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Plans to restore Nalanda's past glory

Bihar Govt intends to develop 200 villages around the Nalanda University - the famous Buddhist centre of learning - like in the days of yore.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2007 19:11 IST

Two hundred villages around a proposed international varsity at Nalanda will be developed in Bihar.

A day after the Bihar assembly unanimously approved the University of Nalanda Bill for setting up an international university, the villages around the proposed site are hopeful that the university will establish linkages with them that will result in their economic development.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, in an assembly speech earlier, said the government planned to develop 200 villages around the Nalanda University - the famous Buddhist centre of learning - like in the days of yore.

"At least 200 villages used to be attached to the ancient Nalanda University. We plan the same for the proposed university, to create a near-original ambience and to benefit the local population," he said.

The chief minister had requested the Patna-based KP Jaiswal Institute to start identifying villages that used to be attached to the ancient university. All the basic amenities, including, schools, roads, safe drinking water and electricity, will be provided in these villages and job opportunities will also be created for the villagers.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and British businessman Meghnad Desai have agreed to be part of an international group of consultants for setting up the university. The state government will also rope in experts from Singapore and Japan for the university.

Japan and Singapore have shown interest in investing about Rs.4.5 billion ($100 million) in the university. Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has offered to donate Buddhist artefacts to the proposed university.

Nitish Kumar described the bill approved by the state assembly early this month as a great opportunity. The University of Nalanda Bill, 2007, states that the international university would strive to create a world free of war, terror and violence.

"This (bill), which is not only for Bihar or even India, will act as a facilitator for what will emerge as a centre for renaissance of the east. I strongly feel that the university will become a reference point for international relations and a centre for peace and resolution of disputes," he said.

Last month a detailed project report was submitted to the state government. The report states that in its first phase, the university will offer only post-graduate, research, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. However, the report - prepared by the Educational Consultants of India, a consulting company under the union ministry of human resource development - is also in favour of offering undergraduate courses in specific areas.

The university will impart courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects. An internationally known scholar will be the chancellor of the university and 1,137 students from both India and abroad will be enrolled in the first year. By the fifth year, the number will go up to 4,530 and in the second phase, student enrolment will increase to 5,812.

The university, spread over a 500 acres, will have a 1:10 faculty-student ratio. The 46 international faculty members will receive an estimated $36,000 per annum as salaries.

Bihar Human Resources Development Commissioner M Jha said the idea of the university was first suggested in the late 1990s, but it was President APJ Abdul Kalam's initiative in early 2006 that gave shape to the project.

The excavated remains at Nalanda are protected as a site of national importance. The university, a fifth century architectural marvel, was home to over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers.

Nalanda is the Sanskrit name for "giver of knowledge". The Nalanda University, which existed until 1,197 AD, attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a pedestal of higher education in India.

Though it was devoted to Buddhist studies, the varsity also trained students in subjects like fine arts, medicine and mathematics.