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Nalanda on course for resurrection

Last updated on: August 5, 2010 11:04 IST

Image: Ruins of Nalanda
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons

Nalanda University, an ancient seat of learning destroyed in 1193, is poised for revival.

According to The Independent, an ambitious plan to establish an international university with the same overarching vision as Nalanda -- and located alongside its physical ruins -- has been spearheaded by a team of international experts and leaders, among them the Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen.

This week, legislation that will enable the building of the university to proceed is to be placed before Parliament.

"At its peak, it offered an enormous number of subjects in the Buddhist tradition. In a similar way that Oxford (offered) in the Christian tradition -- Sanskrit, medicine, public health and economics," Sen said in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Click on NEXT to read about how Nalanda will be resurrected...

'Building will start as soon as the bill passes'

"It was destroyed in a war. It was (at) just the same time that Oxford was being established. It has a fairly extraordinary history -- Cambridge had not yet been born."

He added, with confidence: "Building will start as soon as the bill passes."

The plan to resurrect Nalanda -- in the state of Bihar -- and establish a facility prestigious enough to attract the best students from across Asia and beyond, was apparently first voiced in the 1990s.

But the idea received more widespread attention in 2006 when then president, APJ Abdul Kalam set about establishing an international "mentoring panel".

Members of the panel, chaired by Sen, include Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, historian Sugata Bose, Lord Desai and Chinese academic Wang Banwei. A key challenge for the group is to raise sufficient funds for the university.

It's all about reviving Nalanda as a centre of excellence

The Planning Commission has allocated Rs 50 crore as endowment fund in the form of special grant for the commencement of activities and till such time the Nalanda University becomes sustainable on its own. 

The Bihar government has already acquired about 500 acres of land in Rajgir (in the vicinity of the original Nalanda University site of yore) and another 500 acres is scheduled to be acquired for the proposed Nalanda University. 

The establishment of the University would facilitate the revival of Nalanda as a centre of excellence in East Asia and South Asia, reflecting in some measure the role played by the Nalanda University in ancient times.

The revival of the University will also lead to the Buddhist circuits in India thereby benefitting the tourism industry substantially. 

Reconnecting with 200 odd villages

In addition to scholars/students from all over the world, the establishment of Nalanda University would benefit the local people and encourage the participation of local communities.

For this purpose, the University would associate with the 200 odd villages in the local area that had a connection with the Nalanda University from days of the yore.

The University will particularly benefit students from South Asian countries. 

It has been estimated that $500 million will be required to build the new facility, with a further $500 million needed to sufficiently improve the surrounding infrastructure.

It will be reminder to the world...

The group is looking for donations from governments, private individuals and religious groups.

The governments of both Singapore and India have apparently already given some financial commitments.

Some commentators believe a crucial impact of the establishment of a new international university in India would be the boost it gave to higher education across Asia.

Indian authorities believe the establishment of the college would act as a global reminder of the nation's history as a centre of learning and culture.