Friday, April 5, 2013

Treasures of Nalanda

Tolling of bells  from the near by temples awoke me from my deep slumber . Jumping through the open window the morning sun has scattered on my bed . Where was I , could not ascertain all on a sudden . Accidentaly I set my eyes on the remparts hidden behind the trees across the window . Abruptly every thing appears on the canvas of my memory . They were remparts of Nalanda remains of the oldest world famous ancient university . The sound  imitting from the bell was coming from the olden sun temple  erected on the nearby pond . I came here yesterday.

Although, I had visited this place to have a glimpses of these remparts earlier also , but like those tourists who came to see new places . But my this visit was not like that . Few days back , by going through the travel accounts of Hiuen Tsang - a Chinese traveller who compiled the same after his visit to this university -  a English version of the same by Samuel Beal in 1884 , I could have possesed a new vision in respect of this place . Famous writer " V.S.Naipal's verdict - " appreciation grows with knowledge " holds good. Due to my detailed study I could get a new  vision.

These were the days of rainy season . In this season , the number of  tourist  visiting such places  dwindles  down . But during these days  the dust and dirts of the summer come down on the earth due to rain and the sky become transparent , one experience unique feeling in roaming around the rempart or the ancient buildings .

And other party of tourist was ahead me . They have engaged a local guide for guidance . The guide  had been  furnishing interesting informations about ancient University of Nalanda .  The sharp and fascinating voice of the guide was audible to me also .

"1235 AD. The mighty sun was shining with all its vigour - it was pouring all the fire that it could on the earth making it intensely hot . It was a hot summer day . The monastery - cum-university of Nalanda - the nerve centre of Buddhism - was in flames . The dancing flames of fire were leaping  out quite unmindful of the fact that the earth's best seat of learning was getting reduced to ashes.

Dharnaswamy , the Tibetan lama , was moving like a shuttle -cock from one corner of the University to another to save its aged Chancellor . Somehow or 0the other he would save him from the attackers , but not  the University . it got ruined . Only the ruins of ancient Nalanda University remains today . It is indeed a living page of history. "

Even as an uncanny calm prevailed , the tourists stood transfixed at the spot from which the ancient ruins of Nalanda University lay yonder . Spell - bound by the above narrations of the guide , they all were gazing both at  him and the ruins of ancient Nalanda University .
It was a strange, eerie feeling indeed . Is it what people call miracles of history ?
Lifeless stones they may be yet , the stony walls of ancient Nalanda University are really full of life . History vibrates here .

While facing these stones we found ourselves in a different era - in a time zone of history where each and every word from books on the ancient past virtually came alive .

The guide moved towards the monsatery . I found myself at the nerve centre of the ruins ." Once there was a big library here . this too was burnt down by invaders .... all the priceless books were reduced to ashes .." Except for tall grasses  there was practically nothing at that place . But it is a fact there existed  three big libraries in the " Dhammaganj " faculty of the ancient Nalanda University . The guide moved ahead .

Suddenly , I heard sounds of people talking amongst themselves . they were students of architecture from Aurangabad in Maharshtra state who were on a college trip . They had come to study the architecture of the ancient ruins.

Nalanda University was originally a Buddhist Vihar ( monstery ) . A large number of monks lived there . In
Buddhist literature  Nalanda plays a pivotal role . This University produced such scholars like Sariputra and Moudgalyan . Sariputra  was the chief disciple of Lord Buddha and he was conferred with the epithet of " DHarma Senapati " . He was born in a  small hamlet . Sarichak , lying on the eastern side of the ruins of Nalanda , its original name as per Buddhist literature was Nalak .
With the passage of time his birth place may have acquired the name Sarichak after his name Sariputra .
The importance of Nalanda as a Buddhist monastery had begun during the lifetime of Lord Buddha who visited Nalanda  several times . Once he lived there for a full year . In later years Emperor Ashoka built a massive shrine and vihar at Nalanda .
According to Taranath , an expert  on Tibetan history , Nalanda took the shape of a centre of learning due to the efforts of Emperor Ashoka . It was considered the best place of learning in the Magadh empire . Nalanda was considered the apex centre for lietrature and education .  Scholars from far  flung pockets of China , Japan . Tibet , Siam ( Thailand ) . Burma ( Myanmar ) . Malaya  and other parts of Central as well as South - East Asia thronged to Nalanda University .

