PATNA : Nalanda University held its first
convocation on August 27 here which was graced by
the university's Visitor, President Pranabh
Mukherjee who also laid the foundations stone of its
new campus at Rajgir, Nalanda.
Mr Mukherjee who addressed the first convocation
of the university said that he wished the university
will truly attain the status of Nalanda of yore.
He said that there are many practices of ancient
Nalanda which are worthy of emulation by the new
Nalanda. One of the most important characteristics
of ancient Nalanda was that it was an international
institution where inter-Asian connections, in
particular, flourished. Chinese monks like Xuan Zang,
Yijing and Huichao among others visited, lived,
studied and taught in Nalanda. At a later period,
scholars from Tibet kept coming to Nalanda for
studying Buddhism and other branches of knowledge.
Monks from several other countries including Sri
Lanka also came to Nalanda, revealing the diversity
of religious and cultural influences on the
institution. And, the traffic was not just in one
direction. Monks from Nalanda spread their wisdom
across the world and had reached China before Xuan
Zang’s visit to India.
The President said that the ancient Nalanda was
known for the high level of debate and discussion it
nurtured. It was not a mere geographical expression
but it reflected an idea and a culture. Nalanda
conveyed the message of friendship, cooperation,
debate, discussion and argument. Discussion and
debate are part of our ethos and life.
The President said though the main subjects of
study were the Buddhist texts, importance was also
given to critiques of Buddhism by various schools,
study of Vedas and beyond. The lesson for modern
Nalanda is to ensure that this great tradition finds
new life and vigour within its precincts.
Universities must be the bastions of free speech and
expression. It must be the arena where diverse and
conflicting schools of thought contend. There should
be no room for intolerance, prejudice and hatred
within the spaces of this institution. Further, it
must act as a flag bearer for the coexistence of
multiple views, thoughts and philosophies.
The President said Nalanda was a melting pot of
civilizations and modern India should remain the
same. We should not close our windows and yet we
should not be blown off by winds from outside. We
should let the winds flow freely from all over the
world and get enriched by them. We should embrace
free discussion and debate leaving behind narrow
mindsets and thoughts. (Courtesy : PIB)
Nalanda varsity ruins in Unesco heritage
By Sanjiv Dube
NEW DELHI : The Centre and Bihar governments'
seven-year-long efforts finally bore fruit on July
UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, currently meeting
included the Nalanda ruins under the "cultural
Nalanda is Bihar's second heritage site to be
included in the UNESCO's heritage list -- the first
being Mahabodhi Mahavihara in Bodhgaya which was
included on June 27, 2002.
Rakesh Tiwari, director-general,
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has confirmed
the news about Nalanda.
"Ruins of the ancient Nalanda University were
inscribed on Unesco's World Heritage list on
Friday," he said, adding "the final decision was taken today to
include it in the coveted list following voting for
The event was preceded by many ups and downs as the
International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS),
a Unesco agency that evaluates nominated World
Heritage sites wasn't initially satisfied with the
Indian presentations forcing
Kamboj, permanent representative of India to Unesco,
to fly from Paris to Istanbul to convince the
Nalanda was established in the
third century BC as a monastery but it developed as
a university by 4th-5th century AD. ICOMOS in its
report had stated that the dossier for the Nalanda ruins
provides a weak argument on Nalanda's superiority as
a university in comparative analysis with old
varsities in Paris and Bologna, Italy. It took time
the World Heritage Committee that though the
European universities had flourished in the medieval
period (AD 500 to about 1500), Nalanda had grown to
a large institution of learning by the fourth
The ASI pointed out to Unesco that Nalanda was a
great monastic-cum-educational institution for
oriental art and learning in the Buddhist world,
attracting students like Hiuen Tsang and I-Tsing
from China and other countries.
According to ASI records, Nalanda university flourished as a
university 700-800 years after its establishment as
a monastery. In the seventh century AD, there were
around 1,500 students and 1,000 teachers in the
university. The students and teachers came from all
across India, China, Tibet, Nepal, Korea and several
other Southeast Asian countries. The university had
big classrooms, hostels, laboratories and libraries
among other facilities. Apart from Buddhist studies,
other streams including human sciences were taught,
and there were clearly specified procedure for
admission to the university.
As per ASI records, subjects taught at Nalanda
included theology, grammar, logic, astronomy,
metaphysics, medicine and philosophy. There are
references that the ancient Nalanda city was spread
over an area of 16 square kilometres, of which only
an area of around 1 sq km is excavated. The
extensive remains are of six brick temples and
eleven monasteries arranged in a systematic layout.
