The Mahavihara[edit]

While its excavated ruins today only occupy an area of around 1,600 feet (488 m) by 800 feet (244 m) or roughly 12 hectares, Nalanda Mahavihara occupied a far greater area in medieval times.[9]:217 It was considered an architectural masterpiece,[citation needed] and was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. Nalanda had eight separate compounds and ten temples, along with many other meditation halls and classrooms. On the grounds were lakes and parks.[citation needed] Nalanda was a residential school, i.e. it had dormitories for students. In its heyday, it is claimed to have accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers[citation needed]. Chinese pilgrims estimated the number of students to have been between 3,000 and 5,000.[25]

The subjects taught at Nalanda covered every field of learning, and it attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.[26]

Xuanzang left detailed accounts of the school in the 7th century. He described how the regularly laid-out towers, forest of pavilions, harmikas and temples seemed to "soar above the mists in the sky" so that from their cells the monks "might witness the birth of the winds and clouds".[27]:158 The pilgrim states: "An azure pool winds around the monasteries, adorned with the full-blown cups of the blue lotus; the dazzling red flowers of the lovely kanaka hang here and there, and outside groves of mango trees offer the inhabitants their dense and protective shade."[27]:159


File:Prajnaparamita and Scenes from the Buddha's Life (top), Maitreya and Scenes from the Buddha's Life (bottom), Folios from a Dharanisamgraha (Compilation of Protective or Empowering Spells) LACMA M.72.1.20a-b.jpg
Prajnaparamita and Scenes from the Buddha's Life (top), Maitreya and Scenes from the Buddha's Life (bottom), Folios from a Dharanisamgraha, manuscript from Nalanda, circa 1075

It is evident from the large numbers of texts that Yijing carried back with him after his 10-year residence at Nalanda, that the Mahavihara must have featured a well-equipped library. Traditional Tibetan sources mention the existence of a great library at Nalanda named Dharmaganja (Piety Mart) which comprised three large multi-storeyed buildings, the Ratnasagara (Ocean of Jewels), the Ratnodadhi (Sea of Jewels), and the Ratnaranjaka (Jewel-adorned). Ratnodadhi was nine storeys high and housed the most sacred manuscripts including the Prajnyaparamita Sutra and the Guhyasamaja.[4]:159[8]:174

The exact number of volumes in the Nalanda library is not known. But it is estimated to have been in the hundreds of thousands.[28] The library not only collected religious manuscripts but also had texts on such subjects as grammar, logic, literature, astrology, astronomy, and medicine.[29] The Nalanda library must have had a classification scheme which was possibly based on a text classification scheme developed by the Sanskrit linguist, Panini.[30]:4 Buddhist texts were most likely divided into three classes based on the Tripitaka's three main divisions: the Vinaya, Sutra, and the Abhidhamma.[31]:37


In his biography of Xuanzang, Hwui-Li states that all the students of Nalanda studied the Great Vehicle (Mahayana) as well as the works of the eighteen (Hinayana) sects of Buddhism. In addition to these, they studied other subjects such as the Vedas, Hetuvidyā (Logic), Shabdavidya (Grammar and Philology), Chikitsavidya (Medicine), the works on magic (the Atharvaveda), and Samkhya.[12]:332–333

Xuanzang himself studied a number of these subjects at Nalanda under Shilabhadra and others.[9]:65 Besides Theology and Philosophy, frequent debates and discussions necessitated competence in Logic. A student at the Mahavihara had to be well-versed in the systems of Logic associated with all the different schools of thought of the time as he was expected to defend Buddhist systems against the others.[9]:73 Other subjects believed to have been taught at Nalanda include law, astronomy, and city-planning.[7]

Tibetan tradition holds that there were "four doxographies" (Tibetan: grub-mtha’) which were taught at Nalanda:[32]

  1. Sarvastivada Vaibhashika
  2. Sarvastivada Sautrantika
  3. Madhyamaka, the Mahayana philosophy of Nagarjuna
  4. Chittamatra, the Mahayana philosophy of Asanga and Vasubandhu

In the 7th century, Xuanzang recorded the number of teachers at Nalanda as being around 1510. Of these, approximately 1000 were able to explain 20 collections of sutras and shastras, 500 were able to explain 30 collections, and only 10 teachers were able to explain 50 collections. Xuanzang was among the few who were able to explain 50 collections or more. At this time, only the abbot Shilabhadra had studied all the major collections of sutras and shastras at Nalanda.[33]


The Chinese monk Yijing wrote that matters of discussion and administration at Nalanda would require assembly and consensus on decisions by all those at the assembly, as well as resident monks:[34]

If the monks had some business, they would assemble to discuss the matter. Then they ordered the officer, Vihārpāl, to circulate and report the matter to the resident monks one by one with folded hands. With the objection of a single monk, it would not pass. There was no use of beating or thumping to announce his case. In case a monk did something without consent of all the residents, he would be forced to leave the monastery. If there was a difference of opinion on a certain issue, they would give reason to convince (the other group). No force or coercion was used to convince.

