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Author of this article is Laxman Burdak लक्ष्मण बुरड़क
Nalanda District Map
XVII. Nalanda seal of Vishnugupta (ASI)

Nālandā (नालंदा) is a city and district in Bihar. Bihar Sharif is the administrative headquarters of this district.


The site of Nalanda is located about 55 miles south east of Patna. The Phalgu, Mohane, Jirayan, and Kumbhari rivers flow through it.

Variants of name


Nalanda means "insatiable in giving." The Chinese pilgrim-monk Xuanzang gives several explanations of the name Nālandā.

  • Naga Nalanda - One is that it was named after the Naga who lived in a tank in the middle of the mango grove. Alexander Cunningham[2] writes that To the south of the monastery there was a tank in which the dragon or Naga, Nalanda, was said to dwell, and the place was accordingly named after him, Nalanda.
  • Another – the one he accepted – is that Shakyamuni Buddha once had his capital here and gave "alms without intermission", hence the name. It comes from Na alam dā meaning no end in gifts or charity without intermission.
  • 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.[3]

Sub Divisions

Sub Divisions: 3 - Bihar Sharif, Rajgir, Hilsa

Blocks: 20 - Giriyak, Rahui, Ajaypur Noorsarai, Harnaut, Chandi (Nalanda), Islampur (Nalanda), Rajgir, Asthawan, Sarmera, Hilsa, Biharsharif, Ekangarsarai, Bena, Nagarnausa, Karai Parsarai, Silao, Parwalpur, Katrisarai, Bind, Tharthari


Nalanda was a Buddhist center of learning from 427 to 1197 CE. It has been called "one of the first great universities in recorded history." Some buildings were constructed by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka the Great and the Tamil emperor Rajaraja Chola. The Gupta Empire also patronized some monasteries. According to historians, Nalanda flourished between 427 CE and 1197 CE, mainly due to patronage from Buddhist emperors like Harsha as well as emperors from the Pandyan Empire and Pala Empire. The complex was built with red bricks and its ruins occupy an area of 14 hectares. At its peak, the university attracted scholars and students from as far away as China, Greece, and Persia. Nalanda was sacked by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khalji in 1193.

Historical studies indicate that the University of Nalanda was established 450 CE under the patronage of the Gupta emperors, notably Kumaragupta I.

According to the Chinese Pilgrim Hsuan Tsang who Harsha built numerous Stupas in the name of Buddha. Hsuan Tsang entered a a grand competition orgranized by Harsha and won the theological debate. Harsha also became a patron of art and literature. He made numerous endowments to the University at Nalanda. Two seals of Harsha have been found in Nalanda in the course of the excavations. All these favours and donations of the great emperor were crowned by the construction of a lofty wall enclosing all the buildings of the university to defend the institution from any other possible attack. In 643 he held a Buddhist convocation at Kannauj which was reputedly attended by 20 kings and thousands of pilgrims.

Visit by Xuanzang in 637 AD

Xuanzang visited Nalanda first in 637 and then again in 642, spending a total of around two years at the monastery.[4]

Alexander Cunningham[5] writes that Due north from Rajgir and 7 miles distant lies the village of Baragaon, which is quite surrounded by ancient tanks and ruined mounds, and which possesses finer and more numerous specimens of sculpture than any other place that I visited. The ruins of Baragaon are so immense, that Dr. Buchanan was convinced it must have been the usual residence of the King ; and he was informed by a Jain priest at Bihar, that it was the residence of Raja Srenika and his ancestors. By the Brahmans these ruins are said to be the remains of Kundilpur, a city famed as the birthplace of Rukmini, one of the wives of Krishna. But as Rukmini was the daughter of Raja Bhishma, of Vidarbha,

[p.469]: or Berar, it seems probable that the Brahmans have mistaken Berar for Bihar, which is only 7 miles distant from Baragaon. I therefore doubt the truth of this Brahmanical tradition, more especially as I can show beyond all doubt that the remains at Baragaon are the ruins of Nalanda, the most famous seat of Buddhist learning in all India.

Fa-Hian places the hamlet of Nalo at 1 yojana, or 7 miles, from the Hill of the Isolated Rock, that is from Giryek, and also the same distance from new Rajagriha.[6] This account agrees exactly with the position of Baragaon, with respect to Giryek and Rajgir. In the Pali annals of Ceylon also, Nalanda is stated to be 1 yojana distant from Rajagriha. Again, Hwen Thsang describes Nalanda as being 7 yojanas, or 49 miles, distant from the holy Pipal-tree at Buddha Gaya, [7]which is correct if measured by the road, the direct distance measured on the map being 40 miles. He also describes it as being about 30 li, or 5 miles, to the north of new Rajagriha. This distance and direction also correspond with the position of Baragaon, if the distance be measured from the most northerly point of the old ramparts. Lastly, in two inscriptions, which I discovered on the spot, the place itself is called Nalanda.

