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Nalanda Tourism And Travel Guide
16° C / 60.8° F
November to February
1 to 3 Days
Jay Prakash Narayan Airport Patna (90 kms)
Rajgir (12 kms)
Nalanda is famous for its 5th Century BC dated University which was visited by no less than Buddha during his lifetime. When the University was at its peak it had thousands of students and qualified teachers. Among the subjects taught were medicine, metaphysics, astronomy and philosophy. Unfortunately, the university was burnt down in 1193 AD by marauding invaders from Turkey. Tourism in Nalanda is rich with its cultural heritage taking the fore. A travel guide to Nalanda and its nearby places is placed below.
How to Reach
Bihar is getting its roads in good shape and therefore a lot of construction and expansion activity is going on through all its roads. However, Nalanda is fairly well connected with Gaya, which is 95km away and Bodh Gaya, 110km away. Pawapuri, a destination for all Jains is 26km away while Bihar Sharif is just 13km away. But, if you plan to travel to Nalanda by road it is advisable to check out the condition of roads before you begin your journey.
Rajgir, 12km away from Nalanda is the railway station which is nearest to Nalanda. Despite this it is advisable to take a train to Gaya, 95km away because you will have a better choice in picking fast trains from wherever you are coming. Gaya has excellent rail connections with all principal cities in the country. Buses and taxis are available in Gaya to take you to Nalanda.
Patna is the nearest airport to Nalanda and it is 89km away. The airport in Patna is of an International Airport class which handles more than 8 lakh passengers each year. Patna has good air connectivity with Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata as well as Hyderabad, Srinagar and Chennai among many others. There are several buses available at the Patna airport to take you to Nalanda. Taxis can also be hired.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Just like the rest of Bihar Nalanda also has a typically sub- tropical climate. The place is very hot in summer and receives a fair amount of rainfall during the monsoon season. The winters are very cold in Nalanda and its nearby places.
It is very hot in Nalanda during the summer season when temperatures reach 40°C and more. Nalanda is therefore not a good place for a visit during the summer. Visitors will find the place excruciatingly hot and the absence of adequate shade makes it unbearably hot and trying.
The monsoon season brings relief from the hot summer. There is freshness and greenery all around. The maximum temperature remains around 33°C generally. However, often the monsoon brings a lot of rain and there is flooding in the streets. This makes navigation almost impossible. Visitors are therefore advised to stay away from Nalanda during the monsoon season.
Nalanda is glorious in the winter season. While the morning period is just amazing and great for visiting sites, the nights tend to be cold. Night temperatures may drop to 4°C. Visitors are therefore advised to bring woollens in order to ward off the bitter cold. The best time to visit Nalanda is between October and March.
Things to Do
The Ancient Nalanda University Ruins:
Nalanda had one of the oldest universities in the world that had survived and flourished under the patronage of capable emperors such as Ashoka and Harshavardhana. Built around 2500 years ago, in its heydays it boasted of thousands of students and teachers. The grand university was razed to the ground in 1193 AD by Turkish invaders. Today you can see the ruins that are maintained by the ASI. The ruins are declared as heritage property by the UNESCO.
Impressive Black Buddha Temple:
The Black Buddha Temple also known as Telia Bhairav has been worshipped since early times. The term telia refers to the oil which was applied on the image to protect it from the elements. Similar Black Buddha images are found in the temples of Thailand too.
Awe Inspiring Xuanzang Memorial:
Hiuen Tsang, also known as Xuanzang was a great philosopher and traveller from China. He travelled extensively in India for 14 years between 630 AD and 644 AD. During this time he visited not only Nalanda and Bodh Gaya but also places such as Vaishali, Ayodhya and Mathura besides Kashmir. The memorial was built to honour him and his writings some of which are available in the memorial.
Venerated Jal Mandir:
Jal Mandir, located in Pawapuri near Nalanda is a temple surrounded by a pond. It is believed that when the 24th Tirthankara of the Jains, Lord Mahavira, attained Nirvana in 528 BC he was cremated at this spot. The pond was made artificially when, it is believed that, people rushed to scoop out ash from his cremation site. This resulted in a huge void that was filled up with water. Mahavira’s elder brother built the Jal Mandir and filled the pond with red lotus.
Visit Nalanda Archaeological Museum:
Years of hard work which started in the 19th century ultimately resulted in the opening of Nalanda Archaeological Museum in 1917. The museum displays only 349 items that are distributed among four galleries although a total of 13,463 items were originally excavated from Rajgir, near Nalanda. Visitors must see the exhibits in this museum, some of which date back to a period earlier than 5th Century AD.
Be Inspired by Kundalpur Digambar Jain Temple:
The exquisite Kundalpur Digambar Jain Temple with its beautiful spires has within it a shrine of Bhagwan Mahavir’s Padmasan idol that is 4.5 feet high. There are images of the feet of Lord Mahavir as well as an ancient umbrella just outside the temple. Visitors to this temple also visit an impressive art gallery that showcases the life of Lord Mahavir.
Where to Eat
The food in Nalanda is affected by Buddhist influence and therefore generally quite plain. The cuisine is vegetarian and mainly comprises of roti and dal and vegetables of the season. Favourite snacks include Litti Chokha, samosa, kachori, ghugni, jhaal moodhi etc. Try tilkul and anarsa. These are the region’s popular sweets. Don’t miss out on sattu pani and delicious lassi. Some of the more popular restaurants in the district include Suraj, Bhaji and Elite.
Nalanda is a place that has come into limelight because of its University and the Buddhist connection. However, visitors can buy rural handicrafts such as wooden stools and Madhuban paintings besides products in bamboo and hand painted wall hangings. There are leather goods and stone pottery items here as well. Some of the stores one could visit include Apna Singar Store, Zahira Departmental Store and Rocky Gift and Sringar Mahal among others.