Xuanzang also noted:[27]:159

The lives of all these virtuous men were naturally governed by habits of the most solemn and strictest kind. Thus in the seven hundred years of the monastery's existence no man has ever contravened the rules of the discipline. The king showers it with the signs of his respect and veneration and has assigned the revenue from a hundred cities to pay for the maintenance of the religious.

Influence on Buddhism[edit]

File:Buddha Shakyamuni or the Bodhisattva Maitreya LACMA M.75.4.3 (1 of 2).jpg
Buddha Shakyamuni or the Bodhisattva Maitreya, gilt copper alloy, early 8th century, Nalanda

A vast amount of what came to comprise Tibetan Buddhism, both its Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, stems from the teachers and traditions at Nalanda. Shantarakshita, who pioneered the propagation of Buddhism in Tibet in the 8th century was a scholar of Nalanda. He was invited by the Tibetan king, Khri-sron-deu-tsan, and established the monastery at Samye, serving as its first abbot. He and his disciple Kamalashila (who was also of Nalanda) essentially taught Tibetans how to do philosophy.[35] Padmasambhava, who was also invited from Nalanda Mahavihara by the king in 747 CE, is credited as a founder of Tibetan Buddhism.[16]:11

The scholar Dharmakirti (c. 7th century), one of the Buddhist founders of Indian philosophical logic, as well as one of the primary theorists of Buddhist atomism, taught at Nalanda.[36]

Other forms of Buddhism, such as the Mahayana Buddhism followed in Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan, flourished within the walls of the ancient school. A number of scholars have associated some Mahayana texts such as the Shurangama Sutra, an important sutra in East Asian Buddhism, with the Buddhist tradition at Nalanda.[12]:264[37] Ron Epstein also notes that the general doctrinal position of the sutra does indeed correspond to what is known about the Buddhist teachings at Nalanda toward the end of the Gupta period when it was translated.[38]

Historical figures associated with Nalanda[edit]

Traditional sources state that Nalanda was visited by both Mahavira and the Buddha in c. 6th and 5th century BCE.[1] It is also the place of birth and nirvana of Shariputra, one of the famous disciples of Buddha.[4]:148

Decline and end[edit]

The decline of Nalanda is concomitant with the disappearance of Buddhism in India. When Xuanzang travelled the length and breadth of India in the 7th century, he observed that his religion was in slow decay and even had ominous premonitions of Nalanda's forthcoming demise.[20]:145 Buddhism had steadily lost popularity with the laity and thrived, thanks to royal patronage, only in the monasteries of Bihar and Bengal. By the time of the Palas, the traditional Mahayana and Hinayana forms of Buddhism were imbued with Tantric practices involving secret rituals and magic. The rise of Hindu philosophies in the subcontinent and the waning of the Buddhist Pala dynasty after the 11th century meant that Buddhism was hemmed in on multiple fronts, political, philosophical, and moral. The final blow was delivered when its still-flourishing monasteries, the last visible symbols of its existence in India, were overrun during the Muslim invasion that swept across Northern India at the turn of the 13th century.[9]:208[16]:13[24]:333[40]

In around 1200 CE, Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turkic chieftain out to make a name for himself, was in the service of a commander in Awadh. The Persian historian, Minhaj-i-Siraj in his Tabaqat-i Nasiri, recorded his deeds a few decades later. Khilji was assigned two villages on the border of Bihar which had become a political no-man's land. Sensing an opportunity, he began a series of plundering raids into Bihar and was recognised and rewarded for his efforts by his superiors. Emboldened, Khilji decided to attack a fort in Bihar and was able to successfully capture it, looting it of a great booty.[15] Minhaj-i-Siraj wrote of this attack:[41]

Muhammad-i-Bakht-yar, by the force of his intrepidity, threw himself into the postern of the gateway of the place, and they captured the fortress, and acquired great booty. The greater number of the inhabitants of that place were Brahmans, and the whole of those Brahmans had their heads shaven; and they were all slain. There were a great number of books there; and, when all these books came under the observation of the Musalmans, they summoned a number of Hindus that they might give them information respecting the import of those books; but the whole of the Hindus had been killed. On becoming acquainted [with the contents of those books], it was found that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindui tongue, they call a college [مدرسه] Bihar.

File:The end of Buddhist Monks, A.D. 1193.jpg
The End of the Buddhist Monks, A.D. 1193 from Hutchinson's Story of the Nations depicts Khilji trying to make sense of a manuscript.

