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Nalanda its Mahavihara and Xuan Zang

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Item Code: NAM778
Author: Chandra S. Prasad
Language: English
Edition: 2016
ISBN: 9788178542942
Pages: 256
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 450 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

It comprises materials on Nalanda its Ancient University and Xuan Zang published from time to time in India and abroad. However these research papers together do not give a complete overview of the history of Nalanda and its monastic Institution. This lacuna has been erased by adding a concise history which comprises the Part-I of the volume and which brings into accounts Nalanda before the advent of Mahavihara, reaching the apex of glory, decline and desertion to its revival.

The Part- II consists of research papers especially for history conscious readers to see how some scholars made some sweeping generalizations, some wrong conclusion, authentic sources not taken into account earlier and so on.

Earliest accounts in the Nikayas, their Chinese counterparts and Xuan xang's Records mention Nalaka as Saariputra's native Viillage away from Nalanda. But some say it was Nalanda. Some established that the loftiest Stupa in the ruins site stand on the very place of Sariputra's birth and demise in his native village. It is also asserted that the village Sarichak on the periphery of the Maghavihara was rehabilitated after the native village taken over for the cause of Mahavihara, There are many such cases.

The case of Sariputra's village is an example for the readers to note that the history of ancient Nalanda was not treated candidly objectively enough.

After serving his alma matter, the Institute for study & Research in Pali and Buddhism Nalanda for 23 yrs, Chadra S. Pransad retired as the HOD of Chinese and Japanese, he was in the Dept. of Indian Philosophe and Buddhism, Tokyo Univ., Tokyo working as a research scholar first under the supervision of Prof. Hajime Nakamura and after Hirakawa.

The author was first introduced to the method and nuances of research by Prof. K.V. Ramanan when he started work under him at Cheena-Bhavan, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan. He was there for years in the capacity of student Chinese and Tibetan languages, research fellow and lastly librarian in charge of the Chinese Library.

The author devoted most of his time and energy in research and editing. As a result he has to his credit about 50 research papers; several of them published in esteemed journals in India and abroad and well-received collections by distinguished scholars, and also some edited research Volumes including The Proceedings and Papers, 2nd International Conf. Of the IABS, Wisconsin, USA.

Presently the author is about to give a finishing to touch to the Hindi translation of the Chinese of version of the Saddharmapundarika Sutra by Kumarjiva.


The volume comprises materials on the history of Nalanda, collected, compared and analyzed, and produced time to time in form of research articles by the author living all along at Nalanda. These articles bring to fore some gaps in conclusions drawn and sweeping generalization made by some eminent scholars and shed light on the exact pali Nikayas, their counterparts in Chinese Agamas, renowned Chinese travellers' records and of course archaeological findings. These articles are primarily meant for researchers and scholars with the acknowledgement that those scholars were pioneer in their field of Studies and has rightly formed views on materials available then. The early doctrinal discourses in Chinese and Chinese travellers' records were tera incognitta and even the early doctrinal discourses in Pali were too voluminous to rummage thoroughly and fish out relevant materials.

However, these articles together do not give a complete over view of the history if Nalanda through the ages. The author felt oblige to make up for the lacuna by prefixing a concise documented accounts of what Nalanda and its past glory was like, how it evolved and developed into a Monastic-cum-Academic Institution of international repute, how it gradually declined an met its final end, how the villages and temples developed on the fringes of the darted sited, identification of Nalanda and its Institution, attempts made to revive its past of the volume and will certainly enlighten serious readers and interest them to move on to through the research materials.

The author is not a hard core historian or an archaeologist. History was never his forte. He is a scholar of Pali and Buddhism in all its ramifications, aware of the history and culture of different Asian Buddhist countries and in direct access to the original sources available in Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan languages.

The author hails from the vicinity of Nalanda. While he was a postgraduate student of the Mahavihara at Nalanda, he occasionally roamed about in the ruins site and visited the Museum. But he did not have occasion to read about Nalanda, first because the materials were not readily available and secondly he remained away from Nalanda for long 4 years in the Department of Chinese, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan and about 4 years in the Department of Indian Philosophy and Buddhist Studies, Tokyo University and Eastern Institute, Tokyo, Japan. He returned to the alma matter and joined as a teacher of Chinese and Japanese Studies.

On the occasion of the silver jubilee celebration, the Mahavihara had planned to bring out the history of Nalanda, past and present. Eminent historians and archaeologists were approached to oblige with their contributions on some related aspects of their choice. The time was nearing fast and there was not hope left for articles coming from any quarts. At this juncture a good sense prevailed on the authorities to look back and tab the resources available at hand. The teachers of the Mahavihara and the Asst. Superintendent and the Curator of the Archaeological Museum were roped in and requested to prepare articles on some relate stipulated time. It worked well and articles on almost all aspects, a history book needs to look complete, were made available in time. The author was then entrusted with the work of publication.

