A number of theories exist about the etymology of the name, Nālandā. According to the Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim, Xuanzang, it comes from Na alam dā meaning no end in gifts or charity without intermission. Yijing, another Chinese traveller, however, derives it from Nāga Nanda referring to the name (Nanda) of a snake (naga) in the local tank. Hiranand Sastri, an archaeologist who headed the excavation of the ruins, attributes the name to the abundance of nālas (lotus-stalks) in the area and believes that Nalanda would then represent the giver of lotus-stalks
The post-Gupta period saw a long succession of kings who continued building at Nalanda "using all the skill of the sculptor". At some point, a "king of central India" built a high wall along with a gate around the now numerous edifices in the complex. Another monarch (possibly of the Maukhari dynasty) named Purnavarman who is described as "the last of the race of Ashoka-raja", erected an 80 ft (24 m) high copper image of Buddha to cover which he also constructed a pavilion of six stages.
However, after the decline of the Guptas, the most notable patron of the Mahavihara was Harsha, the 7th-century emperor of Kannauj. Harsha was a converted Buddhist and considered himself a servant of the monks of Nalanda. He built a monastery of brass within the Mahavihara and remitted to it the revenues of 100 villages. He also directed 200 households in these villages to supply the institution's monks with requisite amounts of rice, butter, and milk on a daily basis. Around a thousand monks from Nalanda were present at Harsha's royal congregation at Kannauj.
After its decline, Nalanda was largely forgotten until Francis Buchanan-Hamilton surveyed the site in 1811–1812 after locals in the vicinity drew his attention to a vast complex of ruins in the area. He, however, did not associate the mounds of earth and debris with famed Nalanda. That link was established by Major Markham Kittoe in 1847. Alexander Cunningham and the newly formed Archaeological Survey of India conducted an official survey in 1861–1862. Systematic excavation of the ruins by the ASI did not begin until 1915 and ended in 1937. A second round of excavation and restoration took place between 1974 and 1982.
The remains of Nalanda today extend some 1,600 feet (488 m) north to south and around 800 feet (244 m) east to west. Excavations have revealed eleven monasteries and six major brick temples arranged in an ordered layout. A 100 ft (30 m) wide passage runs from north to south with the temples to its west and the monasteries to its east. Most structures show evidence of multiple periods of construction with new buildings being raised atop the ruins of old ones. Many of the buildings also display signs of damage by fire on at least one occasion.
Place To Visit
- Nalanda University Ruins Archaeological Complex
- Nalanda Archaeological Museum
- Nava Nalanda Mahavihara:
- Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall