Nalanda is the First Residential International University which was officially set up in the 5th century although it had been operating for the last 1000 years. Nalanda is near village Bada Gaon and comes on the way to Rajgir. was set up according to Legend by Sariputta, the chief disciple of Lord Buddha around roughly 500 bc. Sariputta belonged to Nalanda and took his nibbana when he left his body here after taking permission from Lord Buddha. Venerable Sariputta’s mother was residing in Nalanda and he had gone to take care of his mother before he took his Nibbana.
To begin with Fred along with his partner Sarah had booked a taxi to go to Nalanda and Rajgir ( where Lord Buddha preached his second sermon and would preach his teachings for a long time pic on left) and I bumped in. Nalanda and Rajgir are adjacent to each other but about 95kms from Bodhgaya. Taxis are available starting from Rs 2200 depending on the model and type of vehicle. We decided to go to Rajgir first chatting along the way while the ride was amazing with stunning landscape and picturesque mountains. Enroute I came to know that Fred worked in an aeronautical company while Sarah was an aspiring Iyengar yoga instructor. Iyengar yoga headquarters is in Pune, my hometown and learnt that both of them were planning on a spiritual sabbatical. They intended to come to India and I encouraged them to do so. I told them that it would the best decision of their lives and I would help them plan their itinerary in India. They were both yoga students and this visit would be their first exposure to Lord Buddha’s teachings. Great well they had found the best guy to guide them. Guru Nish ” The Dude”. I entertained them the whole day and was very happy to meet them. They were very polite, respectful and very serious in their spiritual endeavour. The very best from Europe.
Rajgir is a stupa on the top of the mountain. there are two ways to take recah the stupa and temple on the top of the mountain. One is through a very innovate, cute trolley which takes you to the top or by climbing the stairs. Guess which one did we take? No need to be Sherlock to guess this one? The trolley which turned out be delightful experience.
Sarah was terrified while myself and Fred enjoyed the ride up to the top of the mountain. The stupa on the top is a bit like the global stupa in Lumbini for global peace and both of them were built chiefly by Japanese government. There is small Japanese monastery close to the stupa. We went around paid our respects and meditated for a while. Fred and Sarah keenly watched with an amusing apprehension as I meditated since they were not used to any kind of meditation except breathing awareness taught in yoga. We wanted to stay longer but discovered that there was no restroom especially for women. I was shocked and a bit annoyed by this ?? How can you not have a rest room We were told there was one but it was not working..I felt so bad. What would foreigners be thinking about Indians?? That India is still a frontier country.
We discovered that the trolley was closed for lunch and we had to either wait for an hour or walk down the staircase. We choose the latter since we had to reach back for dinner by 6pm and still had to go to Nalanda. While we were climbing down, we meet some of my fellow countrymen climbing up. It was a big group with men and women along with teenagers. Sarah offered them trolley tickets so they could use the tickets which were redundant for all of us. I was amazed by her mindfulness and her touch of generosity since I myself had forgotten about the tickets. She and Fred became immensely popular among the group ( side pic) and we all took group photographs. We came down and quickly left for Nalanda.
Middle Path : Take the trolley up the mountain but walk down the stairs while climbing down the mountain. Enjoy the scenic beauty and donate your tickets to people who are climbing up since they would need it more than yourself.
When we entered Nalanda, I knew I had entered a special place, a place so special where both spiritual and scientific teachings had prospered for a long time in ancient India.We took a guide and it is very advisable to take one, since Nalanda has a very deep history and you will need all the help. A guide should not cost more than Rs 200-250 for about 2 hrs of tour around Nalanda. Our tour guide had an excellent knowledge of the place and we are deeply appreciative and impressed. Taxila, another great Indian university which preceded Nalanda would be the rightful place but Nalanda was the first international residential university. Nalanda housed about 10,000 students and 2000 teachers which included pupils from around the world.