This passage refers to an attack on a Buddhist monastery (the "Bihar" or Vihara) and its monks (the shaved Brahmans). The exact date of this event is not known with scholarly estimates ranging from 1197 to 1206. While many historians believe that this monastery which was mistaken for a fort was Odantapura, some are of the opinion that it was Nalanda itself.[15] However, considering that these two Mahaviharas were only a few kilometres apart, both very likely befell a similar fate.[9]:212[16]:14 The other great Mahaviharas of the age such as Vikramshila and later, Jagaddala, also met their ends at the hands of the Turks at around the same time.[12]:157,379

Another important account of the times is the biography of the Tibetan monk-pilgrim, Dharmasvamin, who journeyed to India between 1234 and 1236. When he visited Nalanda in 1235, he found it still surviving, but a ghost of its past existence. Most of the buildings had been damaged by the Muslims and had since fallen into disrepair. But two viharas, which he named Dhanaba and Ghunaba, were still in serviceable condition with a 90-year-old teacher named Rahula Shribhadra instructing a class of about 70 students on the premises.[4]:150 Dharmasvamin believed that the Mahavihara had not been completely destroyed for superstitious reasons as one of the soldiers who had participated in the desecration of a Jnananatha temple in the complex had immediately fallen ill.[42]

While he stayed there for six months under the tutelage of Rahula Shribhadra, Dharmasvamin makes no mention of the legendary library of Nalanda which possibly did not survive the initial wave of Turkic attacks. He, however, provides an eyewitness account of an attack on the derelict Mahavihara by the Muslim soldiers stationed at nearby Odantapura (now Bihar Sharif) which had been turned into a military headquarters. Only the Tibetan and his nonagenarian instructor stayed behind and hid themselves while the rest of the monks fled Nalanda.[12]:347[42] Contemporary sources end at this point. But traditional Tibetan works which were written much later suggest that Nalanda's story might have managed to endure for a while longer even if the institution was only a pale shadow of its former glory. The Lama, Taranatha, states that the whole of Magadha fell to the Turks who destroyed many monasteries including Nalanda which suffered heavy damage. He however also notes that a king of Bengal named Chagalaraja and his queen later patronised Nalanda in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, although no major work was done there.[4]:151

An 18th-century work named Pag sam jon zang recounts another Tibetan legend which states that chaityas and viharas at Nalanda were repaired once again by a Buddhist sage named Mudita Bhadra and that Kukutasiddha, a minister of the reigning king, erected a temple there. A story goes that when the structure was being inaugurated, two indignant (Brahmanical) Tirthika mendicants who had appeared there were treated with disdain by some young novice monks who threw washing water at them. In retaliation, the mendicants performed a 12-year penance propitiating the sun, at the end of which they performed a fire-sacrifice and threw "living embers" from the sacrificial pit into the Buddhist temples. The resulting conflagration is said to have hit Nalanda's library. Fortunately, a miraculous stream of water gushed forth from holy manuscripts in the ninth storey of Ratnodadhi which enabled many manuscripts to be saved. The heretics perished in the very fire that they had kindled.[9]:208[12]:343[16]:15 While it is unknown when this event was supposed to have occurred, archaeological evidence (including a small heap of burnt rice) does suggest that a large fire did consume a number of structures in the complex on more than one occasion.[9]:214[16]:56 A stone inscription notes the destruction by fire and subsequent restoration at the Mahavihara during the reign of Mahipala (r. 988 – 1038).[16]:13

The last throne-holder of Nalanda, Shakyashribhadra, fled to Tibet in 1204 at the invitation of the Tibetan translator Tropu Lotsawa (Khro-phu Lo-tsa-ba Byams-pa dpal). In Tibet, he started an ordination lineage of the Mulasarvastivada lineage to complement the two existing ones.[citation needed]

The remains[edit]

After its decline, Nalanda was largely forgotten until Francis Buchanan-Hamilton surveyed the site in 1811–1812 after locals in the vicinity drew his attention to a vast complex of ruins in the area. He, however, did not associate the mounds of earth and debris with famed Nalanda. That link was established by Major Markham Kittoe in 1847. Alexander Cunningham and the newly formed Archaeological Survey of India conducted an official survey in 1861–1862.[2]:59 Systematic excavation of the ruins by the ASI did not begin until 1915 and ended in 1937. A second round of excavation and restoration took place between 1974 and 1982.[1]

The remains of Nalanda today extend some 1,600 feet (488 m) north to south and around 800 feet (244 m) east to west. Excavations have revealed eleven monasteries and six major brick temples arranged in an ordered layout. A 100 ft (30 m) wide passage runs from north to south with the temples to its west and the monasteries to its east.[1][9]:217 Most structures show evidence of multiple periods of construction with new buildings being raised atop the ruins of old ones. Many of the buildings also display signs of damage by fire on at least one occasion.[16]:27

