Nalanda University: The Icon of the new Asian Renaissance
Nalanda University - The Knowledge Review

The International University is on a mission to cater to the needs of the twenty first century while retaining and sustaining the legacy of Nalanda’s immortal learning tradition that would encourage the students on an unparalleled experiential educational journey.

Rising from the ruins like a Phoenix Bird

It all started on the floor of the Bihar Assembly in 2006 when the then President of India, Late Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, had stressed on the need for reviving the renowned ancient Nalanda University by re-establishing it. The International University that we are featuring here was established in 2010 in Rajgir, and is around 12 kms from the ancient ruins of Nalanda, Bihar. It was re-established with the sole motto of regaining the impeccable legacy of Nalanda University as an International seat of knowledge.

The overriding goal of Nalanda University, as defined by the Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs Smt. Sushma Swaraj Ji, is to serve as ‘bridge and foundation’ in linking India with the world through knowledge. Nalanda, literally is “inexhaustible giver of knowledge”, representing an undying tradition of the quest for peace and harmony in the world. The Aim of the University is to create new knowledge, nourished by Dharma. As a lamp of Asian renaissance the University was envisaged as one of the major conduits of Act East Policy of the Government of India.

This ancient University was the first of its kind in the world and the present International University is modelled after that. Back in the 5th century, it was globally renowned as the Centre of learning where scholars from across Asia and beyond came in to quench their thirst for knowledge. The Nalanda University was the seat of knowledge for over eight centuries in the ancient kingdom of Magadha. At its peak (8th – 9th century), it was believed to have had 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over Asia and central Asia, who lived and studied at the University.

The current Indian Government, through its Act East Policy, is dedicated to the task of rebuilding this renowned historical institution. It will be pertinent to mention here that the valuable contribution and esteemed mentorship of Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Nitish Kumar Ji and the Hon’ble External Affairs Minister, Madam Sushma Swaraj Ji is the most significant factor in growth and development of the Nalanda University.

Recreating the Hallowed Universalism of Nalanda

Nalanda is an international University, which is a ‘sui generis’ (Greek for unique) University with the objective of (as envisioned by the Vice Chancellor):

  • Imparting value based education and with research focus towards capacity building of the International Member States of the University, in the domain of ancient Indian science, Indian and Asian Philosophy, Vedic studies, Buddhism, language, Mathematics & Logic, Astronomy, Historical & Archaeological studies and other new knowledge domains in higher learning vital for enhancing the quality of life.
  • Contributing to the promotion of peace and human values by bringing together the entire region of East Asia and Central Asia on one platform of knowledge for the world’s well being. Also by focusing on Indian and the East Asian/Asian wisdom, history and philosophy, not just to enhance the shared perspective but also to enhance their understanding globally.

With a distinctive empirical model of learning, Nalanda is inspired by the academic excellence and global vision of its historic predecessor and aspires to meet and set global standards to enable academic excellence and research and enable capacity building in all areas of higher learning. The University is being supported by all the Member States of the East Asia Summit and Intergovernmental Memorandums of Understanding to that effect have been signed by 17 countries. This international university is poised to emerge as a shining example of Asian collaboration, and will supply the greater part of its brain power to the world.

“For centuries Nalanda was a beacon which attracted scholars from all over Asia and became a symbol of knowledge hub of inter & intra-Asia interaction. It shall now embark on a similar journey, on an expanded scale with Asia Pacific and Ocean countries joining in. If the world’s future lies in achieving a multipolar system it is necessary that an institution such as Nalanda charts the course of the region for the 21st Century and beyond.” (VC Sunaina Singh)

With an objective of recreating the University knowledge system to suit the needs and demands of 21st Century, the University is in the process of establishing itself in building human values, Indian culture and ethos and in short “Man-Making” education as, Swami Vivekananda has said, through new areas of knowledge.

The university will have the first of its kind campus with a net zero or near zero environmental impact. This would mean that the University will generate its own Water and Renewable Energy apart from sending out zero Waste into the environment. The university is designed, inspired by ancient archeological and astronomical practices. For instance, the incorporation of the Kalchakra concept to mediate a smooth operation and a successful expansion of the university, can be seen as its attempt to tie up the historical legacy inherited by the University with one of the most urgent contemporary issues that needs to be addressed – environmental sustainability.

Symbol of Asian Collaboration and a Global Intellectual Powerhouse

Owing to the international character of the University, it is imperative that the pedagogy for delivering knowledge at Nalanda should be unique and global. While old Nalanda was known for its spectacular library facility, the modern Nalanda is following the digital route and creating a new library infrastructure with a robust network facility to host manuscripts and other print acquisitions. The library which is envisaged as a resource house of new knowledge systems will also be a treasure house of archival resources and gearing up to establish Nalanda University Press.

