Nalanda, the ancient Buddhist center, literally means the place that confers the lotus. It was visited by Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira, but came into prominence after the 5th century A.D., as a leading center of learning in the world. Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons. Nalanda, the world’s first residential international university imparted teachings on philosophy, literature, medicine, and Buddhism besides philosophies of Brahmanism and Jainism. Hieun Tsang and Fa-Hien, the great Chinese pilgrims and scholars visited Nalanda. According to Hieun Tsang, the university had 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over the Buddhist world, who lived and studied here. There were massive libraries well stocked with a very rich collection of books on Hinayana, Mahayana, Brajyana Buddhism, and other religious sects. The university also imparted the knowledge of sculptural art and some of the finest specimens of Indian sculptural art were created here. The great world University was invaded and brutally destroyed by the Turkish raider, Bakhtiar Khalji in 1235. An International Centre for Buddhist Studies was established here in 1951.
Nalanda University Ruins Archaeological Complex: This excavation area of about 14 hectares has relics of beautiful red brick structures and gardens. The buildings are divided by a central walkway that extends in the south-north direction. The Viharas (monasteries) are to the cast of this central alley, while the Chaityas (temples) are in the west. The Vihara-1 is perhaps the most interesting with its cells on two floors built around a central courtyard where steps lead up to what must have been a dais for the professors to address their students. Nalanda’s main temple Temple No. 3 is an enormous pyramidal mass rising to a height of31 meters.
Nalanda Archaeological Museum: It lies opposite the entrance to the ruins of the university and exhibits artifacts excavated from the region.
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara: This new institute is engaged in the study and research of Pali literature and Buddhism. Several students from abroad come here to study.
Hieun Tsang. Memorial Hall: It commemorates Hieun Tsang, the great Chinese scholar, and traveler, who also studied and taught at Nalanda.
Bihar Sharif (13 kms.)
It was the capital of the Muslim governors of Bihar between the 13th and 16th centuries and became an important center of culture and learning under their patronage. Today, it is well known for the tomb of Makhdum Shah Sharif-ud-din, a Muslim saint of the 14th century. A large number of devotees visit the sacred site.