All the monasteries at Nalanda are very similar in layout and general appearance. Their plan involves a rectangular form with a central quadrangular court which is surrounded by a verandah which, in turn, is bounded by an outer row of cells for the monks. The central cell facing the entrance leading into the court is a shrine chamber. Its strategic position means that it would have been the first thing that drew the eye when entering the edifice. With the exception of those designated 1A and 1B, the monasteries all face west with drains emptying out in the east and staircases positioned in the south-west corner of the buildings.[9]:219[16]:28 Monastery 1 is considered the oldest and the most important of the monastery group and shows as many as nine levels of construction. Its lower monastery is believed to be the one sponsored by Balaputradeva, the Srivijayan king, during the reign of Devapala in the 9th century. The building was originally at least 2 storeys high and contained a colossal statue of a seated Buddha.[16]:19

File:Nalanda, excavated remains.jpg
A map of the excavated remains of Nalanda.

The most iconic of Nalanda's structures is Temple no. 3 with its multiple flights of stairs that lead all the way to the top. The temple was originally a small structure which was built upon and enlarged by later constructions. Archaeological evidence shows that the final structure was a result of at least seven successive such accumulations of construction. The fifth of these layered temples is the most interesting and the best preserved with four corner towers of which three have been exposed. The towers as well as the sides of the stairs are decorated with exquisite panels of Gupta-era art depicting a variety of stucco figures including Buddha and the Bodhisattvas, scenes from the Jataka tales, Brahmanical deities such as Shiva, Parvati, Kartikeya, and Gajalakshmi, Kinnaras playing musical instruments, various representations of Makaras, as well as human couples in amorous postures. The temple is surrounded by numerous votive stupas some of which have been built with bricks inscribed with passages from sacred Buddhist texts. The apex of Temple no. 3 features a shrine chamber which now only contains the pedestal upon which an immense statue of Buddha must have once rested.[9]:222[16]:17

Temple no. 2 notably features a dado of 211 sculptured panels depicting a variety of religious motifs as well as scenes of art and of everyday life. The site of Temple no. 13 features a brick-made smelting furnace with four chambers. The discovery of burnt metal and slag suggests that it was used to cast metallic objects. To the north of this temple lie the remains of Temple no. 14. An enormous image of the Buddha was discovered here. The image's pedestal features fragments of the only surviving exhibit of mural painting at Nalanda.[16]:31–33

Numerous sculptures, murals, copper plates, inscriptions, seals, coins, plaques, potteries and works in stone, bronze, stucco and terracotta have been unearthed within the ruins of Nalanda. The Buddhist sculptures discovered notably include those of the Buddha in different postures, Avalokiteshvara, Jambhala, Manjushri, Marichi, and Tara. Brahmanical idols of Vishnu, Shiva-Parvathi, Ganesha, Mahishasura Mardini, and Surya have also been found in the ruins.[1]

A number of other ruined structures survive. Nearby is the Surya Mandir, a Hindu temple.[citation needed] The known and excavated ruins extend over an area of about 150,000 square metres, although if Xuanzang's account of Nalanda's extent is correlated with present excavations, almost 90% of it remains unexcavated.[citation needed] Nalanda is no longer inhabited.

Surviving Nalanda manuscripts[edit]

Fleeing monks took some of the Nalanda manuscripts. A few of them have survived and are preserved in collections such as those at:

Surviving Nalanda Sculptures[edit]

A number of Buddhist sculptures have been excavated from Nalanda and its vicinity. They are now in Patna Museum, Indian Museum Calcutta and Los Angeles County Museum of Art in addition to a small museum at Nalanda.[46]

Revival efforts[edit]

In 1951, the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (New Nalanda Mahavihara), a modern centre for Pali and Buddhism in the spirit of the ancient institution, was founded by the Government of Bihar near Nalanda's ruins.[47] It was deemed to be a university in 2006.[48]

September 1, 2014, saw the commencement of the first academic year of a modern Nalanda University, with 15 students, in nearby Rajgir.[49] It has been established in a bid to revive the ancient seat of learning. The university has acquired 455 acres of land for its campus and has been allotted ₹2727 crores (around $454M) by the Indian government.[50] It is also being funded by the governments of China, Singapore, Australia, Thailand, and others.[51]


File:Xuanzang Memorial Hall.JPG
The Xuanzang Memorial Hall at Nalanda

Nalanda is a popular tourist destination in the state attracting a number of Indian and overseas visitors.[52] It is also an important stop on the Buddhist tourism circuit.[51]

Nalanda Archaeological Museum[edit]

The Archaeological Survey of India maintains a museum near the ruins for the benefit of visitors. The museum exhibits the antiquities that have been unearthed at Nalanda as well as from nearby Rajgir. Out of 13,463 items, only 349 are on display in four galleries.[53]

Xuanzang Memorial Hall[edit]

The Xuanzang Memorial Hall is an Indo-Chinese undertaking to honour the famed Buddhist monk and traveller. A relic, comprising a skull bone of the Chinese monk, is on display in the memorial hall.[54]

Nalanda Multimedia Museum[edit]

Another museum adjoining the excavated site is the privately run Nalanda Multimedia Museum.[55] It showcases the history of Nalanda through 3-D animation and other multimedia presentations.


