Nalanda University, an ancient seat of learning destroyed in 1193, is poised for revival.
According to The Independent, an ambitious plan to establish an international university with the same overarching vision as Nalanda -- and located alongside its physical ruins -- has been spearheaded by a team of international experts and leaders, among them the Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen. This week, legislation that will enable the building of the university to proceed is to be placed before the Indian parliament.
“At its peak, it offered an enormous number of subjects in the Buddhist tradition, in a similar way that Oxford [offered] in the Christian tradition -- Sanskrit, medicine, public health and economics,” Mr. Sen said on Tuesday in Delhi.
“It was destroyed in a war. It was [at] just the same time that Oxford was being established. It has a fairly extraordinary history -- Cambridge had not yet been born.” He added, with confidence: “Building will start as soon as the bill passes.” 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 then 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 500 million dollars will be required to build the new facility, with a further 500 million dollars 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.
Some commentators believe a crucial impact of the establishment of a new international university in India would be the boost it gave to higher education across Asia. Indian authorities believe the establishment of the college would act as a global reminder of the nation’s history as a centre of learning and culture.