Bridging past and future: Nalanda University comes alive after 8 centuries

nalandaAfter 821 years Nalanda, an ancient seat of learning and cultural exchange located in India’s eastern state Bihar, has once again come alive, linking the past and the present and building a bridge to the future.

India’s External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj inaugurated the academic session at the Nalanda University’s reincarnation into a modern global knowledge hub on September 19.

“Today is a historic day for Nalanda University. It is a day when a vision has become a reality. It is a day when all roads are leading to Nalanda. For us, Nalanda University is the link between the past and the present and the bridge to our future,” the minister said while planting a ‘peepal’ sapling which will blossom into a sturdy tree of knowledge in days to come.

Placing the re-launch of the university in a global perspective, Swaraj said: “Nalanda has been integral to our Look East Policy and its inauguration today is a testimony to our cooperation,”

The Nalanda University has the vision of recreating “the hallowed universalism of Nalanda as a centre of knowledge.”

The ancient Nalanda Mahavihara was reduced to ruins by the invading Turkish army in 1197 C.E.

“It is a historic day for NU which has stepped into the shoes of the glorious Mahavihara as a connecting link between India and the world. I hope that NU reaches the same heights and even more,” said Swaraj. “Besides the East Asian countries, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) is also facilitating the process and opening its doors to encourage the participation of all nations.”

The proposed NU campus will be located merely 12 kilometres from the ancient site, and will be built on a 455-acre area, which will eventually house around 7000 students. Established under the aegis of the East Asia Summit, NU is a regional initiative that aims to bring in an international student body, and faculty members.

The inaugural ceremony was also attended by the high commissioner of Singapore Lim Thuan Kuan and Thailand’s ambassador Chalit Manityakul. Accompanying the external affairs minister was Bihar’s Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who planted a ‘banyan’ sapling on the campus site.

While seven schools have been planned at the university, it currently has 11 faculty members and 15 students at the two functional schools – the School of Ecology and Environmental Studies and the School of Historical Studies.

“NU has just taken its infant steps and I urge all NU officials to work earnestly to realize the goals envisioned for the institution,” said Swaraj.

The minister recalled how the ancient  university was rebuilt on the basis of an across-the-board consensus. The Nalanda University Act, 2010, she added, passed in both the Houses of the Parliament without any ‘no’.

Savants and scholars who passed through the hallowed portals of the university are legendary. “Today, as we inaugurate this great institution, I am reminded of the torch bearers of the great tradition of Nalanda embodied in Nagarjuna, Dharmapala, Padmasambhava, Atisa Dipankara, Aryabhatta and many others who through their commitment, passion and research had contributed to its greatness over the centuries. We are at the threshold of remaking history.”
“Nalanda University seeks to establish a link between knowledge and society through education, research, innovation and excellence. We have a great responsibility as well as a great opportunity,” said the minister.

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