Saturday, July 25, 2015

Nalanda: A University or Just a Large Monastry?

Nalanda University seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Last year Arun Shourie mocked Marxist historians for their version of how the ancient monastry had been destroyed. Then came the drama around the resignation of Amarya Sen as the Founding Chancellor of the new avatar of Nalanda University.

Today I read an interesting book review by Andre Wink which asks a more basic question. On what basis are we claiming that Nalanda was India's greatest Buddhist monastry or as the world's first university?

According to Frederick M. Asher, author of "Nalanda: Situating the Great Monastry" there is insufficient credible evidence to even claim that the monastry at Nalanda ever was a university that taught a diverse range of subjects. Many of the structures we see today were built in the recent past using over 100,000 bricks of "large Gupta size"!

Since much of our understanding og Buddhist history is based on Tibetan and Chinese texts, perhaps we should continue to have tracking surveys on Nalanda alumni, and take all  tall claims with a pinch of salt..


* Arun Shourie (2015) -

* Asher (2015): Nalanda - Situating the Great Monastry, Marg -

* Wink (2015 review): Learning to unlearn, Indian Express -

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