The international conference, “Meaning of Sri Nalanda,” aims to highlight the contribution of the great seat of learning to the sciences, philosophical debates spiritual practices of mankind. It will draw attention to its impact on the cultural processes in several countries of inner Asia, East Asia and South-east Asia, as also the formative role it played in the development of mature Buddhism. The origins of several major lineages of Mahayana, which enjoy vast popularity in Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, among other countries, can be traced to the acharyas of the ancient university.

The conference is international in scope. Among the participants will be important masters and eminent scholars from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malyasia, China, Mongolia, Tibet, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, HongKong, and Sri Lanka. Distinguished scholars from major universities and research institutes from these as well as western countries have been invited to enrich the scholarship of the conference. As many as 100 foreign delegates, in addition to those from India, are expected to contribute to the proceedings.

Among the invitees the H.H. The Dalai Lama, the living symbol of the Mahayana tradition that emanted from SriNalanda, Hon’ble Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, PM of India, and Hon’ble Shri L..K.Advani, Depuy Prime Minister of India. The three-day long Conference will be spread over sessions. Of these five will be scholarly sessions and two, the inaugural and the valedictory sessions, will be public. Other activities to be held simultaneously include an exhibition of photographs of archaeological finds and ruins of SriNalanda; a display of thangkas, books and manuscripts in Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Pali and other languages, editions and translations  as well modern scholarly works related to siddhas and savants associated with SriNalanda are on the anvil. Two evenings will be devoted to vajrayana ritual music and dance.

Historical Outline

SriNalanda is situated in the modern Indian state of Bihar. The area was sanctified with several visits by Bhagwan Buddha. Emperor Asoka built a vihara (monstery) in the vicinity. Other viharas came up in Rajagriha, Vikramsila, Odantpuri, Bodhgaya and other nearby towns. Chaityas (temples), viharas and sangharams were added by a succession of kings who ruled the area. These places gradually evolved into centres of learning, teaching and debate. Findings point to the fact that the institutional framework of a university existed at SriNalanda even before it acquired fame and attracted students, teachers and debaters from far and near. It received a great impetus when kings of the Gupta dynasty donated two hundred revenue villages to help it meet the full expenses of a residential university. The presence of reputed scientists, logicians, philosophers, and spiritual seekers, many of them with contributions of great originality helped spread the fame of the university far and wide. SriNalanda was part of great tradition of residential universities of India the earliest known of these being Taxila, Ujjayani, Valabhi, Vikramsila and Amaravati were the other major institutions contemporaneous with SriNalanda. SriNalanda’s reputation spread due to the high standards of teaching, debating and scholarship it maintained and promoted. Students and scholars came from as far as China, Korea, Greece, Tibet, Iran, and other countries of Central and South-east Asia. Hsuen Tsang, the great Chinese traveler-monk, undertook a perilous and arduous journey, braving cold deserts and Himalayan mountain heights, defying attendant dangers too numerous in those times and climes to enumerate to come to SriNalanda. He stayed for 17 years, first as a student and later as a vice-principal. His memories as well as those of I-Tsing, provide authentic information regarding the great university.

The scholarship at SriNalanda was not limited to philosophy or included the sciences of language, logic, yoga psychology, astronomy, medicine, chemistry, cosmology, astrology and even archery. The great astronomer, Aryabhatta, who propounded the heliocentric theory of gravitation and found methods of calculating areas of triangles, volumes of spheres and square and cube roots, stayed at SriNalanda in the early 6th century A.D. SriNalanda’s abundant glory lasted for a thousand of years. Merit alone was the criteria for admission to its portals. It laid out in elaborate detail, the duties, and responsibilities of the teacher and the pupil. The university in its heyday accommodated 10,000 students and 1,500 teachers, No fees of any kind were charged from students, they were not even required to pay for food or clothing or accommodation.

SriNalanda in Ruins

In 1205A.D, Sri Nalanda was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji’s invading troops. It took only a few months to reduce the city of knowledge, largest in its heyday, to mere rubble. Is great libraries burned for hundred days. It is said that when monks fell at the invader’s feet and begged him to spare the Ratnabodhi, the largest of the three libraries on the campus that housed more than million manuscripts, he kicked them and them and had them thrown into the fire along with the books. Thousands of scholars were killed, others fled, crossing he Himalayas to seek refuge in ‘hospitable’ countries like Nepal, Tibet and China.

Seven hundred years later, the ruins of SriNalanda were rediscovered by the British first by Hamilton and afterwards by Alexander Cunningham. After a few earlier efforts of digging, the Archaeological Survey of India, in 1915, began excavations in earnest at SriNalanda. It uncovered nine levels of habitation along with six monasteries. SriNalanda is a massive complex of stupas, chaityas, and viharas. It has been rebuilt extensively at different times. The levels built by the Guptas (5th century A.D) can be clearly identified. Instead of destroying earlier constructions, each dynasty covered up what has been earlier and built afresh over it. Remains of earlier structures are clearly visible. The planned manner in which the blocks have been neatly laid out is astounding. Still, much remains to be excavated. Srinalanda is the largest archaeological site in India spanning several square kilometers.

Contemporary Significance

Nalanda represents and symbolizes the highest standards ever achieved in the realm of scholarship, philosophical speculation and spiritual sadhana. Its name is enough to conjure up a a glowing image in the hearts of Buddhists, especially followers of the Mahayana tradition. Their leading lineages can be traced to great acharyas associated with the university. They include great masters like Nagarjuna, Padmasambhava, Dharmapala, Maitreya, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Sarahpad. Nalanda remains permanently etched in the India and the Buddhist psyche. The heritage of Nalanda should be recollected and rediscovered for rejuvenation of the traditions of scholarship, dharma and sadhana. It can once again reinforce the religious and spiritual relationship between great countries of Asia. In it lies its meaning and significance today.

Organizing Committee

H.E.T.N. Chaturvedi, Governor, State of Karnataka
Hon'ble Sh. Shivraj Patil, Former speaker Lok Sabha
Hon'ble Sh. M.M. Joshi, Minister, H.R Development
Hon'ble Sh. George Fernandes, Minister Defence
Hon'ble Sh. Jagmohan, Minister Tourism and Culture
Smt. Sheela Dixit, Chief Minister, NCR of Delhi
Dr. L.M Singhvi, M.P Eminent Jurist
Prof. D.P. Chattopadhyaya Eminent Philosopher
Prof. Govind Chandra Pandey Eminent Gandhian & Activist
Smt. Kapila Vatsayayan Eminent Scholar & Critic
Sh. Kireet Joshi, Chairman, Indian Council of Philosophical Research
Sh. B.K. Modi, Major Industrialists, VP, Mahabodhi Society
Sh. P.K. Thungon, Former Chief Minister, Arunachal Pradesh
Ven. Lama Lobzang, President Asoka Mission
Sh. Kamles Sukla
Sh. Kamles Sukla
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