In the late seventies at the Mahavihara the publication does not mean just to supervise the smooth going of the process, but doing everything from editing the hand written articles, preparing typed copies for the press and arranging them in proper sequential order. The Mahavihara being then a State Government Institute, it was bound to get it printed at the approved Press, but the difficulty was it hand no facility and experience in printing foolscap research work in English. However, luckily there was a compositor with some experience in composing with Roman founds, who agreed to take the work provided some one was ready to help in make-up. The author had at time to sit with him and help in make-up correct the proofs, from the first to the final one, all by himself. Somehow the work was done satisfactorily and in time and released on the occasion by a great historian, Professor D.C. Sarcar.

All these gave the author opportunity not only to each the articles, but also read each one carefully minutely several times. He had also to read other related works and articles out of curiosity for details or far verifying the views taken on certain points or sweeping generalizations. The hard labour and heart put in the taxing challenging task allotted paid handsomely in turning him out into a serious scholar of the history of Nalanda. H had not only a good understanding of the inadvertently made by some eminent scholars. What struck him most the fuss created over the location of Nalanda and Nalaka and also over the destruction demolition of the Mahavihara and setting on fire the library which continued burning for months?

In the early doctrinal discourses in Pali and in Chinese Nalanda was invariable associated with to the Buddha by a Pavarika as in Pali or a srestina as in Xuan zang's accounts. Whenever the Buddha passed through the place he together with a great company of monks sojourned here in the mango grove. About the name of the place Nalanda Xuan-zang recorded two legendry tales. One, it was so named after the niiga Nalanda residing in the tank of the mango grove and the other, after the attribute of 'not satiable in giving' of the Buddha in his former birth as a king of the place. He had also recorded the distance and direction of some places around the Sangharama, but surprisingly he had not mentioned anything about its location. Did it then not exist? Or was it usurped into the gradually growing campus of the Sangharama?

The king Kumargupta I built a vihara in the mango grove, to the south of which there was the tank of the legendry niiga. His successors built other viharas adjacent to it and a campus of the Nalanda Sangharama came eventually into existence. However, taking a clue from the phonetic similarity C.S.Upasak has opined that the present village of Nanan, about 9 kms in north-east direction from the Sanghararna is the site of old Nalanda. In the ruins of the Sanghararna, there is the temple site No.3 which he claimed to have been built on the very spot where Sariputra was born and breathed his last in the village of Nalaka. He further added that the village was shifted near by and Sarichak situated close to the Museum is that very village. Earlier Hiranand Sastri who is accredited with having done most past of the excavation took it to have probably been the village of Sariputra.

According to Xuan-zang's given distance and direction Nanan or around Nanan is the probable site of the village of Sariputra, Nalaka wherein the king Asoka (3rd B.C.) built a stupa on the spot of his birth and demise. Fa-xian (399-414) on his way from Pataliputra came here and worshipped at the stupa. According to A. Cunningham Nalaka was somewhere between the Sangharama and Indrashala guha, that means, near about N anan.

It is said that Bakhatiyar Khilji destroyed Nalanda Mahavihara and the library continued burning for months. Taranatha stated that the Turks conquered the whole of Magadh and destroyed many monasteries; at Nalanda they did much damage and the monks fled abroad. He did not specify the name of invader. There are no visible marks of big conflageration on bricks of the walls of the supposed library buildings. The Muslim historian Minhaj who was not far removed in time (in 1243) gave an account of the raid of this part of Magadh by Ikhiyar Khilji son of Bakhatiyar Khilji in the fag end of the 12th century. He destroyed completely a vihara and killed all the inmate monks. That vihara was the Odantapuri Mahavihara at present Biharsharif and not Nalanda Mahavihara. Dharmasvamin who himself was a victim of the raid which led to the desertion and final end in 1236 wrote in his biography that the Turks brought much destruction to the Mahavihara. There were only two viharas in livable condition in which he and other students together with a nonagenarian Acarya were living.

In fact, after the raid at Odantapuri Mahavihara the invading Turk soldiers did not leave the place but set up a garrison. They occasionally invaded and plundered big conspicuous establishments. No doubt they immensely demolished and desegregated and ravaged the Mahavihara. Later while their place of stay was being developed into a administrative center they started demolishing the standing walls of the viharas and stupas for construction materials like bricks, wood stabs and others things. The process continued until the whole campus was not turned into several mud mounds with interspersed courtyards and looked defaced without recognition.

The Nalanda Open University claimed its line of origin to the ancient Nalanda Mahavihara. While going through its 'Historical Background' in the Wikipidia a few things appeared incongruous, unhistorical. Kumargupta I of Gupta dynasty (415-55 ) first built a vihara for starting a centre of Buddhist teaching and his scions and a king of central India built other viharas one after another and thus there came into existence a campus of the Mahavihara. The evidences of the art architecture and terracotta of Gupta era are amply seen. Later during the reign of Devapaladeva of Pala dynasty the fine art took a specialized form and there evolved a school of it in the Mahavihara. It does not seem correct to say that it endowed a college of fine art of Gupas' era. It is also not correct to say that Acarya Dharmapala, predecessor of Acarya Sllabhadra and one of ten commentators on the Trinsikii of Vasubandhu was a Brahmamin scholar who taught here. Acarya Nagarjuna of the fame of the founder of Madhyamika philosophy studied at Nalanda before it began to develop into a center of formal teaching. He flourished in 2nd century. The king Asoka constructed a stupa at the place of Sariputra's birth and demise in the village of Nalaka in 3rd century B.C .. And the time of Kumargupta I is the first half of the 5th century. How is he or Asoka to be claimed to have been the patron of the Monastic-cum-Academic Institution of Nalanda, centuries ahead of its foundation?

