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Excavations show how Nalanda University selected its vice chancellor

patna Updated: Sep 07, 2013 15:04 IST
Mammen Matthew

Exploratory excavations in Biharsharif district of Bihar have laid bare exquisite statuettes that show, for the first time, how appointments were made to the Kulapati or vice chancellor’s post at the ancient Nalanda University.

The statuettes and murals found at Ghosrawan, on the periphery of the Nalanda University’s ruins, now establish the VCs were appointed by a decree passed by an assembly of monks which was ratified by a council of elder monks.

The explorations carried out by the KP Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna, claim to have discovered the ‘vital missing link’ in the history of the ancient university while attempting to document archaeological sites in Bihar. The exercise began in July 2007 and has unearthed over 600 rare evidences.

Director of KPJRI Dr Bijoy Kumar Choudhary said, “We successfully linked a stone inscription discovered at the site in 1848, and now kept at the Indian Museum, Kolkata, which was re-read with the newer murals and statuettes to confirm Ghosrawan as the site of the Buddhist monastery known as Yashovarmanpura vihara.”

Archaeologists said the Ghosrawan stone inscription informs that a monk called Veeradeva, originally hailing from Nagrahara (near Jalalabad in west Pakistan), visited Yashovarmanpura vihara and stayed here for a long time. He gradually won the esteem of the Pala emperor Devapala who ruled over Bihar and Bengal during the first half of the 9th century.

Veeradeva also won the respect of the holy monk, Satyabodhi, probably the senior monk of the Nalanda Mahavihara during the same period, and was subsequently appointed by a decree of the monks’ assembly to govern Nalanda (Nalanda paripalanaya niyata? sangha-sthiterya? sthita?).

An elated Choudhary said, “This evidence clearly tells us that the head of Nalanda was formally appointed by an assembly of monks. It also suggests that to bag such an important appointment, the trust of the royalty and the elderly monks was an important precondition. It is crucial evidence because so far we had no idea how the head of the Nalanda Mahavihara was appointed”.

The team also found exquisite historical sculptures, remains of a Buddhist monastery and other antiquities from Ghosrawan while perusing evidence from the village.

The extant sculptures found at the village have been stylistically placed between 700-1200 AD. Significantly, the images belonging to more than one religion occupy the same chronological context. Historians said the images assignable to the 10th and 11th century AD at Ghosrawan belong to the Shakta, Shaiva, Vaishnava and Bauddha sects.

Buddhist sculptures dominate the assemblage of this period and include such images as Maya giving birth to Buddha, Buddha taming Nalagiri, the descent of Buddha from the Trayastrinsa heaven and the ashta-maha-pratiharya scene of Buddha’s life.

“What it also details is that several religious streams flourished together at the site, a rare feature of a secular environment even in those times,” Choudhary said, speaking of the rare discoveries which are bound to kick up further interest in Nalanda.

The Bihar government has already established the global Nalanda University with economist Amartya Sen as mentor and funding from all south-east Asian countries.