An ASI guide stone detailing the history of Nalanda. 
Sculpted stucco panels on a tower 
A teaching platform[citation needed] in the ruins of Nalanda 
A post-8th century bronze statue of Buddha from Nalanda 
A stone statue of the Khasarpana Lokeshvara form of Avalokisteshvara from 9th-century Nalanda. 
Details on one of numerous votive stupas at the site 

See also[edit]


Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India, by Sukumar Dutta (This section is copyright S. Dutta)


   To this long and varied history of the Sangha in India, there was an end—swift and sudden, full of terror and pity, like the denouement of a tragic drama. The Sangha did not survive perhaps more than a decade the storm and violence of Muslim inroads and conquests in northern India. Lapsed into complete quiescence elsewhere in India, its last accents were still being whispered from the monastic towers of Bihar and Bengal, while round the north of the region, the Khiliji hordes were gathering as for a cloudburst. They were fast sweeping down south. These mid-Asian tribesmen had seen no edifices in their desert home­land and knew but little about architectural styles and distinctions. The tall towers of the monasteries, soaring above the circuit-walls, arrested attention; they easily caused the buildings to be mistaken for military fastnesses: so the monasteries became targets of fierce attack. After the razing of the Odantapura monastery in AD 1199 by Ikhtiyar Khiliji’s soldiers, it was discovered by the marauders that inside were only heaps of books and no hidden arms or treasures and that the place was merely a madrdsa (educational establishment) and not a fort. But all the monks had been killed and there was no one to explain to the victors what the books were about. Wholesale massacre was the order of the day; monks and monasteries perished together in a terrible holocaust.

Yet a handful of survivors was left in the trail of the general destruction. They dispersed and fled with their cherished treasures— a few bundles of holy texts hugged in the bosom and concealed under the sanghati (monk’s outer robe). They wandered away to remote, secluded monasteries, far out of the invader’s track; or to the nearest seaports to take ship and sail away to Arakan or Burma. But most of them wended their way northwards towards the eastern Hima­layas. Danger dogged their footsteps until, crossing the Himalayan foothills or stealing farther north along the high wind-swept mountain-passes, the hunted found security at last in the more hospitable countries of Nepal and Tibet.

Thus came about the final dispersal of the Buddhist Sañgha in India. The Moving Finger wrote finis to its history round the turn of the thirteenth century and, having writ, moved on.

The Devastation

HISTORY holds record of two devastations on an extensive scale of the viharas of northern India—once by Mihirakula in the western sector in the early part of the sixth century, and again, severs centuries later, by Muslim invaders in the eastern sector round tb turn of the thirteenth.

A branch of the Hunas, called Epthalite or White Hunas, ha entered India between AD 500 and 520 and seized ruling power over the border provinces of Gandhara and Kashmir. A Chinese pilgrim Sung-yun, sent on an official mission to India by an empress of th Wei dynasty, arrived in Gandhära in AD 520.

   1 See Beal’s Buddhist Records, Intro., pp. XV—XVI.
   2 See Indian Archaeology for 1955—56 in which finds showing HO~a penetration tc Ko~ämbI are reported.
   3 See Raj chaudhurrs Political History (6th Ed., 5953), p. 596.
   4  Beal’s Buddhist Records, i, p. ‘7’.

He found the country devastated by the Hunas and a puppet of the Huna ruler cruelly exercising power.1 The Hunas gradually penetrated into the interior carved out a kingdom and over it the Huna king Mihirakula held sway in c. 518—529. The kingdom included Gandhara and Kashmir and perhaps extended farther east, embracing parts of the Wes Punjab even as far east as Kosambi.2

From all accounts, this Huna king was a Saiva by faith .and sworn enemy of Buddhism. Though he had adopted an Indian faith he had imbibed little of Indian culture. The barbarian lust for destruction and vandalism ran in his veins. The Gupta kings fought off and on against the power of the Huna. but it was not till some time before AD 533 that Mihirakula was subjugated by Yasodharmar of Mandasor.3

Nearly a hundred years later—in AD 63o—631—Hsüan-tsang passing through Gandhara and Kashmir, heard about Mihirakula’s devastations. They were then traditional tales in these parts; the3 are reported by the Chinese pilgrim as he heard them. In Gãndhara alone Mihirakula, says Hsuan-tsang, ‘overthrew stapas and destroyed sañghtiramas, altogether one thousand and six hundred foundations’.’ Perhaps the work of destruction spread as far as Kosmbi, thougt it affected especially Gandhara and Kashmir. But in that ag Buddhism had enough vitality to bind up the wounds inflicted by the Huna depradations lasting just over a decade. Sangha life picked up, at least partially, its broken threads; it went on in new monasteries that rose on the ruins of the demolished ones.