Unesco had first included Nalanda in its tentative
list of World Heritage site in the year 2009.
The process of preparation of the fresh nomination
dossier - a formal application for seeking a
position in the coveted list - started in 2013.
Nalanda varsity comes alive after 800
By Our Correspondent
PATNA : Without Nagarjuna or Shilabhadra, the
university of Nalanda came to life once again nearly
800 years after it was destroyed by Muslim raiders.
On September 1 eleven teachers and 15 students gave
university chancellor Amartya Sen's dream project a
symbolic start at a makeshift campus, 12 km
away from the ruins of ancient Nalanda University,
which was destroyed by Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar
Khilji, a general of Mohammad Ghori in the 12th
begin with, classes started in ecology and
environmental studies besides historical studies.
“We are in the process of accepting more students
and our faculty members, too, will be joining us
once their previous engagements are over,” said the
university Vice-Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal.
The university administration has made a temporary
arrangement to lodge its students in a state
government hotel, where it has hired 40 rooms and
three suites for holding classes. “One floor of the
hotel is for the boys, while another one is for
girls. The university will run a mess at the hotel
for its students as well as faculty members,” the VC
The VC Gopa Sabharwal and dean, academic planning,
Anjana Sharma apprised the 15 students of the first
batch of the mission and vision of the university.
Five faculty members and other varsity officials
were also present in the one-hour-45-minute event
that was followed by high tea.
The event began with the book signing by Nalanda
Pioneers — the first batch of students — at the
first floor foyer of the Rajgir Convention Centre,
around 5 km from the varsity’s upcoming new campus
and around 2 km from the Rajgir bus stand. Then the
venue of the programme shifted to the ground floor
auditorium, where dean Sharma welcomed the students.
Lighting of the traditional lamp followed at 3.05pm.
Thereafter, Sabharwal addressed the students. She
made a PowerPoint presentation on the varsity,
focusing on its vision and mission.
The university came into being following passage
of the “Nalanda University Act” in November 2010.
Inspired by the erstwhile Nalanda Mahavihara,
where the university offered a choice of many
subjects — philosophy, astronomy, literature, logic,
Buddhism and Hinduism —the modern Nalanda University
has been funded by the Ministry of External Affairs
(MEA) and other ASEAN (Association for South-East
Asian Nations) countries. The tuition fee for the PG
courses has been pegged at Rs 3 lakh per annum, plus
an administrative charge of Rs 75,000, besides fee
for boarding and lodging.
The university has triggered off high hopes among
the local residents who feel that the university
will give the sleepy township, Rajgir, an economic
The local dhabhas and street food joints are
optimistic that they will cater to more customers,
while owners of departmental stores are confident
about an upsurge in business once the university
gets going. The jobless ones see it as a source of
Sanjay Singh, the president of Rajgir Hotel
Association, said: “We expect more guests in this
tourism town once the university starts functioning.
Parents of the students would put up in hotels
whenever they come to visit their wards. That way,
there will be an upswing in business in the
hospitality sector in the near future.”
Average occupancy rate at Rajgir’s premium
hotels is 30-35 per cent. At budget hotels, the
figures vary from 45 to 50 per cent.
Ranjan said: “Students from across the globe would
come to study at Nalanda University. Naturally, our
occupancy rate will go up in the days to come.”
With Nitish no more Bihar chief minister, Rajgir
residents seem to be now banking on the university
for an economic boost. Ashok Kumar, the proprietor
of a departmental store at the Rajgir bus stand
square, barely 2.5 km from the upcoming Nalanda
University campus, said: “Nitish had tried to
promote Rajgir as a tourism destination. But it is
history now. We are now banking on the university to
boost our business. I’m sure its rippling effect
will push up my sales.”
global status, money to Nalanda
From Sanjiv Dube
NEW DELHI : On February 28 the Union cabinet approved an allocation of Rs
2,727.10 crore to Nalanda University to meet its
financial requirements from 2010-11 to 2021-22 and
approved tax exemptions to the institution.
It also approved amendments to
University (Amendment) Bill, 2013 as suggested by Parliament`s Standing Committee on External Affairs
and accepted by the Government.
The university, coming up near the site of the
ancient seat of learning in Nalanda, about a hundred
kilometres from Patna, is scheduled to start classes
in autumn this year.
