Friday, March 9, 2012

Picture Day Friday: Ancient Nalanda University

Nalanda was one of the first great universities in recorded history. Founded in 427, it survived until 1197. It was located on 35 acres in the Bihar region of northeastern India (just south of India's current border with Nepal). It was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics, and the art of war.

Image copyrighted by Wikimedia Commons

According to this article: "Nalanda university was an architectural and environmental masterpiece. It had eight separate compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes, and parks. It had a nine-story library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections. It had dormitories for students, perhaps a first for an educational institution, housing 10,000 students in the university’s heyday and providing accommodations for 2,000 professors. Nalanda was also the most global university of its time, attracting pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia (modern-day Iran, Afghanistan, and various countries of central Asia), Turkey," and Greece.

Nalanda means "insatiable in giving" and comes from Buddha's visit to that region where he talked about giving "alms without intermission." For an academic institution, the name's very apt.