The ruins of the ancient university of Nalanda are one of the most popular destinations of Nalanda. Actually it is synonymous with Nalanda just like Eiffel tower is to Paris and it is no surprise that the discovery of such an existence in this part of the world put Nalanda on the hot spot and the curiosity grew about the how’s and the why’s. Its been almost 200 years since we first saw the first glimpse of it, at least on the record, and we are still waiting to know more…
Before we go into details lets see how it was rediscovered:
Nalanda Mahavihara was an ancient seat of learning in the glorious historical days and its ruins are situated 90 km from Patna and 80 Km from Gaya. The Nalanda Mahavihara was the culmination of the vihara system started at the time of Buddha. The first viharas were the makeshift dwellings made up of bamboos, this provided the Bhikkhus and the sangha much needed shelter at time of varsavaas. A small cluster of such small units away from villages and towns made an ideal place for meditation and discourses. Nalanda Mahavihara holds a special status for it was the first of its kind where Monks didn’t have to go to collect alms. All the arrangements for food, lodging and basic necessities were provided by the Kings and the local community. This university which flourished uninterrupted for more than 8 centuries served as a benchmark for all later establishments.
Centre of attraction of the Nalanda Mahavihara is Mulagandhakuti also known as temple no 3 at the centre of Establishment. This is also an important site because teachers from this university were founders of Buddhism and Lamaism in the great Himalayan country of Tibet.
Buchanan – 1812 AD
Dr. Francis Buchanan Hamilton was first to report about the extensive ruins of Bargaon. He was told that this was palace of the Raja Bhimika father of lord Krishna’s Wife Princess Rukmani. The Jain priests told him that the place was palace of Raja Srenik (Bimbisara).
Kittoe was 2nd to notice the mound of Bargaon. Kittoe received a part translation of Fahien travelogue prepared by J .W. Laidley in 1848
Kittoe followed Fahien footsteps and started his journey from Patna. His first target was Indrasaila guha which according to Fahien was an isolated hill 7 Yojan SE from Patna. His assistants who took the measure mistook Bari Pahari (Bihar Sharif) as Indrasaila Guha which was actually further south east. Second leg he took was for Nala, Birthplace of Sariputra which as per Fahien was 1Yojan SW of Indrasaila Guha.
Since his 1st identification of Bari Pahari, Bihar Sharif as Isolated Hill (Indrasaila guha) was wrong his 2nd identification of Nala 1yojan SW, reach him at place which was not one Yojan east of Rajgir as mentioned by Fahien
Kittoe’s 1 Yojan= 4 Kos=8miles
In his 2nd expedition Kittoe went to Bargaon which he left to his assistants in his first expedition. He felt that Bargaon could be site of Nala (birthplace of Sariputra) though the calculation and direction mentioned by Fahien where not supporting his conclusion.
So far, we have been discussing how the area was re-discovered umpteen number of years ago and although it is very fascinating to re-visit someone else’s account of travel but you’ll have to agree it can not be as thrilling as sharing your own account of a new discovery.
As we have mention before that there is a lot that remains to be discovered in the beautiful settings of Nalanda and to give you a glimpse of that, we’ll talk about a recent discovery that ‘Deepak Anand’ made in the Valley of Rajgir. His own account of how he found it, the hardship, the exhilaration and the satisfaction… keep your eyes peeled!