Tourist Places To Visit In Nalanda
Nalanda is famous for its University which existed in the 5th Century BC when it was one of the few such universities in the world. It is said that Lord Buddha visited this place during his life. When the university was at its peak, there were some 10,000 students studying. They were taught by about 2000 teachers in subjects as diverse as philosophy and metaphysics, astronomy and theology besides medicine and others. Xuan Zang, the famous Chinese scholar and traveller, visited the university sometime around 700 AD. Unfortunately, in 1193 the university was razed to the ground by Turks and never functioned after that. There are several tourist places to visit in Nalanda and in the nearby places. These will be discussed in the following paragraphs.
Nalanda University Ruins
Nalanda is among the world’s oldest living cities. It had one of the oldest universities in the world. It survived and flourished under the patronage of emperors such as Ashoka and Harshavardhana. These emperors built monasteries and temples here. Nalanda therefore was the first among all the residential universities in the world. On your visit to the ruins you will see a large courtyard in the now derelict university and the courtyard is surrounded by several cells. The monks lived in these cells. This site is acknowledged as UNESCO World Heritage Site and is very important for Buddhists. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conducted excavations in the 19th Century and in 1915 excavated 11 monasteries and 6 brick temples. Several antiques were also found and these are now displayed in the Nalanda Museum.
Jal Mandir in Pawapuri, which means a town that has no sins, is a water temple near Nalanda. This is one of the most revered of all temples for Jains. Dedicated to Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jain religion and its 24th Tirthankara, this is the place where he is supposed to have been cremated. Mahavir attained his Nirvana in Pawapuri in the year 528 BC. Jal Mandir was built within a tank that is filled with red lotus flowers by Mahavir’s elder brother, King Nandivardhan. This is one among five temples in the town where Mahavir’s foot prints are worshipped.
Nalanda Archaeological Museum
The Nalanda Archaeological Museum is a product of a lot of hard work which probably started some time in the 19th Century. It opened in 1917 and today it displays 349 items in four galleries, of the 13,463 items that were unearthed from Rajgir, a town near Nalanda. The items that were excavated were from the period between 5th and 12th centuries AD. But, there are some items that are even older than this. While the images and paintings exhibited belong to Hinduism, Jainism and of course Buddhism, the statues and sculptures are in diverse material such as stucco, stone and terracotta as well as Basalt stone.
Xuanzang who was also known as Hiuen Tsang, visited India during the period of Emperor Harsha. He stayed in India for about 14 years between 630 and 644 AD during which he travelled extensively throughout the country including places such as Kashmir, Mathura, Kannauj and Ayodhya besides Vaishali, Bodh Gaya and Nalanda. A tourist writes about the memorial that this place is well received by foreigners and is well maintained. The memorial was built in 1984 as a dedication to Hiuen Tsang and here you will find several writings of the great traveller and scholar.
Kundalpur Digambar Jain Temple
The Kundalpur Digambar Jain Temple is a magnificent temple with exquisite spires within which is housed the shrine of a 4.5 feet high Bhagwan Mahavir’s Padmasan idol. There is an ancient umbrella outside the temple as well as the images of the feet of Mahavir. You can also visit an art gallery showcasing Mahavir’s life. But, the most beautiful parts of the temple are its spires. This is one of the most beautiful temples in the area.
Rajgir Wildlife Sanctuary
The Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajgir is a very interesting and viewable site for visit when you are touring Nalanda. The sanctuary has several illustrations as well as important indicators going back to the Buddha and Jain eras. Located around 102 km from Patna, this sanctuary covers 36 sq. km area that is well enriched with dense forests. Presently there may not be more than 12 tigers in this sanctuary but there are a fairly large number of elephants and neel gai besides barking deer and sloth bears. The sanctuary is scenic and ideal for trekkers.
Black Buddha Temple
Black Buddha Temple is a modern temple although it is highly probable that the image of Buddha was being worshipped in earlier times as well. The temple is called Telia Bhairav where the term telia refers to the oil which was used to protect the image from the elements. Cunningham has named this same temple as Baithak Bhairab in his report. There seemed to have been a continuity in religious activity among the Nalanda ruins. This is probably why Black Buddha images have been found installed in Thailand temples as well.
Stupa of Sariputra
The Stupa of Sariputra contains the bones of Arhat, one of the two most important disciples of Lord Buddha. Sariputra stupa is in a shape that resembles a pyramid. Its size is imposing and it is surrounded by structures with pillars that resemble structures of the Buddhist era. The importance of Sariputra became pronounced after Arhat attained salvation just like his guru, Buddha had achieved before him. The stupa of Sariputra is of great significance for Buddhist followers. The construction is in sever layers and this makes the stupa a great sight to behold.
This is a magnificent temple. According to the followers of Jainism Lord Mahavir delivered his last sermon here and thereafter attained Nirvana. The venerated place is therefore also known as Mahavir Swami Nirvan Bhumi or Gaon Mandir. The temple is very clean and neat and offers an environment that is peaceful. It is fit for all ages and children have a space where they can play. Since there is hardly any rush visitors find the place very relaxing.
Makhdum Shah Sharif-ud-din Mosque
This grand mosque was named after Makhdoom Sharfuddin Ahmed bin Yahya Maneri who was also known as Makhdoom-ul-Mulk, a holy Sufi Saint who used to perform strenuous exercises in the hills nearby. The exercises being performed were all ascetic in their nature. You will also find a shrine of the Saint here that is very close to hot water springs. Born in 1264 in a village near Patna, Maner, the saint was revered by the people. On his death in Nalanda his body was buried in a tomb in the mosque.