Next, in the early part of the twelfth century there was a fore-gathering in the northern regions of the country of Muslim tribesmen from Afghanistan. They were fanatical Muslims, bent on conquest and predatory excursions, and their advance posed a tremendous threat to all monasteries and temples of northern India. Buddhism had slowly shifted eastwards in the intervening period and was flourishing once again in Magadha under the Pala kings. But its vital strength was at an ebb; it was becoming more and more regional, more and more dependant on outside protection, when the Moslem fanatics were descending southwards in short swift rushes.

In spite of this perilous state of Buddhism in the twelfth century, there were efforts at revival; new monasteries were being built and old ones endowed afresh to keep up sangha life and the monks’ ministrations.

The most noteworthy of these revivalist efforts is associated with King Govindachandra (AD 1114—1154) of the Gahadvala dynasty and his pious Buddhist queen Kumaradevi. Govindachandra had inherited the throne of Kanouj, shifting his capital to Banaras. Perhaps he wished to revive the tradition of patronage to Buddhism set by Harsavardhana, his illustrious predecessor on the Kanouj throne.

The invaders moving down from the north, who were then known by the blanket name of Turaska or Turk,’ were already knocking at the gates of his kingdom and one of Govindachandra’s several grants, dated in AD 1120, mentions the levy of a special tax called ‘Turaska danda’ to meet the cost of warding off the invaders.2 He was not a Buddhist himself, but his queen Kumaradevi, who had some distant blood-relationship with Ramapäla, a Buddhist Baja king of Bengal, was a devout Buddhist. Both the king and the queen, even in those troubled fear-haunted years with crisis just ahead, were zealously trying to revive monastic life in the kingdom.

In a village Saheth-Maheth (in eastern Uttar Pradesh), anciently Jetavana, a charter of Govindachandra has been found recording the gift of six villages to ‘the Sangha, of whom Buddha-Bhaftäraka is the chief and foremost, residing in the Mahavihara of Holy Jetavana. 3

   1 They were in fact Khalijis of Turkish origin. ‘Khalj is the name given to the land lying on either side of the river Helmand in Afganistan. various nomadic tribes had settled in Khalj from very remote times, and under such circumstances it is impossible to assert with absolute certainty that the Khalijis belonged to a particular tribe or race.’—History of the Xhalijis by K. S. Lal (Allahabad: Indian Press, rg5o). P. 14.
   2 See Smith’s Early History of India, 4th Ed., p. 400, footnote I.
   3 Archaeological Survey Report for 1907—1908, p. 120.

Its date, given according to the Saka era, is June 23, 1130. Another inscription found in the same locality records the establishment of a monastery by one Vidyadhara, counsellor of Madana, king of Gadhipura’, most probably a feudatory of Govindachandra. It dates in AD 1219—nearly two decades after the site had been devastated by Muhammad Ghori at the end of the twelfth century.’

Kumaradevi wanted to revive ancient Sarnath, near Banaras which was then the Gahadvala capital, and she added the very last monastery to the immense complex that had grown up there from age to age. But nearly all of them were then in almost complete ruin.

Kumaradevi’s in fact was the biggest single construction in that monastic complex—an immense rectangular structure which was partly built over the ruins of, and partly encompassed, several pre­existing Gupta monasteries and shrines. In this monastery, also in ruins now, a prasasti on a stone-slab has been discovered—a lengthy poem in Sanskrit in eulogy of the queen Kumãradevi, composed by a poet named Kunda of Bengal ‘versed in six languages’, and inscribed on stone by Vämana, an artist.’

It gives us a personal glimpse of the queen, though the description is couched in the conventional hyperbolic felicities: ‘Her mind was set on religion alone; her desire was bent on virtue; she had under­taken to lay in a store of merit; she found a noble satisfaction in bestowing gifts’ (verse 13). Nor is a reference to the attractive graces of her person omitted: ‘Her gait was that of an elephant; her appear­ance charming to the eye; she bowed down to the Buddha and people sang her praise.’ The vihara, built by her, is described as an ‘ornament to the earth’ and consisting of nine segments (Navakhanda-mandala-mahdvihara)’, expected to last ‘as long as the moon and the sun’. Her husband King Govindachandra is spoken of in the prasasti as descended from God Han—one who was ‘commissioned by Hara to protect Varanasi (i.e. the capital city, Banaras) from the wicked Turaska warriors’. Evidently the terror of Turaska invasion was looming ahead: its shadow lay heavy on the minds of all then dwelling in Banaras.