Currently, the University runs three Master’s programs in School of Historical Studies, School of Ecology and Environment Studies and School of Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions.

The University is in the process of expanding and is gearing up its schools of learning to incorporate Mathematics, Logic, Ancient Sciences, Life Management, New Economics, Astronomy/Astrology, Vedic Studies, Maritime Laws/ Security etc.  The programs are designed to encourage experiential learning, promote original research and develop innovative ideas. The University is also in the process of expanding its academic profile by bringing in distinctive Departments/ Centres of learning of Peace and Security Studies, Evolutionary Anthropology, Indian and Asian Culture & Philosophy, Information Studies, Neuroscience, Environment Management, Language & Literature, Public Health etc., to inculcate an expansive view of global citizenship which embraces innovation without boundaries and strength through diversity as we open new doors of knowledge.

The fundamental telos of the university is to build a rigorous teaching and research endeavor that will primarily focus on Indian knowledge system as Dick Teresi, an erudite American Writer acknowledged  – “Twenty-four centuries before Isaac Newton, the Hindu Rig-Veda asserted that gravitation held the Universe together. The Indians of the fifth century A.D. calculated the age of the earth as 4.3 billion years; scientists in 19th century England were convinced it was 100 million years. The ancient Indians, long before Copernicus, knew that the earth revolved around the sun and a thousand years before Kepler, knew that the orbits of the planets were elliptical. The Indians developed the use of zero and negative numbers perhaps thousand years before these concepts were accepted in Europe’’.

Recreating Legacy under the Aegis of a Visionary Administrator

Professor Sunaina Singh, after taking over as the Vice Chancellor of Nalanda University, envisioned the new ways of projecting Nalanda University through dissemination of knowledge as stated above. An Acclaimed scholar and accomplished teacher, Professor Singh, is a dynamic leader who has touched many hearts and inspires many minds. She is widely known for her rich blend of scholarship, professional integrity, and administrative competence. She has an impeccable and proven track record as an able and visionary administrator that has enabled her to excel in her leadership role.

Prof. Sunaina Singh is currently also the Vice-President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). As the president of Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute (a Bi-National Institution) between 2009 and 2011, Professor Singh launched path breaking initiatives that heralded a new vision and outlook for the institution. She was honored with a citation by the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Canada (ICCC), Calgary, for her contribution and initiatives in strengthening bilateral ties and collaboration in higher education, in 2011.

Prof. Singh has also been acknowledged for her academic credentials and distinct leadership skills with awards and honors such as  Education Leadership Award, 2017 (Dewang Mehta National Education Awards),100-Most Influential Vice Chancellors, 2016 (World Education Congress), Bharat Gaurav Award, 2016 (IIFS), Chanakya Award for Excellence in Good Governance, 2014 (Public Relations Council of India, Woman of the Year Award, 2014 (by the United Andhra Pradesh Government – Citizens Council of A.P.), Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education, 2014 (World Education Congress, Rashtriya Gaurav Award,(2011, IIFS, Certificate of International Leadership from National College, Nottingham, U.K. (2013) etc.

Promoting Collaborative Research and Exposure to new Experiences

At Nalanda University, students are expected to pursue interdisciplinary research that emphasizes on collaboration with students and faculties from various affiliated universities and institutions. The experience of studying abroad, along with training in foreign languages enhances their research skills. Hence, a wide variety of career prospects are available to the students in various fields. The University has established linkages and collaborations with several institutions abroad as well as with partner countries of the East Asia Summit. The University is affirmative on knowledge sharing, cultural and civilizational dialogues, and collaborations and linkages.

Nalanda is the only University in India to adapt Khadi for its Academic Regalia.

Committed to the Vision while extending need based support

The new leadership at Nalanda is committed to the vision of symbolizing Nalanda’s long history of mutual learning, cross-cultural collaboration and vibrant Asian connections. Along with the ongoing activities, the University is in the process of preparing an ideal academic framework, pedagogy, and evaluation pattern. All these are essential in bringing quality into the academic programmes offered by the University.

While committing itself as a part of global citizenship, Nalanda University also understands the importance of financially assisting meritorious and needy students. In order to encourage and reward meritorious students, the University provides various kinds of financial assistance like Nalanda Merit Based Scholarship, Nalanda need cum Merit Scholarship, etc. The University accords Scholarship to International students. Apart from that, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Scholarship, Thai Scholarship, CLMV Scholarship, etc. are also awarded. The University is also planning to award scholarships to 25 Buddhist monks/nuns from Asian Countries to study at Nalanda.

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