Nalanda, where ruins of the great ancient university have been excavated, is
situated at a distance of 90 km. in the south east of Patna by road. The ruins
extend over a large area and represent only a part of the extensive
establishment. There are many versions of what the term Nalanda means. One is
that Nalam means Lotus and Da means to give. Both combined together,Nalanda
means Giver of Lotus. Since Lotus is supposed to represent knowledge,Nalanda
means Giver of Knowledge.
As is evident from the remains of Nalanda,there were row of monastery sites lies from south to north. By and large all of them are of the same pattern. But most important of them is site no.1,entrance of which lies in the west wall through a large portico of which the roof rested on pillars. At a later period this portico was converted into a porch with an ante-chamber by the addition of two walls.
A long succession of kings from 5th to 12th century extended their royal patronage to ensure the progress and prosperity of the university. The university received royal patronage of the great emperor Harshavardhana of Kannauj and also pala kings. It was a great centre of learning and students from foreign centre of learning and students from foreign countries were also attracted to this university.
Nalanda during its days was a flourishing residential university with over 10,000 students and 1500 teachers. The university was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. Hiuen Tsang,the Chinese pilgrim spent three years at Nalanda. He has left a detailed note about the university,its curriculum,activities and other accounts. The Tibetan pilgrim Dharmasvamin was here in 1234 and has left an a gripping account of the monastery's destruction by the Muslims.
Nalanda today is in ruins but still it imparts the scholarly look. The archaeological zone here is classified into a number of sites that include 11 monasteries and several temples built in red bricks.