Nalanda University: Lost Dream
The Nalanda University, which was opened in Bihar with great fanfare in 2010 as part of a political dream to restore the university’s former splendour, was one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the world, according to historians. A time in the fifth century BC saw the construction of the historic Nalanda University. The Turkish military officer Bakhtiyar Khilji finally ransacked and destroyed it in roughly 1200 AD after it withstood multiple attacks. The university’s ruins have weathered the ravages of time by refusing to completely vanish, acting as a reminder of its former splendour. The modern Nalanda University (NU) takes inspiration from its ancient precursor. Its mandate is to be an “international institution for the pursuit of intellectual, philosophical, historical and spiritual studies”. Its new campus with the state-of-the-art infrastructure, reportedly recreated in the same layout as it was in the past (1193 AD), is ready to be inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi.
The grand project started on September 1, 2014, when NU started its academic session from a makeshift venue at the International Convention Centre in Rajgir, around 10 km from the ancient learning centre of Nalanda. On September 19, the then Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj formally inaugurated it.
In its eight-year run, the varsity has been frequented by many dignitaries including former Presidents APJ Abdul Kalam and Pranab Mukherjee, as well as the incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind. A number of foreign dignitaries too have visited NU.
But despite all this, the university is not getting started on its path of glory. The new campus is ready, crores are being spent on the university, but there is not a single work of academic excellence coming out of it. With the change of the regime in Bihar, stress on education in the state is set to go downhill only, but that doesn’t mean ministry of external affairs can shrug off its responsibility towards NU. The university needs to get functioning properly and not from any makeshift campus. S Jaishankar, EAM, expresses his concern over every issue, but his silence on Nalanda University is deafening. Nalanda was a revered university once and it should thrive like that once more, but the government specially the External Affairs would have to be proactive on it.