Another feather has been added to the cap of India’s Heritage Sites as the ruins of the primeval Nalanda University that date back to the 3rd century BC have been declared as World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Located at a distance of 95 kms from Patna in Bihar, the ancient Nalanda University was a foremost Mahavihara or a large Buddhist monastery. The university doubles up in its value as an important center of learning from the 5th to 1200 CE in the erstwhile kingdom of Magadha. The site of Nalanda comprises of the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution.
As rightly been reported by the UNESCO – Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent and has been engaged in the organised transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years. This would be the second UNESCO heritage site after Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.
Quick facts you need to know about the Nalanda University:
- The historical development of the site indicate to the development of Buddhism into a religion, resulting in the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.
- The premises includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) & important art works in stucco, stone and metal.
- This ancient seat of knowledge boasts of having the largest library in the world. Known by the name of Dharma Gunj, the library was divided among three separate buildings—the Ratnasagara (a nine-storey building), the Ratnadadhi and the Ratnaranjaka.
- It is said that the University was attacked 3 times by intruders like the Huns, Gaudas and Bhaktiyar Khilji.
- The library that housed as many as 9 million manuscripts alone and other valuable books, was burned down by the invaders that took several months to burn the library into ashes.
- About 150,000 square foot meters of the ruins have been excavated from the site of the University.
- Nalanda was sometimes referred as the ‘Madrasah’ by the Minhaj-e-Shiraj. The Monks used to call it as Brahmen-Alem. ‘Alem’ is a title in Islam bestowed upon knowledgeable persons.
UNESCO further has also enlisted Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex and Sikkim’s Khangchendzonga National Park that includes world’s third highest peak Mount Khangchendzonga among its World Heritage Sites.
This is the first time that any country was able to get three sites included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage list at a single session of the committee meeting. With this the total number of World Heritage Sites listed by the UNESCO for India rose to 35. Of these 35 sites, 27 are cultural sites and the other 8 are natural sites.