Nalanda University was one of the first universities in the world, founded in the 5th Century BC, and is located approximately 90 kilometers of the city of Patna. It was a Buddhist center of learning from 427 C.E to 1197 C.E. It has been called "one of the first great universities in recorded history."
According to historical studies the University of Nalanda was established 450 C.E. and was one of the world's first residential universities. Nalanda dates back to the fifth or sixth century and was already 600 years old when the first European university - in Bologna, Italy - was established.
Evidence exists that other institutions of higher education were already established in Asia, such as the ancient university of Taxila in Pakistan but Nalanda was the first university to educate in matters other than religion, which at that time and place was mainly Buddhism.
In earlier times, it accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 faculty members and was the first great university in recorded history and one of the world's first residential universities as it had dormitories for students.
The university was considered an architectural masterpiece. The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of learning and it attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. According to several sources, the curriculum of Nalanda University at the time contained science, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy.
It was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war. The university was an architectural and environmental masterpiece, says Jeffrey E. Garten, former Dean of the Yale School of Management.
"The modern world, to be sure, has a great deal to offer from which people in the past would have liked to have learned and would have been thrilled to learn, but the past too had some great examples of intellectual great truth that can both inspire and inform us today," said Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. Amartya Sen.
"Old Nalanda as an educational institution was fully dedicated to the pursuit of learning. It was committed to educational excellence. Indeed, because it was largely successful in achieving and maintaining excellence that Nalanda attracted foreign students - from China, Japan, Korea and elsewhere. The institution was Buddhist in terms of its foundation, but Nalanda's teaching and research were not confined to Buddhist studies. Indeed it was well-known also for what it offered in secular subjects such as health care, linguistics, and astronomy. It was also a “modern” institution - modern in relation to its time - in offering education that went well beyond religion, and included science (such as astronomy) and the pursuit of practically useful arts," said Dr. Sen.
Since the beginning of human existence, every generation, somehow passed on its stock of values, traditions, methods and skills to the next generation and that belonged to Nalanda, the most global university of its time.
About the Author:
Waris Shere was educated at the Aligarh Muslim University, University of London and Technische Hochschule, Aachen Germany. He has authored eight books in the field of Applied Mathematics, International Affairs and Academic Futures: Prospects for Post-Secondary institution. He has taught Applied Mathematics at the University of Manitoba, Canada and Red River College, Canada for several years. His work on critical issues of International Affairs has been published globally. His main interests are Emerging International Order, Security and the Prospects for East-West relations and Dilemmas in Policy-Making for Education. Shere is a former resident of Patna.