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Nalanda Int’l University: A commendable initiative
Bihar government recently presented a Bill for the revival of Nalanda International University. Japan and Singapore support the initiative and have pledged to invest about $100 million. Will this University emerge as a centre for renaissance of the East?
IF THE POLITICAL agenda of our HRD minister is fulfilled, then he should try and facilitate the dream project of Nitish Kumar, the low key Chief Minister of Bihar. After the idea seeded by President Kalam, he worked tirelessly and the idea is now very near realisation. Japan, Singapore and other countries are very excited about the project but our minister has kept mum. We all know he will not remain at the helm for long, so it will be good for him also to do something constructive for the country. Is he listening?
Much... much before Oxford, Harvard, Yale and other premier educational institutions came into existence, Nalanda was acclaimed as the greatest University of the world. Founded in 427AD and devoted to Buddhist Studies, it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of warfare. The university was an architectural and environmental masterpiece; eight separate compounds; 10 temples; meditation halls; classrooms; lakes and parks; nine-story library; dormitories for students, perhaps the first educational institution, housing nearly 10,000 students and 2,000 professors. It attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. Unfortunately, it ceased to exist when Muslim invaders burnt it in 1197 AD.
Nalanda can once again be a link in region’s underlying cultural heritage and can restore many of the peaceful links amongst people and cultures that once existed. Asia can rediscover its ancient roots, using this university as a springboard.The original Nalanda was the first to conduct rigorous entrance exams. It had world-class professors who did groundbreaking work in mathematical theorems and astronomy; produced pre-eminent interpreters and translators of religious scriptures in many languages.
The new Nalanda should try to recapture the global connection of the old one. It could set a benchmark for mixing nationalities and cultures, for injecting energy and direction into global subjects and for nurturing true international leaders. It could perform a vital role consistent with its original ethos - to be an institution devoted to religious reconciliation on a global scale.  
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and scholars like Lord Meghanand Desai are part of an international group of consultants for setting up the university. Japan and Singapore are in the forefront of the initiative and have already pledged to invest about $100 million to begin with. Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has offered to donate Buddhist artifacts. Will this University emerge as a centre for renaissance of the East?
In its first phase, the University will offer only post-graduate, research, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. 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 500 acres, will have a 1:10 faculty-student ratio. The architectural remains of the ancient Nalanda University are all set to become the second World Heritage site in Bihar after the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.
India has approached UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) to turn Nalanda University into a World Heritage site.
The proposed University will be fully residential like the ancient Nalanda and in the first phase it will have seven different schools with 46 foreign faculty members and over 400 Indian academics. The University will impart courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects. Nalanda - the "giver of knowledge" today can perform a vital role consistent with its original ethos and become an institution devoted to religious reconciliation on a global scale. Can Asia pull this off, for the benefit of the world?
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