Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nalanda University at the time of Dharmasvamin

Dharmasvamin was among the last witnesses of the Nalanda Mahasanghrama, and luckily we have his accounts. Among other information the most important information we get from his accounts is possible extension of the monastic row.

Summary of the description
It had 7 great pinnacles in its centre, two built by former kings and two by great Acharyas. On the outside at north were 14 lofty pinnacles. Outside of it there were 80 small Vihara; most of them were built by kings and queens. He maintains that the Sangharama was attacked by the Muslims but still it had survived with a little damage.

Dharmasvamin’s description has some flaws in terms of the direction of 14 lofty pinnacles with respect to 7 great pinnacles since they don’t align with the ruins as they have been excavated. But if we put 14 lofty pinnacles to the East of 7 great pinnacles then it can be put into perspective with respect to the archaeological evidence. Obviously the 7 great pinnacles at the centre is the reference to the temple row and the 14 lofty pinnacles are the monastic rows.
So far remains of 10 monasteries have been excavated and going along with the accounts of the Dharmasvamin who visited Nalanda Mahasanghrama in 1235 AD, Nine monasteries where added in the monastic row after the Xuanzang visit in 639AD.
His travel account gives us enough insight to imagine the kind of expansion took place beyond the structures that were present in the 7t century. He says outside the campus there were 80 monasteries; and that they were no very lofty but small Viharas. This information might be perceived as clues about the conspicuous mounds in the neighboring villages.
Given below is a layout of how the mounds and structures are scattered in the area surrounding the main complex along with the water tanks that were formed when the mud was removed to make bricks for the university structures.

As per the description there were 80 monasteries outside the main complex. The yellowish spots are not the actual position of the monasteries but the probable spread of monasteries on the existing mound.

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