The Rajya Sabha on Saturday passed the Nalanda University Bill, which intends to revive the 5th century residential institution that attracted students from all over the world.

The revival is taking place under an international initiative by the East Asia Summit, a bloc of which India is a member, with the Ministry of External Affairs being actively involved in the $1billion project.

A mentor group that drafted the regulations will be the university's interim governing body, which is headed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and includes the Singapore Foreign Minister.

The aim is to attain the standard reached by Chulalongkorn University of Thailand and The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.

Ideological division

The debate preceding the passage of the Bill saw an ideological division among the members over the ruination of the university, with Sitaram Yechury (Communist Party of India-Marxist) pointing out that its revival involving 16 countries and an eminent team of international thinkers, philosophers and Nobel Laureates should not be seen in terms of settling scores of the past in history, but in terms of trying to revive the glory that once was of Nalanda.

Referring to Karan Singh's (Congress) observation that Bakhtiyar Khilji's troops had vandalised the university, Mr. Yechury said it was history.

“We are the churning crucible of human civilisation, and that is what these lands represented. Various tendencies have come; we have assimilated various tendencies, and on that basis, we have advanced. And today the BBC describes, in its Epic History series, India as the only continuing civilisation in the history of human civilization anywhere in the world,” he said.

Thanjavur temple

Taking the cue again from Dr. Singh's earlier observations, Mr. Yechury pointed out that Raja Raja Cholan's Thanjavur temple built in 1002 AD even today opens with the same shlokas that have been read out for over 1008 years. “You have that continuity and you have the change. Nalanda represented that; it represented, for a millennium, the repository of world's knowledge where the advent of ideas was continuously taking place. If you go by the accounts of Huen Tsang, it was not only a temple of knowledge, but a temple of the highest pinnacle of tolerance, and religious tolerance at that, which is something that we have to imbibe today,” he observed.

N.K. Singh (Janata Dal-United) felt the university could become an ‘Icon of Asian renaissance' by reflecting the old Nalanda University's ethos as the confluence of East and South Asia. He hoped the new university could be a trend setter for the power of soft diplomacy.

More In: National | News