Nalanda is a town having a pivotal role in ancient India, its culture, and civilization. India’s quest for knowledge and the establishment of a university happened in this city. It was also the center of Buddhist believers and has a bunch of prominent monasteries in it.
The city is currently located in the state of Bihar, India. There is historical evidence talking about the culture and history of the city starting from the 6th Century BCE to the 5th Century BCE. Apart from the religion of Buddha, the Jain and Mahavira worshippers are also found in the city. It is also said that the philosopher called Nagarjuna carried out his academic research about the civilization of the city as early as the 2nd or 3rd Century AD.
Archaeological Survey of India still finds the place quite potential enough to unveil unlimited historical facts about the place in particular and India in general. Harshavardhana, the ruler of Kanauj is found to have done significant contributions to the construction of Buddhist monasteries during the earlier days.
The city enjoyed a cosmopolitan culture from the earlier days and this is proved by the evidence hinting at the rule of Xuanzang, a Chinese pilgrim who once visited the city. It was the Muslim attacks estimated to have happened during 1200 AD that caused the collapse of the city. You can enjoy the city and take an overwhelming tour of it if you are fond of exploring and dissecting history, facts, and legends. Some of the places which would help you with this are listed below.
Table of Contents
This is a pilgrim destination in the religious and intellectual city of Nalanda. You can visit the place without many complications since it is located near the famous landmark of the city, Nalanda University. According to Hindu mythology and belief systems, Sun is worshipped as a God to which this temple has been devoted.
Even though the main deity in the temple is the Sun God, you can also find shrines allotted to various other deities in the temple. And the most important fact is that these deities belong to both the Hindu and Buddhist belief systems. This might have happened due to the Buddhist supremacy that has been in the city ever since the BCE days.
Another important marvel to witness in the temple complex of Surya Mandir is an idol that embodies Goddess Parvathi. This idol has a height of 5 feet. If you would like to enjoy the festive moods of the temple, try planning your visit to the Hindu religious months of Vaishakha and Kartika. During these months, a Chatth Puja will be conducted in the temple. Unlike most of the other temples that have an annual frequency, this is held two times a year.
One of the most sacred pilgrim locations for the Jain believers in the nation and also for the international tourists who believe in the system. This is the place of death of Lord Mahavira, the most important figure in the religion of Jainism. The cremation customs of Mahavira happened in the Jal Mandir.
This place has now become a tourist attraction for its white marble temple. There is also a pond nearby the location. Apart from its religious significance, there is much more to see and enjoy in this location. So you can visit the location even if you are not into any pilgrimage. You will get the chance to explore and observe many constructions and structures which might probably be the oldest in entire India.
You better choose the months from October to April to visit the location of Pawapuri. This time is suggested to enjoy the place in nice and pleasant weather conditions making your stroll comfortable and easy. But if you are curious about the historic relevance and cultural significance of the place for a scholarly purpose you don’t have to wait for the perfect months to come. You are not supposed to commit any sins in this sacred land of Lord Mahavira helping it attain the title of “sinless town”.
Since the city of Nalanda has the pride of being an ancient intellectual town, the Government of India tried to bring back that glory by establishing a university in the location in the year of 1951.
The first president of India, Rajendra Prasad was the political leader who initiated the establishment of this university. This is an institute that will offer an opportunity to learn about the historical and religious nuances of Buddhism and the Jain Lord Mahavira. During the formative years, the institution was a residential university. Even during those early years, the university had domestic and foreign students who enrolled in the courses offered.
The institution got credited with the Deemed University title in the year of 2006. Tibetan history, Ancient History and Culture, Philosophy, Pali, Archaeology, and some of the prominent linguistic domains are the courses offered by the university.
The geographical location of the university is quite picturesque with the proximity of the river, Indrapuskarani. The university also became the venue for the “First Global Buddhist Conference” which happened in the year, 2021. During the eve, Dalai Lama paid a visit to the university. There are two buildings in the university inaugurated by him.
The Great Stupa
The Great Stupa is a historical structure built by the order of the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka. The Stupa was built as a commemoration of the Buddhist follower, Sariputra. He was a lucky and devoted follower of Lord Buddha and got blessed with salvation by his lord after years of pure and divine dedication. It is said that the Great Stupa hides one of the bones in the body of Sariputra. There are a lot of steps and flights integrated into the structure of the Stupa.
This intricate building mastery is a marvel for the domestic and international tourists visiting the city in the modern days. Reports say that these Stupas were brought to perfection by multiple attempts. Some of them failed and some of them met the expectations of the emperor. The ruins of those structures can be easily found in the location.
Excavations are continuing to unearth more historical facts about the region. The date of construction of the Stupa is estimated to be the 3rd Century. The shape of the Stupa seems like a magnificent pyramid. The location of the Great Stupa is included in the list of World Heritage Sites by the International organization, UNESCO.
The seven layers of the Stupa has got multiple cultural, religious, and historic connotations to it. Passages from the holy texts of Buddhism are also found in the construction of the Stupa. It is also believed that this Stupa has the ashes of the body of Lord Buddha in them. Scenes and visuals from the Jataka tales are also inscribed in these Stupas. Apart from religious importance, the art used for the construction can be remarked as exemplary.
