Nalanda, ancient buddhist university • Bihar, India

Discover Nalanda, the world's oldest Buddhist university and a cornerstone in the history of Buddhism. In less than 5 minutes, journey through the ruins of an ancient city in Bihar, India, that was once an intellectual epicenter. Learn the compelling narrative of Nalanda's rise, decline, and rediscovery in the 19th century, all enriched with a detailed text. Explore a site that once educated over 10,000 students from as far as Tibet and China. A quick yet enlightening voyage through history awaits you!

This film was made on the basis of photos and videos taken during the trip Buddhist India • Sikkim • Bihar • West Bengal (EN)

Reading the text below will help you better understand the cultural context of the images in this video.


Nalanda is a city in the Indian state of Bihar, in northern India, located about 90 kilometers from Patna.

Nalanda is nowadays a small town like many others. But this city was the center of the intellectual world almost 2,000 years ago and is famous for having housed the first university in the Indian subcontinent, if not the world.

the first temple

Emperor Ashoka, the Buddhist emperor who had the Mahabodhi temple built in Bodhgaya, had already built a first Buddhist temple in Nalanda in the 3rd century BC.


One of his successors, King Shakraditya founded the first monastery on the site in the 2nd century. The monastery prospered under the reign of the king's successors before being destroyed during barbarian invasions. But the monastery was quickly rebuilt.

The monastery was the first step in the founding of the university of Nalanda which would bear the name of Mahavihara (maha: great and vihara: monastery).

King Kumaragupta 1st of the Gupta dynasty had the central temple built in the 5th century CE and the university became increasingly important in the years that followed. Its fame attracted student monks from Tibet and Burma. Others came from further afield, from Java and Sumatra in Indonesia, Korea and China to follow the education given in Nalanda.

At the start of the 7th century, the university, which consisted of multi-storey buildings, a library and an observatory, already had more than 4000 students. It was not easy to get accepted at Nalanda University. The admission tests were very difficult. In addition to in-depth studies of Buddhist texts and Hindu Vedas, students learned cosmology, grammar, philosophy, medicine, surgery, and physics.

Like the copyist monks of the Western Middle Ages, the students spent part of their time copying the manuscripts from the library, thus allowing visitors to take manuscripts and thus disseminate the knowledge lavished in this university.

The Pala rulers whose dynasty lasted from the 7th to the 12th century embellished Nalanda and made the university a cultural and artistic center renowned among other things for its bronze statues. Many teachers from Nalanda University were also invited by foreign rulers to disseminate Tibetan or Chinese Buddhist knowledge which was largely developed in Nalanda.

Buddhism in India begins to decline in the 9th century, opposed by new Hindu philosophies. The University of Nalanda which has long been the center of the Buddhist world will be destroyed at the beginning of the 13th century by the Muslim invaders. The university tried to rebuild itself, but the Brahmans, Hindu scholars prevented this revival by burning down the new structures.

So, the site was abandoned, even if at its peak it provided education to more than 10,000 students and despite the international influence of this university center.


The site fell into oblivion and it was not until the beginning of the 19th century that the ruins of the oldest university in the world were rediscovered.


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Disclaimer: Despite its appropriateness, copyright issues prevent the use of indian traditional music in "Nalanda, ancient buddhist university • Bihar, India", hence the use of royalty-free music. Despite our careful selection, some might regret this decision, which is necessary to avoid potential lawsuits. Although difficult, this decision is the only viable solution.

bell at the entrance to the ruin, Nalanda, Bihar • India

What's the weather like in Nalanda?

about the place, Nalanda:

Nalanda in Bihar in India was a former Mahavihara (important Buddhist monastery) of great renown from the 5th to the 13th century CE.


Spoken comments in the film: 

The archaeological remains of Nalanda are those of the oldest university in the Indian subcontinent. It is a monastic institution which was in continuous operation for over 800 years spanning the period from the 3rd century BC to around the year 1300. 

Nalanda was sacked by an army of the Sultan of Delhi's Mamluk dynasty and was abandoned following this invasion. The ruins remained underground until the beginning of the 20th century. 

Nalanda in Bihar, India was an ancient Mahavihara, an important Buddhist monastery of great renown from the 5th to 13th centuries CE.


bell at the entrance to the Nalanda site, Nalanda • India • Bihar

bell at the entrance to the Nalanda site

ruins of the old university, Nalanda • India • Bihar

ruins of the old university

Nalanda Mahavihara archaeological site, Nalanda • India • Bihar

Nalanda Mahavihara archaeological site

Buddhist visitors on pilgrimage, Nalanda • India • Bihar

Buddhist visitors on pilgrimage

Nalanda, Bihar, India

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