Nalanda, founded in the 5th century AD, is famous as the ancient seat of learning. The ruins of the world's most ancient university lies here which is 62 km from Bodhgaya and 90 km south of Patna. Though the Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous center of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during 5th-12th centuries. Hieun Tsang stayed here in the 7th century AD and left detailed description of the excellence of education system and purity of monastic life practiced here. He also gave a vivid account of both the ambiance and architecture of this unique university of ancient times. In this first residential international university of the world, 2,000 teachers and 10,000 monks students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied here. The Gupta kings patronized these monasteries, built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard. Emperor Ashoka and Harshavardhana were some of its most celebrated patrons who built temples, monasteries and viharas here. Recent excavations have unearthed elaborate structures here. An International Center for Buddhist Studies was established here in 1951. Nearby is Biharsharif, where an annual urs is celebrated at the Dargah or tomb of Malik Ibrahim Baya. Baragaon, 2 km away has a sun temple, famous for Chhath puja. To be visited are Nalanda museum & Nava Nalanda Mahavihar in addition to the great ruins.
Altitude: 67 metres
Temperature (Max./Min.) Deg C: Summer 37.8/17.8 Winter 27.8/10.6
Rainfall:120 cm (June to September)
Best Season: October to March
What to See
Nalanda University Ruins Archaeological Complex: The total area of the excavation is about 14 hectares. All the edifices are of the red brick and the gardens are beautiful. The buildings are divided by a central walk way that goes south to north. The monasteries or "Viharas" are east of this central alley and the temple or "Chaiyas" to the west. The Vihara-1 is perhaps the most interesting with its cells on two floors built around a central courtyard where steps lead up to what must have been a dais for the professors to address their students. A small chapel still retains a half broken statue of the Lord Buddha.
The enormous pyramidal mass of the Temple no .3 is impressive and from its top commands a splendid view of the entire area. It is surrounded by smaller stupas, many of which studded with small and big statues of the Lord Buddha in Various poses or "Mudras"
Nalanda Archaeological Museum: Opposite the entrance to the ruins of the university and houses, there is a small but beautiful collection of Buddhist and Hindu bronzes and a number of undamaged statues of the Lord Buddha that were found in the area. Two enormous terra-cotta jars of the first century stand intact behind the museum in a shaded enclosure. The collection includes copper plates and stone inscriptions, coins, pottery and samples of burnt rice (12th century AD) found among the ruins here. Open during 10.00 to 17.00. Closed on Friday.
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara: Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is devoted to study and research of Pali Literature and Buddhism. This is a new institute, where students from foreign countries also study.
Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall: A new construction in memory of the great Chinese traveler, Hieun Tsang.
Other Places of Interest
Silao: In between Nalanda and Rajgir, there is a village namely Silao where very a popular local sweet "KHAJA" is prepared.
Surajpur Baragaon: The lake with its temple of Surya, the Sun God , is a pilgrim destination twice a year in "Vaishakha" (April-May) and in "Kartika" (October-November) during the Chhath Puja or Sun worship.
How to Reach
Air: The nearest airport is at Patna 89 km. Indian Airlines connect Patna to Calcutta, Ranchi, Bombay, Delhi and Lucknow.
Rail: Though Rajgir (12 km) is the nearest railway station to Nalanda yet the nearest convenient rail head is at Gaya 95 km.
Road: Nalanda is connected by good road with Rajgir 12 km, Bodh Gaya 110 km, Gaya 95 km, Patna 90 km, Pawapuri 26 km, Bihar Sharif 13 km etc.
Local Transport: There are no taxis available in Nalanda. Cycle rickshaws and tongas are the only modes of transport.
Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation organizes trips to Nalanda, Rajgir etc. from its Headquarters Tourist Bhawan, Bir Chand Patel Path, Patna-1. Ph.0612-2222622 , 2225411. Fax-0612-2236218
Where to Stay
Tourists prefer to stay at Rajgir (15 km. from Nalanda). There are a number of moderately priced hotels available at Rajgir. Tourists can stay at any of the three Tourists Bungalows of Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation, Tathagat Vihar, Ajatshatru Vihar and Gautam Vihar.
Local Arts & Craft, Stone Sculptures and Madhubani Paintings.
Handicraft Shops in Main Market at Kund Area (Hot Spring) and at Aerial Ropeway.
Rajgir Dance Festival: Bihar State Tourism Department organizes every year, this colorful festival of classical and folk dances from October 24 to October 26.
Chhath Puja: Chhath puja or sun worship held twice a year in "Vaishakha" (April-May) and in "Kartika" (October - November) in Surya Temple, The Sun temple of Surajpur Baragaon.
Arts and Crafts: The places around Rajgir are famous for stone Sculptors and bowls.
Rajgir: 15 km. The ancient capital of Magadhan empire which flourished in the 6th century BC. Its association with Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira hallows the place. The first Buddhist council immediately after the Mahaparinirarvana of Lord Buddha , to pen down his teachings , was also held at Rajgir. There are a number of Hot Springs. The hill town of Rajgir, surrounded by seven hills is in the midst of lush green forest.
Gaya: 95 km. It is a very sacred pilgrim center for the Hindus. Oblations are offered for salvation of their dead parents and forefathers. The temple of Vishnupad on the bank of river Falgu, attracts a very large number of pilgrims from all over the world.
Bodhgaya: 110 km. It is the holiest amongst holy places of Buddhist World., where Prince Sidharaha attained the supreme enlightenment and became the Buddha , the enlightened one. The Buddhism was born here. The present Bodhi Tree is fifth in succession of the original tree under which Lord Buddha had attained the enlightenment. The ancient Mahabodhi Temple, the railings and the Ashokan pillar are of great historical as well as architectural importance. The modern monasteries of Japan, Thailand, China, Tibet, Mayanmar, Bhutan and Sri Lanka built in their national architectures are very colorful and remain humming with religious activities.
Pawapuri: 25km. A sinless city it is a great pilgrimage center of the Jains. Lord Mahavira, the greatest propounder of Jainism had delivered his last sermon took Mahaparinirvana and was cremated here. Jalmandir and Samosharan are two beautiful temples here of exquisite architecture built in white marble.
Patna: 95km. The ancient city of Patliputra, where the capital of Magadhan empire shifted from Rajgir, is situated on the main line of eastern railway and is well connected with air services. The ruins of the ancient Patliputra have been excavated at Kumrahar, Patna saheb is also famous for being birth place of the tenth and last Guru of the Sikh, Guru Govind Singh. Harmandirji consecrates his birth place. The museum, Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, Martyr's Memorial, Golghar and Khuda Baksh Oriental Library are other places of tourist interest at Patna.