The cabinet had, in June last year, approved the
Nalanda University (Amendment) Bill, 2013. However
once it was tabled in the Rajya Sabha, it was
referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee on
External Affairs which submitted its report
recently. The matter was again brought to the
cabinet as the government wanted to accept a few
suggestions of the committee.
The government on Friday agreed to incorporate
amendments to the Nalanda University (Amendment)
Bill, 2013, as suggested by the parliamentary panel.
The parliamentary panel had suggested amendments
such as making the governing board a seven-member
body instead of five, one each nominated by seven
participating and non-participating countries of the
East Asia Summit. Countries,
such as China, Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Australia,
and Japan have either made or offered voluntary
The panel also suggested inclusion of words such as
“non-state, non-profit, self-governing international
institution having academic freedom for attainment
of these objectives.” It had suggested among others
that the Vice-Chancellor shall also perform the role
of member-secretary of the governing board.
press note issued by the Press Information Bureau
here on February 28 said that the preamble of the
University Act would include that it is a
“non-state, non-profit, self-governing international
institution having academic freedom for attainment
of these objectives”.
To further buttress the international stature of the
institution, the cabinet also gave the go-ahead to
the Headquarters Agreement, which has been signed
between the Ministry of External Affairs and the
Nalanda University for giving privileges and
financial immunity like tax exemptions to the
university and its staff. The agreement has been
partly notified pending clearance from the cabinet.
Section 21 of the Nalanda University Act says that
the members of all academic staff and their
dependents shall enjoy privileges like exemption
from taxation in respect to salaries, honoraria,
allowances and other emoluments in connection with
However, the Central government had to enter into an
agreement with Nalanda University to ensure such
privileges are made available. The MEA had prepared
a Headquarters Agreement in this regard which was
signed in July last year.
Under this, the foreign academic staff will get
appropriate visas and be exempt from foreigners’
The agreement said the foreign faculty and staff
members will enjoy the freedom to maintain within
India movable and immovable properties. They can
purchase, hold or dispose of any currencies,
securities and funds through authorised channels.
Such privileges are extended only to the personnel
of other international organisations such as WHO,
Unesco and Unicef.
The Act will have a provision to extend similar
immunities to the university. This means the assets
of the university and its income will be exempt from
all direct taxes, customs duties and prohibition and
restriction on imports and exports in respect of
articles imported or exported by the university.
The amended bill will now be brought to Parliament
Vice-chancellor Gopa Sabharwal expressed happiness
over the cabinet’s decision for funding and bringing
amendments to the Nalanda University Act. “The
amendments approved have retained the international
character of the university,” Sabharwal said.
The PIB press note quoted the
following as the amendments proposed by the Standing
Committee and accepted by the Government:
i. In respect of the University, inclusion of the
words "non-state, non-profit, self-governing
international institution having academic freedom
for attainment of these objectives" in the Preamble;
ii. Also, a mention of the inter-governmental
Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of
Nalanda University that came into force on October
10, 2013 and the provision that any other State that
subscribes to the object and purpose of the
establishment of the University to become signatory
to the MoU;
iii. Vice-Chancellor shall also perform the role of
Member-Secretary of the Governing Board;
iv. The Nalanda Mentor Group will continue as
Governing Board till members referred to in clauses
(c) to (h) of sub-section (1) of section 7 are
v. The Headquarters Agreement specifying privileges
and immunities of the academic staff will be made
applicable from the date of signing of such
vi. Instead of five members from the participating
countries of the East Asia Summit, the Governing
Board will have seven members, one each nominated by
seven participating and non-participating countries
of the East Asia Summit.
The jurisdiction of the University shall extend to
the whole of India and to centres established within
or outside India. The University is an international
institution of national importance.
The Nalanda University (Amendment) Bill, 2013,
designed to further streamline the governance
structure of the University and provide it the
financial support required for the establishment of
a world class institution of high learning, was
introduced in the Rajya Sabha in August 2013. The
Parliament`s Standing Committee on External Affairs
scrutinised the Bill and presented its Report to
both the Houses on 17thDecember, 2013.
The Committee endorsed the objectives and the
following specific provisions of the Amendment Bill:
1) The Government of India may meet both capital and
recurring expenditure of the University to the
2) Retrospective application of the University`s
Statutes, Ordinances and Regulations;
3) President of India will be the Visitor of the
4) Two members of the academic faculty will be
nominated by the Vice-Chancellor to the Governing
5) Secondment of persons to join the University will
be allowed; and
6) Non-participating countries of the East Asia
Summit will be allowed to collaborate in developing
the University as an international centre of