The University imparted  teachings on philosophy , literature , medicine and Buddhism besides philosophies of Brahmanism and Jainism . To gain entry into this university a student had to prove his mastery in grammar , prose and poetry , logic and metaphysics . The famous Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang wrote : " Over 40 percent of the students failed to pass the entry test .... it was really  very difficult to get an entry into Nalanda."

The standard of education was very high . To get details of this university we have to refer to the travelogue
of Hiuen Tsang who studied there for two years . he writes  " Appearing like a tall mountain  due to its sky - kissing minarets , obelisks and domes , the university was an island of peace . The laboratory emitted vapours in the morning while a cool breeze entered into the rooms through  its massive windows . The lotus emerging out  of the crystal - clear lakes further added beauty to Nalanda .Teachers lived in a four - storeyed building with serpentine staircases . Nalanda can really be a matter of pride for any country . "

From the temple site - 3 , as archaelogists have named the main part of the ruins , I can see the galleries located below with stuccos built on them . I took out the picture postcards brought out by the Archaelogist Department which I had purchased . With their help I tried to recognize the stuccos . Though some of them were damaged  due to ravages of time they are still unparalleled  in their artistic beauty .
The site is surrounded by a cluster of smaller stupas ( domes ) . it is the place where Lord Buddha stayed for three months to deliver discourses on religion . In Templesite - 2 was once a stone temple . Nearly 200 samll statues decorate it - their theme have been derived from religious books on Hinduism . On the right one can see remains of monasteries .
Hiuen Tsang's  account of this  temple says that within the Nalanda monastery there were eight largely extended rooms and 300 cells . The massive conference hall was divided into ten parts . The students lived in 300 homes . There were massive libraires which contained a very rich collection of books on Hinayana , Mahayana , Brajyana Buddhism and on other religious sects . To meet the running cost of this library the contemporarykings had donated hundreds of villages . The  library had its own seal . The University did not restricts itself to imparting bookish knowledge  only but specialized training was given in sculptural art as well . Students were taught how to prepare stone and bronze  statues . The unearthing of fire places and moulds corroborates this fact . Students wre taught the use of copper and other metals . Famous,historian  Cunningham , described  the statues found in Nalanda as the best example of Indian sculptural art . Students were also taught to create manuscripts  with figures painted on them .

Nalanda University had a  galaxy of eminent scholars - Aryaveda , Sheelbhadra , Dharmpala , Chandragomen , Shanta Rashkit , padmasabhav , Kamalsheel , Sthirmati , Buddhakirti , Kumarshree and Sumati sen . Shanta Raskhit merits special mention for during his time the University assumed global fame . At the invitation of Tibetan king , Grin Di- ut Tsan he went to Tibet , the " Roof of the World " and remained there till the demise of the king . In the 8th century , at the time of Padmasambhav , scholar extraordinaire , the Lamistic tradition took birth in Tibet .

" Invaders destroyed Nalanda University with extreme brutality .." Led by the guide tourists reach the point from where they had started and the guide continues " .. the half burnt bricks , burnt pieces of rice .. damaged doors .. all bear testimony to how ferocious the attack must have been .. they have been excavated  by archaeologists and , if you wish , they can be seen in the museum  ... " The guide led the tourists out of the main exit of the ruins .
Getting there.
By Air;The nearest air port is Patna (93km) By Rail : The nearest rail head on Delhi - Howrah main line is Bakhtiarpur, 38 Km, though the loop line connects Nalanda. By Road :Nalanda is  connected by road to Patna, Rajgir, Gaya and Delhi/ Kolkata. Bihar state Tourism Development Corporation Organizes trips to Nalanda, Rajgir and Gaya from its headquarters, Tourist Bhawan, BeerChand Patel path, Patna -800001. Tel : 0612- 2225411 Fax 0612-2236218 Where to stay -Tourists prefer to stay at Rajgir, 15 Km from Nalanda. There are number of Moderately priced hotels available in Rajgir. There are Tourist Bunglows runby BSTDC.