With the rise of Buddhism in India, there arose many centres of learning which did not exist before. As a result Buddhist India came to have five major universities which achieved wide fame. These five were NALANDA, Vickramasila, Odantapuri,Jagadalala and Somapura. In the 10th century when Hieun Tsang entered the university, there were 10,000 resident students. It's chancellorship was reserved for India's foremost Buddhist scholar. At that time there were 10,000 students, 1510 teachers, and about 1,500 workers at Nalanda. Students from foreign lands such as Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, Sumatra, Java and Sri Lanka were found there. Admission to Nalanda was by oral examination. This was done by a professor at the entrance hall. He was called Dvara Pandita. Proficiency in Sanskrit was necessary, as it was the medium of instruction. All Chinese monks going to India for higher studies in Buddhism had to go to Java and brush up their Sanskrit. It is reported that of the foreign students only 20% managed to pass the stiff examinations. Of the Indian students only 30% managed to pass and gain admission. Therefore the standard required were high. Casts, creed and nationality were no barriers in keeping with the Buddhist spirit. There were no external students at the university. Nalanda was maintained by the revenue from seven villages which were granted by the king.
- Contributed by Arindam Sen
Landscape view, NALANDA - 1895
Photograph of a landscape view near Nalanda, in Bihar, taken by Alexander Caddy in 1895. Nalanda was originally famous as the sanctuary of Shariputra, one of Buddha's followers. It was visited by Buddha and Ashoka, the Mauryan Emperor, however there are very few archaeological remains from this early period. Nalanda soon achieved the status of a major centre of Mahayana Buddhist studies and by the 7th Century scholars from all over Asia were visiting and studying at the monasteries and university. Today, the site consists of a row of nine ruined Buddhist monasteries and four two-storey square temples with raised central sanctuaries. The outside of the latter were decorated with pilasters and images set in niches. These raised sanctuaries can be seen in the background of this photograph, buried under centuries of accumulated earth.
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