The remains of Kumäradevis imposing monastery, which, as it appears from inscriptions, bore the name of Dharmacakrajina­vihära, measure 760 feet from east to west (on the longer side of the rectangle) and has a central block of buildings. It encompasses several mined viharas. There is an open paved court on the west with rows of monks’ cells on three sides. There were two gateways to the monastery towards the east, 290 feet apart from each other. The basement of the monastery, eight feet in height, is built of neatly chiselled bricks, decorated with various elegant mouldings on both the outer and the inner faces. But all the halls and apartments have long since crumbled to dust.

   1 SeeJournal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (r925—VoI. XXI, New Series).
   2 See also Part III, Sec. 4, p. 217.
   3 It is given in the Archaeological Survey Report for 1907.1908.

The efforts of Govindachandra and Kumäradevi to resurrect sangha life at Sarnath on the eve of Muslim conquest were most remarkable, but it seems that both before and after the event, other attempts were made with the same aim and object here arid there in Bihar (Magadha).

Jayachandra (c. AD 1170), a king of the same Gahadvala dynasty, has left an inscription at Bodhgaya, ‘which opens with an invocation to the Buddha, the Bodhisattvas and the king’s own religious preceptor, a monk named Srimitra’ and records the con­struction at a place called Jayapura of a guha (cave-monastery).’ In a hill-region, anciently known as Saptadalaksa near Gaya, a later inscription was discovered, of the reign of a ‘king’ named Asokacalla, recording the erection of a vihara by Bhatta Dämodara at the request of a number of the king’s officers who evidently were Buddhists) Such sporadic and strictly localized attempts at revival were made for some years even after the Muslim invaders had overrun nearly the whole of northern India,

Perhaps the strangest story of a monastic establishment outliving the Muslim depradations, is that of Nàlanda. Here, even in 1235. when the University was but a sprawling mass of ruins, a solitary nonogenarian monk-teacher with a class of seventy students ‘still rang the bell’, like President Ewell of the ill-fated College of William and Mary.3

The question, whether sangha life and its traditions of so many centuries were entirely uprooted after the establishment of Muslim rule, admits only of a speculative answer. History bears witness in many odd ways that an institution, religious or cultural in character, does not die off even when all its vital organs have been crushed. It retains yet a ghostly sort of life. After the annihilation of monasteries, the old sangha life, as some scholars are inclined to believe, persisted,

   1 Cited in, R. C. Mitra’s Decline of Buddhism in India (Visva-Bharati, 1954), p. 42.
   2 Ibid. p. 43.
   3 This is from the eye-witness account of the Tibetan Jima, Dharmasvami who ,isited Nalanda in 5235. See Part V, Sec. 2, pp. 347—378.

The story of President Ewell, preserved by the Yale University Corporation, is ~s follows, In ,SSr, this college had to close its doors for seven years during the civil War in America. The college was deserted and fell into ruins. It was finally overcome by financial catastrophe. ‘But every morning during these seven years, ‘resident Ewell used to ring the chapel bell. There were no students; the faculty ,had disappeared; and the rain seeped through the leaky roofs of the desolate buildings. But President Ewell still rang the bell. It was an act of faith: it was a gesture of defiance. It was a symbol of determination that the intellectual and cultural tradition must be kept alive even in a bankrupt world.’ only it went underground. But out of its seed sprouted new cults and new monastic orders, of which one, the Mahima-dharma, which sprang up in the eighteenth century at Mayurbhanj in Orissa, offers a most curious, most remarkable and significant instance.1

Some scholars hold the opinion that the Buddhist Sañgha tradition was followed by Sa.ñkaräcarva in the institution of ‘Maths’ and that the tradition survives to this day in the still vigorously functioning asramas set up by Swami Vivek~nanda in India in the last century. These asramas function under a central asrama at Belur in Bengal and have many establishments all over India.

   1 Mahima-dharma was a cult that grew up in Orissa and had a large following. Its adherents created a monastic order, the rules and regulations of which are formulated and set down in its Oriyan scripture. The discovery of this cult and itc monastic order was made by an eminent Bengali scholar, Nagendra Nath Vasu, in the opening years of this century, and an account of it is given in his monograph, Modern Buddhism and its Followers in Orissa (pub. in calcutta, igtx). ‘Of the twelve or thirteen ascetic rules.’ says Mr Vasu at pp. r74—I 75 of the monograph, ‘mentioned in the Buddhistic scriptures, the Mahimã-dharmin monk has even up till now been observing the rules of Pindapatika, Sapadãna-carika, Ekasanika, Pattapindika and khalu-pacchadbhaktika. But these are never found to be observed by Vai~ava monks or ascetics or those of any other sect.’

Mahaviharas as Universities

Taranatha’s generalized statement that ‘the Turaskas conquered the whole of Magadha and destroyed many monasteries; at Nalanda they did much damage and the monks fled abroad.”

