Nalanda is the name of an ancient centre of higher learning in Bihar, India. The site of Nalanda is located in the Indian state of Bihar, about 55 miles southeast of Patna, and was a Buddhist centre of learning from 427 to 1197 CE. It has been called “one of the first great universities in recorded history. Some buildings were constructed by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka the Great (i.e. Raja Asoka: 273–232 BCE) which is an indication of an early establishment of the Buddhist learning centre Nalanda. The Gupta Empire also patronized some monasteries.
According to historians
Nalanda flourished between the reign of the Gupta king Śakrāditya (also known as Kumāragupta, reigned 415-55) and 1197 CE, supported by patronage from Buddhist emperors like Harsha as well as later emperors from the Pala Empire. The complex was built with red bricks and its ruins occupy an area of 14 hectares. At its peak, the university attracted scholars and students from as far away as China, Greece, and Persia. Nalanda was sacked by Turkic Muslim invaders underBakhtiyar Khalji in 1193, a milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. The great library of Nalanda University was so vast that it is reported to have burned for three months after the Mughals set fire to it, sacked and destroyed the monasteries, and drove the monks from the site. In 2006, Singapore, India, Japan, China and other nations, announced a proposed plan to restore and revive the ancient site as Nalanda International University.
Nalanda University was one of the first universities in the world, founded in the 5th Century BC, and reported to have been visited by the Buddha during his lifetime. At its peak, in the 7th century AD, Nalanda held some 10,000 students and 2000 teachers when it was visited by the Chinese scholar Xuanzang.
Historical studies indicate that the University of Nalanda was established during the reign of the Gupta emperorKumaragupta. Both Xuanzang and Prajñavarman cite him as the founder, as does a seal discovered at the site.
As historian Sukumar Dutt describes it, the history of Nalanda university “falls into two main divisions–first, one of growth, development and fruition from the sixth century to the ninth, when it was dominated by the liberal cultural traditions inherited from the Gupta age; the second, one of gradual decline and final dissolution from the ninth century to the thirteen–a period when the tantric developments of Buddhism became most pronounced in eastern India