Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Recreating Nalanda: An Indian renaissance

The Bihar government has launched an ambitious project - to resurrect the Nalanda University which was once considered one of the finest academic institutions in the world.

And that dream seems to be one step closer to reality, with Parliament passing the Nalanda University Bill 2010.

The world-famous university in Bihar, built in 4th century AD, stood till about 800 years ago and used to draw students and scholars from across Asia.

Bihar government has acquired about 500 acres of land for the project. The estimated cost to build the university is over Rs. 1,000 crore but the Planning Commission has allocated Rs. 50 crore for the project.

The state government hopes to raise the rest from other state governments and private donors in other Asian countries.

Also, a Nalanda Mentor Group has been constituted to which is headed by Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen. It will act as its Interim Governing Board.

The Nalanda University project is one of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's pet projects. He has in fact linked the resurrection of the ancient university to the building of 'Brand Bihar' and 'Revival of Bihari Pride'.

"There are so many places in Bihar. The Nalanda University was the earliest university in the world. The story of Bihar is not only about today, it is about the history of mankind, a story of the evolution of culture. And in this kind of a Bihar, why can we all not get together," Nitish said.

Others associated with the project say it will be a symbol of Asian intellect.

"It's the Pan Asian character of Nalanda which makes this new initiative a symbol or an icon of the surge towards this quest for an Asian renaissance. As Asia regains its economic power, it also seeks some ways to be able to revive Pan Asian intellectual traditions which Nalanda represented in more ways than one," said N K Singh, a member of the Nalanda mentor Group.

Construction is expected to begin in a year. With the revival of this university, perhaps Bihar and India will now find a prominent place on the global education map.