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With reference to the article “Ancient seat of learning” that appeared in Young World (September 13, 2011), the introductory note, on page 1 quoted Wikipedia, said “Nalanda was ransacked and destroyed by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khalji in 1193,” while the full story, on page 2, quoting a New York Times article , by former dean of the Yale School of Management, Prof. Jeffrey E. Garten, said Nalanda survived “till 1197”. Both dates appear to be valid, the difference being of four years. The sources are those who are directly involved with Nalanda.

In his article titled “Nalanda and the pursuit of science,” that appeared in The Hindu (Op-Ed, January 8, 2011), Dr. Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University in the U.S., and also chairman of the Interim Governing Board of Nalanda University, says, “Nalanda was violently destroyed in an Afghan attack, led by the ruthless conqueror, Bakhtiyar Khilji, in 1193, shortly after the beginning of Oxford University and shortly before the initiation of Cambridge.”

A day earlier, in his address to the Indian Science Congress at SRM University in Kattankulathur, Chennai, Dr. Sen again gave the year of its destruction as 1193. The Hindu reported this in an article, by a Special Correspondent, titled “Amartya Sen: Nalanda stood for the passion of propagating knowledge and understanding,” (Chennai edition, city page 1.)

Prof Jeffrey E. Garten, former dean of the Yale School of Management and a professor of international trade and finance there, and senior officer, the White House and U.S. Department of State (1973-1979) stands by the date 1197. He highlights the fact that the complete decline of the institution was in 1197, which is why he has said survived “till 1197.”

Tourism sites of repute also say that Nalanda was “the Buddhist centre of learning from 427 to 1197 CE, partly under the Pala Empire.”

Another site says, “Nalanda University was destroyed thrice: in the mid-5th (when it was only a few years old), early 7th, and late 12th centuries. The first two times, Nalanda was rebuilt by the rulers of the day. But by the time Turkish Muslim invaders destroyed it for a third time in 1197, the enthusiasm for Buddhist learning had long declined and there was no ruler in the region with enough clout to restore the institution to its former glory. As a result, Nalanda has languished in its ruins ever since.”

Another site of repute says, “According to historians, Nalanda flourished between the reign of the Œakrâditya (whose identity is uncertain and who might have been either Kumara Gupta I or Kumara Gupta II) and 1197 CE, supported by patronage from Buddhist emperors like Harsha as well as later emperors from the Pala Empire. In 1193, the Nalanda University was destroyed by the Islamic fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turk; this event is seen by scholars as a late milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, in his chronicle the Tabaquat-I-Nasiri, reported that thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism and plant Islam by the sword; the burning of the library continued for several months and smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills. This ended in total decline by 1197 CE.”

A site of note, of a Buddhism time line, says: “11-13th Centuries India: Encounter with Islam, iconoclasm, decline of (mainly Mahayana) Buddhism in Northern India. Sacking of Nalanda university in 1197, and Vikramasila University in 1203 by Muslims.”

There are some more sources that state the event in general terms, by saying “At the beginning of the 12th Century, the Muslim invader Bakhtiyar Khalji completely destroyed the university.”

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