Nalanda International University begins its first Session today

Patna: The revived Nalanda University, an ancient international centre for learning in Bihar which has attracted over 1,000 applications from around the world, will begin its first academic session Sep 1 with 15 students, including five women, and 10 faculty members, its vice chancellor said.

“We are ready to start the academic session of Nalanda University Monday,” Vice Chancellor Gopa Sabhrawal told IANS.

Sabhrawal said a three-day student orientation programme for the School of Historical Sciences and the School of Environment and Ecology for the first session 2014-15 commenced Friday in the makeshift campus at the Buddhist pilgrim town of Rajgir, about 100 km from Patna. The university will come up in Rajgir, 12 km from where the ancient Nalanda Univeristy stood till the 12th century, when it was razed by an invading Turkish army.

The formal inauguration is expected in mid-September, Sabhrawal said. The fully-residential university, to be completed by 2020, will eventually have seven schools, all for post-graduate and doctoral students, offering courses in science, philosophy and spirituality and social sciences.

“Over 1,000 students from 40 countries have sought admission in Nalanda University. But only 15 students have been selected, including one each from Japan and Bhutan and others from India,” Sabharwal said.

More students will be enrolled in September as the selection process is still under way, she added.

It was initially decided to enrol 40 students – 20 each in the two schools – but after scrutiny and interview only the best students have been selected, Sabharwal said.

Applications have been received from the US, Russia, England, Spain, Germany, Japan, Myanmar, Austria and Sri Lanka, among others, as also from West Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

Those 15 selected students will be housed in Hotel Tathagat, owned by the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC) in Rajgir.

The classes will be held in the nearby convention hall of the state government.

Rajgir attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world every year. It is the second most visited tourist place in the Buddhist circuit in Bihar after Bodh Gaya, considered as the birthplace of Buddhism, where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment over 2,500 years ago. Rajgir (then Rajagriha) was the first capital of the Magadha kingdom and one of the favourite places of the Buddha.

The university is an initiative of the Indian government and the 18 East Asia Summit (EAS) countries.

During his trip to Brunei in October 2013, then prime minister Manmohan Singh had inked agreements with seven EAS countries – Australia, Cambodia, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Laos and Myanmar – that have pledged their commitment to the project.

China has committed $1 million for the project and a MOU on this was signed during Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing in November 2013. Singapore has pledged $5-6 million and Australia about $1 million Australian dollars.

In May 2013, the Nalanda board had approved the architectural plan of the university, proposing a massive lake at the centre of the campus. A library, a huge dome-shaped structure, would come up in the middle of the lake and be half submerged.

The cental government has sanctioned Rs.2,700 crore ($445 million) cost for the university, to be spent over 10 years.

Established in the fifth century during the Gupta dynasty, the ancient Nalanda University was once flocked by thousands of scholars and thinkers from across the world. It was destroyed by the invading Turkish army of Bakhtiyar Khilji, a general of Qutbuddin Aibak and the blaze in the huge library is believed to have raged for several days.