Venerable Sariputta whose stupa is very prominently highlighted in
Nalanda, started the Guru Disciple tradition in Nalanda where he taught Dhamma as preached by Lord Buddha to seven disciples and the tradition would continue for 1000 years. In 5 century AD, Gupta Kingdom officially established a huge monastery which included students from around the world chiefly China, Korea, Japan and Tibet to make it an internationally renowned university which taught Buddha’s mindfulness and his teachings apart from courses in Mathematics, Science, History, Literature, Yoga and Geography. The best remaining account of Nalanda has been written by the greatest traveller of all time, Xuanzang from China. ( Ven. Sariputta’s Stupa on right) On right yoga slabs in Nalanda.Below video of Fred and Sandra doing a yoga posture
The course taught in Nalanda included scriptures of Buddhism ( both Mahayana and Hinayana Schools), Vedas, Hetu Vidya ( Logic), Shabda Vidya (grammar), Chikitsa Vidya (medicine) etc. The university received royal patronage from the Pala kings as well as great Harshavardhana. Lord Buddha frequently visited Nalanda when he visited Patliputra (modern Patna) from Rajagaha. Lord Buddha covered the distance between Nalanda and Rajagaha which is about one yojana or eight miles in one stretch. Apart from Lord Buddha even Mahavira regularly visited Nalanda. Two chief disciple of Lord Buddha both Ven Sariputta and Ven Moggallana hailed from vicinity of Nalanda and was visited frequently by other monks and lay disciples like Ven Upali etc. Pics of excavation of monasteries and one of the many wells present on the site. Every teacher and student had an individual cell or room with about 6-8 feet thick walls separating students and about 8-12 feets thick walls separating teachers. Photo of a small cell in each room for meditation and self awareness.
Most of the art in Nalanda can be traced to Pala kingdom although some of the excavations do go back to The Gupta empire. The artists in Nalanda paid a lot of attention to small details and the artwork in Nalanda is one of the best known art of Ancient India. As Buddhism declined in India, deity worship had starred in India which would soon form a part of Buddhist culture in India. There is a Xuanzang Memorial Centre nearby Nalanda to honor and commemorate one of the greatest scholars and travellers of all time Xuanzang also known as Hiuen Tsang. Time to visit the place next.
As we left Nalanda, I felt sadness in my heart and I had felt I had spent many years of my previous lives in Nalanda. During my recent visit I had come to know of one or possibly two. I felt very happy that I had met Fred and Sandra and something said that we were connected from previous birth and shall stay connected for life. I gave my blessings t both of them and felt really proud that intelligent people like Fred loved India and came to connect to our country for spiritual well being and people from our country had no clue what spiritual well being meant. To majority it was idol worship. I truly wished that Sarah went on to become a world renowned yoga teacher in her own right and I am sure Fred will carve his name in history forever in some way. its was sad Fred’s mother could not make the trip since she had hurt her back. I had felt she was my mother for one of my previous births and hoped her well.
Middle Path for Nalanda Please read as much as you can since you will need all the knowledge and be well prepared for you are entering mother of all the scientific knowledge colosseum of all time. Behold your breath.
Afterthought: The best way to reach Nalanda and Rajgir is to take a taxi. For backpackers it is advisable that you connect with people in Bodhgaya and travel together to Nalanda since it will be much cheaper. The sad part is that there is no direct bus from Bodhgaya to Nalanda and you have to travel to Gaya for the direct bus. The second time I travelled to Nalanda, I took a bus. It’s not worth it since it will take about 3 hrs of travel one way and the last bus out of Nalanda is at 6pm. If you do want to leave then leave first thing in morning i.e. between 6 to 6.30 am so you have enough time to spend in Nalanda. Remember the bus doesn’t leave you in Nalanda but about 3 kms away from the archaeological site wherein you have to take a tanga ( a horse chariot) or rickshaw. I had travelled again to shoot video on Xuanzang and for the next three days was so ill that I couldn’t move from my bed. I had to cut short my trip and come back to Pune. I am still not well and shall be visiting a doctor tomorrow.
Very sad that there is no mode of direct transport between Bodhgaya and Nalanda with so many tourists coming to Bodhgaya. Nitesh Kumar, the present Chief Minister of Bihar has done very good work for the last 10 years but I think he needs to seriously improve the infrastructure in Bodhgaya and neighboring spiritual places. To begin with buses and better transport system will work. A separate report coming up..Peace & Metta
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