Fa-Hian makes Nalanda the birthplace of Sariputra, who was the right-hand disciple of Buddha ; but this statement is not quite correct, as we learn from the more detailed account of Hwen Thsang that Sariputra was born at Kalapinaka, about halfway between Nalanda and Indra-Sila-Guha, or about 4 miles to the south-east of the former place. Nalanda has also been called

[p.470]: the birthplace of Maha Mogalana, who was the left- hand disciple of Buddha ; but this is not quite correct, as the great Mogalana, according to Hwen Thsang, was born at Kulika, 8 or 9 li (less than 1½ mile) to the south-west of Nalanda. This place I was able to identify with a ruined mound near Jagdispur, at 1-1/4 mile to the south-west of the ruins of Baragaon.

The remains at Baragaon consist of numerous masses of brick ruins, amongst which the most conspicuous is a row of lofty conical mounds running north and south. These high mounds are the remains of gigantic temples attached to the famous monastery of Nalanda. The great monastery itself can be readily traced by the square patches of cultivation, amongst a long mass of brick ruins, 1600 feet by 400 feet. These open spaces show the positions of the courtyards of the six smaller monasteries which are described by Hwen Thsang as being situated within one enclosure forming altogether eight courts. Five of the six monasteries were built by five consecutive princes of the same family, and the sixth by their successor, who is called king of Central India.

To the south of the monastery there was a tank in which the dragon or Naga, Nalanda, was said to dwell, and the place was accordingly named after him, Nalanda. There still exists to the south of the ruined monastery a small tank called Kargidya Pokhar, that answers exactly to the position of the Nalanda tank, and which is therefore, in all probability, the identical pool of the Naga.

I cannot close this account of the ancient Nalanda without mentioning the noble tanks which surrounded the ruins on all sides. To the north-east are the

[p.471]: Gidi Pokhar and the Pansokar Pokhar, each nearly one mile in length; while to the south there is the Indra Pokhar, which is nearly half a mile in length. The remaining tanks are much smaller in size, and do not require any special notice.

Yijing in Nalanda

Inspired by the journeys of Faxian and Xuanzang, the pilgrim, Yijing (also known as I-tsing), after studying Sanskrit in Srivijaya, arrived in India in 673 CE. He stayed there for fourteen years, ten of which he spent at the Nalanda Mahavihara. [8] Unlike his predecessor, Xuanzang, who also describes the geography and culture of 7th-century India, Yijing's account primarily concentrates on the practice of Buddhism in the land of its origin and detailed descriptions of the customs, rules, and regulations of the monks at the monastery. When he returned to China in 695, he had with him 400 Sanskrit texts which were subsequently translated.[9]

Nalanda baked Clay Seal of Kumaragupta III

See - Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India. No. 66,p. 66

Nalanda seals and inscriptions of Harsha and Guptas

Two seals of Harsha have been found in Nalanda in the course of the excavations.

Nalanda seal of Vishnugupta (ASI)

See - Epigraphia Indica. XXVI, p. 239; Select Inscriptions by D. C. Sircar. p. 340

Nalanda Clay Seal of Narasimhagupta

See - Indian Historical Quarterly, Calcutta. XIX, p.273; Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India. No.66, p. 65

Nalanda Baked Clay Seal of Kumaragupta II

Nalanda Seal of Vainyagupta

See - Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India. No. 66,p. 67

Nalanda Clay seal of Budhagupta

Indian Historical Quarterly, Calcutta. XIX, p. 119; Select Inscriptions by D. C. Sircar. p.339

Nalanda Copper-plate Inscription of Samudragupta Year 5

Ref - Epigraphia Indica XXV, p.50, Select Inscriptions by D. C. Sircar, p. 227

Nalanda Clay Seal of Narasimhagupta

Ref - Indian Historical Quarterly, Calcutta. XIX, p.273; Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India. No.66, p. 65

To add

Jat connections

According to some Jat historians Nardey (नार्देय) gotra of Jats have originated from place name Nalanda (नालन्दा), which was earlier called Nardey (नार्देय). [10]


  1. AS (p.494)
  2. The Ancient Geography of India: I. The Buddhist Period, Including the ...By Sir Alexander Cunningham, p.470
  3. Sastri, Hiranand (1986) [First published in 1942]. Nalanda and its Epigraphic Material. New Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications. pp. 3–4. ISBN 8170300134.
  4. Wriggins, Sally Hovey (1996). Xuanzang : a Buddhist pilgrim on the Silk Road. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-2801-2., p.237
  5. The Ancient Geography of India/Magadha, p.468-471]
  6. Beal'a 'Fah-Hian,' c. xxviii. p. 111.
  7. Julien's ' Hiouen Thsang,' i. 143.
  8. Scharfe, Hartmut (2002). Education in Ancient India. Handbook of Oriental Studies 16. Brill. ISBN 9789004125568. p.144
  9. Buswell Jr., Robert E.; Lopez Jr., Donald S. (2013). Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-15786-3.
  10. Dr Mahendra Singh Arya, Dharmpal Singh Dudee, Kishan Singh Faujdar & Vijendra Singh Narwar: Ādhunik Jat Itihas (The modern history of Jats), Agra 1998, p. 260

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