Travel Guide to Nalanda, Bihar
Situated 90 kms from the capital city of Bihar, Patna, Nalanda is the site of the world’s ancient and most famous Buddhist universities. It was founded in the 5th century by the Gupta emperors and flourished till the 12th century. During its hay days, it was a flourishing residential university with over 10000 students and 1500 teachers. Excavations have also revealed many stupas, monasteries, hostels, staircases, meditation rooms and lecture halls, bearing testimony to the grandeur and importance this place must have enjoyed once.
Hieun Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, spent three years in Nalanda. He has left a very detailed account about the university in his memoirs. Nalanda is known as the ancient seat of learning as teachers and students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied at Nalanda, the first Residential International University of the World. Nalanda today is in ruins but still imparts the scholarly looks.
How to reach Nalanda
By Air: The nearest airport is at Patna(89 Kms).
By Rail: Though Rajgir (12 Km) is the nearest railway station, the nearest convenient railhead is Gaya(65 Kms).
By Road: Nalanda is connected by good roads with Rajgir(12 Km), Bodh Gaya(50 Km) Gaya(65 Km), Patna(90 Km), Pawapuri(26 Km) and Bihar Sharif(13 Km).
1. Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall: This is a fairly new construction in memory of the famous Chinese traveller, Hieun Tsang.
2. Nalanda University Ruins Archaeological Complex: The total area of the excavation is about 14 hectares and all the edifices are of the red brick with beautiful gardens surrounding them. 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. It is adorned by big statues of Lord Buddha.
3. Nalanda Archaeological Museum (opens 10 am to 5 pm, closed on Friday): 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.
4. Lauria Areraj: An 11.5 m high Ashokan column was erected here in 249 BC. The site is only 30 Km from Motihari;
5. Lauria Nandangarh: 23 Km from Bettiah and 14 Km from Shikarpur, it has the famous lion pillar erected by Ashoka.
Travel Options near Nalanda:
1. Rajgir: 15 kms away, the ancient capital of Magadhan empire which flourished in the 6th century BC. Its known for its association with Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira. 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.
2. Gaya: 95 kms away, Gaya is a very sacred pilgrim center for the Hindus. Oblations are offered for salvation of their dead parents and forefathers, in search for eternal freedom of souls or moksha. The temple of Vishnupad on the bank of river Falgu, attracts a very large number of pilgrims from all over the world.
3. Bodhgaya: 110 kms away, it is the holiest amongst holy places of Buddhist World, where Prince Sidharaha attained the supreme enlightenment and became known as 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.
4. JalmandirPawapuri: 25kms away, 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.
5. Patna: 95kms away, 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.
Nalanda Hotels and other Stay Options:
Generally, Nalanda tourists prefer to stay at Rajgir (15 km. from Nalanda). There are good budget hotels available at Rajgir. Also, tourists can stay at any of the three Tourists Bungalows of the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation, Tathagat Vihar, Ajatshatru Vihar and Gautam Vihar.