Nalanda University was big time. Right outside Rajgir, or Vulture’s Peak in the northeastern Indian state of Bihar, in its prime it had over 10,000 students, 2,000 staff, and denied 80% of its applicants. It would be hard to overstate how big time it was, and not just in Buddhist history. Dating back to the fifth century, it was one of the first institutions of higher learning in the world. Scholars came from all over the world to study philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and other subjects. Today it lies in ruins. There are plans, however, to revive the ruins and return Nalanda to its former glory as an active center of learning. Well, actually, the plan is to build a new Nalanda—while retaining the spirit of the original—next to the physical ruins. Andrew Buncombe, reporting for the Independent, writes:
The plan to resurrect Nalanda—in the state of Bihar—and establish a facility prestigious enough to attract the best students from across Asia and beyond, was apparently first voiced in the 1990s. But the idea received more widespread attention in 2006 when the then Indian president, APJ Abdul Kalam set about establishing an international “mentoring panel”. Members of the panel, chaired by Mr Sen, include Singapore’s foreign minister, George Yeo, historian Sugata Bose, Lord Desai and Chinese academic Wang Banwei. A key challenge for the group is to raise sufficient funds for the university. It has been estimated that $500m will be required to build the new facility, with a further $500m needed to sufficiently improve the surrounding infrastructure. The group is looking for donations from governments, private individuals and religious groups. The governments of both Singapore and India have apparently already given some financial commitments.
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