Nalanda Pilgrimage

Nalanda was a great center of Buddhist learning in ancient times. A large number of Buddhist students thronged the Nalanda University to study Buddhism. According to the Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang, the place owed its name to a Naga, who resided in a local tank. Lord Vardhamana Mahavir and Lord Buddha visited Nalanda quite frequently in the 6th century BC. Nalanda is also supposed to the birth place of one Sariputra, one of the chief followers of Lord Buddha.

The Nalanda University attracted large number of Buddhist students from different parts of the world. The University of Nalanda was founded in the 5th century by the Gupta rulers. There were thousands of students and teachers. The main courses which were taught there were the Buddhist scriptures (both Mahayana and Hinayana), Vedas, Logic, Shabda Vidya (grammar), Chikitsa vidya (medicine) etc.

The Nalanda University received patronage the great emperor, Harshavardhana of Kannauj and the Pala rulers. The famous Chinese pilgrims, Hieun Tsang and Fi Han were among the distinguished students of the Nalanda University. Hieun Tsang received here the Indian name Mokshdeva. The importance of Nalanda University as a monastic university continued until the end of the 12th century. The ruins of the Nalanda University extend over a large area. Excavations at Nalanda have uncovered nine levels of occupation. For revenue purposes, a large number of villages were assigned to the Nalanda University.

The Nalanda University complex had a great Stupa. The excavations show that this Stupa is flanked by flights of steps and terraces. Many of the stupas were two or even three times built one over the other on the same spot. In the course of excavation it has been found that the very small original structure was enlarged by later temples built over and around the ruins of the earlier ones. The main Stupa at Nalanda is the result of seven successive accumulations. The main Stupa at Nalanda apparently contained a massive image of Lord Buddha.

In the Nalanda University complex a row of monastery sites lies from south to north. Almost all of them have the same pattern. The monasteries consisted of a number of monk's cells with wide verandas in front, initially set round an open quadrangular court, but later separated from it by a high wall. It was originally a building of two or probably more storey as the existence of stairs in the south-east corner shows. In the courtyard of monasteries, there used to be Lord Buddha's shrine and a well.

Excavation work has taken place over 14 hectares. All the structures are of red brick with beautiful gardens. In the complex, the buildings are divided by a central walkway that goes south to north, the monasteries or "Viharas" are located to the east of this central passage and the temples or "Chaiyas" to the west.

Pilgrim/Tourist Attractions in Nalanda

Nalanda university

The university was established in the 5th century BC and was one of the oldest Universities of the world. The ruins of the university is spread over an area of 14 hectares land with a number of temples and monasteries built by the contemporary kings.

Nalanda Museum

It was established in 1971 and houses many ancient manuscripts and Buddhist statues. The museum also contains several objects like coins, pottery, inscriptions of Maurya and Gupta period.

Surya Mandir

This famous temple is dedicated to the Sun God and has a number of statues of Hindu and Buddhist deities.

Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall

The famous Chinese traveller who came to India in the 5th century AD and stayed in Nalanda for 12 years as a student and a teacher and studied the social and political conditions. The memorial hall was built in his memory.

Nav Nalanda Vihar

Established in 1951 to keep the ancient tradition of spreading knowledge, Nav Nalanda Vihar was set up by the Bihar government to teach Pali language near the ancient university. Pali a widely used language in the ancient times.


Unique in Nalanda is the Chhath Puja, or worship of the Sun god. The most famous one is at the Sun temple in Baragaon near Nalanda, where new paddy, sweets, and fruits are offered in worship.

The Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and attained nirvana, all on the same full moon day of April/May. Thus, Baisakhi Purnima is celebrated as Buddha Jayanti here.

How to Reach Nalanda

Air : The nearest airport from Nalanda is Patna around 89 km away.

Rail : Rajgir 12 km away is the nearest railway station from Nalanda.

Road : Nalanda is connected through a good road network with Rajgir 12 km, Bodh Gaya 50 km, Gaya 65 km, Patna 90 km, Pawapuri 26 km, and Bihar Sharif 13 km.

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