The Nalanda International University genuinely claims to revive the line of Monastic-cum-Academic Institution of Nalanda. In the historical background in the Wikipidia it mensions that Xuan-zang stayed for 15 years at Nalnada in the capacity of a student and later as a teacher. Actually his whole journey from the Chinese capital Chang-an in 629 to his return in the capital in 645 took that very span of time. At its peak the Monastic-cum-Academic Institution attracted scholars and students, besides other Asian countries, from Japan, Turkey and Greece. Historically Japan came first in contact with Korea and China when Korean monks landed on its shore and introduced the statues of the Buddha and Buddhist scriptures. It happened during the reign of Emperor Kimmei in the year 552. Since then it imbibed not only all of Chinese Buddhism but also Chinese civilization and culture. Japanese monks began to go to China for study and on their return, to disseminate the different shades of Buddhism in the country. A famous Japanese monk was a student of Xuan-zang. After his return he founded the school of Hosso shu (Vijnanavada).

Bodhisena was the first Indian monk to reach Nara, Japan from China in the year 736. The Emperor Somu (724-48) and the Chief priest Gyoki facilitated him organizing a gathering of 10000 people. The ceremony of 'opening the Buddha's eye' or the world's biggest gilded statue of the Buddha in Todaiji temple was performed by him. After the demise of Gyoki he was made the chief priest.

Because of geographical barriers to reach India and one pointed interest in borrowing everything from China and Korea India remained in Japan simply the name of a distant land where the Buddha was born in until the 13 the century when Nalanda was completely destroyed and forgotten. No monk of the Nalanda Mahavihara went to Japan nor did any Japanese monk come to this institution from Japan. The first Indian monk to reach Japan was from China. There are flaws or gaps in the views formed or sweeping generalizations made by eminent historians and archaeologists and thus misinformation in the historical backgrounds of two reputed Universities. Scholarly propriety demands from the author to appreciate their contributions unsparingly with the realization that the required sources were then not easily available or were out of reach to them. Most of later scholars have just followed them and some of them have shown over enthusiasm to make things look awesome. This has led the author to feel the lacuna of having an exhaustive documented history of Nalanda. Hope the Institutions or Universities given to revive the glory of Nalanda and its ancient Mahavihara will feel the need to have such a history of Nalanda some time soon.

The present work is the result of long drawn efforts on the part of the author to understand the flow of history of Nalanda and its ancient Mahavihara. At times in discussion on certain points with scholars the author received encouraging remarks. Their patient hearing and some valuable suggestions and information encouraged him to come out with this small compilation on Nalanda. He feels greatly obliged to them.

At last, the author feels in all humility that this small work on Nalanda will be of some use to scholars and readers interested in the history of the place.


Part - I Nalanda And Its Mahavihara
A. Nalanda and Its Mahavihara 1-49
1 Earliest Available Accounts of Nalanda 1-10
2 Why Did Kumaragupta I Select Nalanda? 10-19
3 Coming up of Monastic-cum-Academic 19-25
4 Apex of Excellences That Was the Mahavihara: 25-39
I. Monastic Complex and Temples 25-26
II. Academic Environment and Culture 27-28
III. Eminent Acaryas 28-32
IV. Students and Alumni 32-36
V. Library 36-37
VI. School of Fine Art 37-39
5 Decline, End and Reoccupation 39-49
I. Decline and End of the Mahavihara 39-44
II. Reoccupation and Development of villages on the Ruins: 44-45
III. Kundilpur Jain Temple 45--47
IV. Chinese Buddhist Temple 47-49
B. Revival of Nalanda: 49-51
I. Nalanda Identified 49-50
II. Excavation of Ruins site and Establishment of Museum 50-51
C. Remains of the Mahavihara 51-67
I. Rows of Monasteries, Stupas and Temples 51-56
II. Icons of Buddha, Bodhisattvas and Hindu Gods and Goddesses 56-65
III. Coins, Seals and Sealings and Inscription 65-67
D. Steps towards Reviving the Ancient Academic Scenario: 67-82
I. First Noble Attempt 63-68
II. Commendable Contributions of others 68-70
III. Establishment of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara 70-78
IV. Establishment of Xuan-zang Memorial Hall 78-79
V Nalanda Open University 79-80
VI. Nalanda International University 81-82
Part - II Selected Articles
1 Nalanda in Early Buddhist Literature 83-93
2 Nalanda in Chinese and Tibetan Sources 94-132
3 Nalnda vis-a-vis the Birthplace of Sariputra 133-56
4 Some Thoughts on Historiography of Nalanda 157-77
5 The Role of Ancient Nalanda Mahavihara in Fostering the Relation between India and China 178-98
6 Xuan-zhuang's Death Anniversary 194-204
7 Works of Xuan 205-225
Bibliography 226-233
Index 234....

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