India's first international Buddhist University is coming up near Sanchi, the world heritage site, 34 km southwest of Bhopal. Work on the Rs 300-crore Indo-Sri Lanka joint project is expected to start from June on 65 acre land provided by the MP Government.
A joint team of Sri Lanka Mahabodhi Society and Buddhist Society of India with Raisen Collector inspected the site for proposed University on March 3. Sri Lankan architects from Innovatia Designs Systems Pvt. Ltd accompanied the team.
" When we have a design ready, we will convene a meeting of Indian scholars on Buddhism to get their views on the exact nature and mandate of the university" Chandrabodhi Patil, national president of the Buddhist Society of India told Hindustan Times.
The project was finalised during the visit of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake on October 31 in Sanchi. In his presence, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan promised to allot land and offered other help.
Apart from conducting various undergraduate and postgraduate courses on Buddhism, the proposed university will run one-year diploma training courses for Boudh Bhikshus (monks).
The university will be affiliated to the one being run by the Sri Lanka Mahabodhi Society in Sri Lanka. But the proposed university will have specific Indian Buddhist courses too, Patil said.
In the first year (likely in academic session 2011-12), the university will enroll 100 students from India and other countries.
The Emperor Ashoka laid the foundation of Sanchi when he built a Stupa and erected a monolithic pillar here. Ashoka built eight stupas on the hilltop of Sanchi including the Great Stupa. A great number of stupas and other religious structures were added over the succeeding centuries.
With the decline of Buddhism, the site decayed and was eventually completely forgotten. But, between 1912 and 1919, the structures were carefully repaired to their present condition and restored.
On a hill overlooking the plain, the site comprises a group of Buddhist monuments (monolithic pillars, palaces, temples and monasteries) all in different states of conservation. Most of them date back to the 2nd and 1st centuries BC.
It is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary and was a major Buddhist centre in India until the 12th century AD.