(Vi) The Last Days

We know on historical evidence that Odantapura Mahavihara was sacked and razed to the ground round 1198. Round 1234, when Dharmasvami visited it, Odantapura was Muslim military head­quarters.2 Nalanda, only about six miles off, may have been after the sack of Odantapura a target of attack by roving bands of Muslim soldiery. But this mahâvihara was not demolished like Odantapura and Vikramasila, though, as Tãranatha says, much damage was done with the result that many monks deserted it. But the very last report about its condition after the worst had been done by the ravagers, coming from an eye-witness, the Tibetan monk Dharmasvami, shows that Nalanda, though doomed to death, was fated not to die, for teaching and learning was going on here over at least four after-­decades.

But what a Nâlanda it was!—like the strange nightmare of Hsuan-­tsang six centuries back when Nãlanda was in all its glory brought up by the whirligig of time.

Yet even then the ghost of past magnificence loomed darkly over the desolation. There were still to be seen ‘seven great lofty pinnacles (Sikharas)’ and out to the north, fourteen.3 Eighty small viharas, damaged by the Turaskas and deserted by monks, were still there and, beyond, as many as eight hundred. The guess could not, how­ever, have been numerically precise. It is impossible to say when this crop of small vihãras had gone up; Dharrnasvami says only that a Raja. and his queen had built them’—probably not very long before the Turaska threat descended. Archaeologists have discovered no trace of them: they were probably of flimsy construction.

But somewhere in this melancholy mass of decayed and deserted buildings, a lingering pulse of life feebly went on.

Somewhere here a nonogenarian monk-teacher, named Rahula Sribhadra,6 had made his dwelling and taught Sanskrit grammar to seventy students. He was in the last stage of poverty and decrepi­tude. He lived on a small allowance for food given by a Bràhmana lay disciple named Jayadeva who lived at Odantapura. Time and again came threats of an impending raid from the military head­quarters there. Jayadeva himself became a suspect. In the midst of these alarms, he was suddenly arrested and thrown into a military prison at Odantapura. While in captivity, he came to learn that a fresh raid on Nãlandã was brewing and managed to transmit a message of warning to his master advising him to flee post-haste. By then everyone had left Nalanda except the old man and his Tibetan disciple. Not caring for the little remainder of his own life, the master urged his pupil to save himself by quick flight from the approaching danger. Eventually, however—the pupil’s entreaties prevailing— both decided to quit. They went—the pupil carrying the master on his back along with a small supply of rice, sugar and a few books—to the Temple of Jnananatha at some distance and hid themselves. While they remained in hiding, 300 Muslim soldiers arrived, armed and ready for the assault. The mid came and passed over. Then the two refugees stole out of their hiding place back again to Nalanda.

   1 Schiefners Translation of Taranfltha’s History of Buddhism, p. 94.
   2 Dharmasvaynt mentions Odantapura in his travel-record twice as the residence of a Tnraska military commander (see Biography of Dharmasvarnin, Intro., p. xlii.)
   3 Roerichs Biography of .Dharmasvamin (pub. by K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna, 1959), p. 91.
   4 Dharnaasvãmi’s reference may be to ‘Räja Buddhasena of Magadha who is said by him to have fled from Gaya into a jungle at the time of Turaska raid on Gaya and returned when the raid was over. He is said to have been a patron of the Nãlanda teacher and his pupils (see Biography of .Dharmasvjmin, p. 90).
   5 Rähula _Sribhadra’s name was probably known in Tibet through Dharrnasvamis narrative, for Taranatha gives precisely the same information about Sribhadra and states the number of his pupils as seventy, as told by Dharmasvami (see Biiogrtsphy of Dharmasvamin, Altekar’s Intro., p. vi).

Dharmasvãmi says that the Tibetan pupil could after all complete his studies and, after a brief stay, left the place with the teacher’s permission. The libraries had perished long, long ago; Dharmasvami could not get a scrap of manuscript to copy, though some of the monks there possessed a few manuscripts.1

This is the last glimpse vouchsafed to us of Nälandä before its lapse into utter darkness.

   1 This thrilling account of the last days of Nàlanda is taken from a Tibetah text kept in a monastery of central Tibet of which a photostatic copy was brought by Rahula Sankrityayana and left to be edited and translated with the K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute of Patna. The text is entitled Biography of Chag lo-tsa-ba Chos-rje-dpal’—the Tibetan name of Dharmasvãmi. It was evidently written by a disciple under his dictation. This Tibetan monk-pilgrim visited some districts of eastern India and was in Bihar in 1234—36. He records in the work his experiences in the country. The work has been edited with an accompanying English translation by Dr G. Roerich (Moscow) and published by the Institute. Dharmasvämi’s account of Nalanda is contained in Chapter X (pp. 90 ff.).


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