Nalanda Archaeological Museum
This is one of the most treasured locations in the entire city of Nalanda. The maintenance responsibility of the museum is completely assigned to the Archaeological Survey of India. 1971 is the establishment year of this museum. A lot of eventful excavations have happened in the locations that unearthed facts and records about the monastery and university complex that was active in the city during the early years.
Artifacts that belong to the period of the 5th century to the 12th century have been collected from various locations in the city and preserved in the location. If you would like to encapsulate and experience the rich cultural heritage of the city of Nalanda in a single visit, the Nalanda Archaeological Museum can be the go-to place for it. Objects and historical truths excavated from the remote villages in the Nalanda city and Rajgir are also added to the vast collection in the museum.
Being listed in the list of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO, the heritage pride and prestige of this ancient university and its location is extraordinary. The ancientness of the university is not just the greatest in the country of India but probably in the whole world.
The university was known by the name of Nalanda Mahavira during its functional years. 3rd century can be the establishment period of the university. This was not just a university but a magnificent Buddhist monastery. The university is now in its ruins. However, the authorities are much keen on preserving the ruins with due attention and care owing to their international significance in culture and history.
Hiuen Tsang’s travelogues have got a mention about this historic university complex. Many great Indian epics and legends also mark the prominent presence of such a university in the location. Harshavardhana and Ashoka, the emperors of then India have also given their contributions to enhancing the importance and grandeur of the university. There are a couple of Viharas and temples that were built in the complex according to their orders.
The attack initiated by Bakhtiyar Khilji was the reason for the dilapidation of this great university complex in India. The attack dates to the 12th century. Chinese and Tibetan cultures testify to the university as a center of Vedic learning that was highly advanced in the entire world.
Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall
This is also a place you can visit when you take your one of the sure visits to Nalanda University. As the name suggests the hall is built in memory of the Chinese traveler and scholar named, Hiuen Tsang who once visited the university and stayed in the location for a while. He came to the university to take up his course there.
Later on after the completion of his course, he stayed back in the university by taking up the profession of a university teacher. You can reach this hall by taking a stroll from Nalanda University which is around 1.3km away from the hall. Jawaharlal Nehru, the prior Prime Minister of India, once got a biography of Xuanzang which inspired him to build something as a monument for Hiuen Tsang.
This led to the ordering of the establishment in the year 1957. The establishment of the hall intensified the cultural harmony and relationship between the two countries viz. India and China. The construction was done and dusted in the year, 1984.
This is a small and serene village settlement near the city of Nalanda. The natural surroundings can make you feel calm and good after all the historic and eventful visits you would have done in the Nalanda city center. The native population of Rajgir is quite spiritual and they lead a very peaceful life in general. We can spot people belonging to various religious beliefs such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism in the village. “Abode of Gods” is the translated meaning of the name of the town, “Rajgir”.
The village is believed to be 3000 years old according to the studies and research conducted by scholars and excavators in the region. When you visit this quaint location, remember to understand the place in its two segments. The first segment is credited to king Ajathashatru, a Magadha emperor.
The other segment is a formation created by the 7 major hills of the town. Mahabharata, the holy text of Hinduism has got mentions in this city. Several sacred Jain scriptures also include a similar mention. Major excavations are still being carried out in the town stressing the careful preservation of the place. Such excavations have contributed many artifacts and truths that throw light on the culture and history of the nation. You can also get in the company of nature and its rich biodiversity if you have plans to visit this distinctive town nearby the city of Nalanda.
Many picturesque sights and locations are found in plenty in the location making it an overall pleasant experience. Rugged hills, springs, and lush green forest patches are some of the specific natural attractions of the town.
Best time to visit Nalanda
You might have understood that Nalanda is all about structures, constructions, temples, and a lot more. Being located in the state of Bihar, the climate in the region can be absolutely hostile during the months of summer and monsoons.
If you are not a native of the town who might be used to the scorching heat of the topography you may not find it easy to survive in the location even for a very short duration. You can get dehydrated easily and the trip may end up putting you in several health casualties.
Monsoons are the time of heavy showers in the region interrupting your travel plans. Hence it is suggested to visit the location during the other months of the year. October to March would be a great time to spend a historic getaway in the location.
How to reach Nalanda?
Nearest airport: Patna Airport
Nearest railway station: Nalanda (NLD)
Visit this exemplary location to experience the varied cultural harmony of the people of India. People belonging to religions like Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism find comfort and peace in living in the place. The city is also the labor bed of rich ancient Indian culture, heritage, and civilization. You can be totally served right and full if you are interested to experience such aspects of tourist locations. The location is also perfect for pilgrims of all three religions mentioned above. With a lot of preserves and museums, you can also be enlightened and educated on your trip to the city of Nalanda. This will help you understand and get the vibes of those ancient times in their greatest sensuality. Always keep an open mind to learn and gather info if you are planning a trip to this ancient educational and spiritual city in India.
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