From the ruins of Nalanda, the “university of the future” is ready with a new campus and courses

OPEN ROOMS as study centers, small classrooms with a student-teacher ratio of 1:8, “bottle-shaped” bazaars and shopping arcades for students – just 12 km from the Nalanda ruins, this idea rise of a learning space has been taking shape for four years in Rajgir, a town located more than 100 km from Patna.

Now, as the new campus of Nalanda University prepares for an official inauguration, the focus is on how best to retain the cultural and architectural ethos of Nalanda Mahavihara, the university from the 5th to 12th centuries after JC considered one of the greatest centers of learning in ancient India.

Vice-Chancellor of Nalanda University (NU), Professor Sunaina Singh, is ready to announce the launch of full fledged operations on Monday. “As NU reorients its vibrant past with its university architecture, we announce the start of the 2022-23 academic year, the operation of the new campus hostels, and the recent placements of the first batch of MBA students by top recruiters. Also, various short-term specialist programs have been launched by the university,” a university official told The Indian Express.

What began in 2014 as two schools housed at the Rajgir Convention Center – with then Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam as its first visitor and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen as its first chancellor – is now spread over over 455 acres, with academic and administrative blocks, faculty and student housing, laboratories and libraries.

The university has 800 students, including 150 international students from 31 countries. Once all construction is complete, it will be able to accommodate approximately 7,500 teachers and students. At present, hostel accommodation for 1,250 students is ready, and about 100 students have already moved in.

In keeping with Nalanda Mahavira’s multidisciplinary tradition, when students would have learned mathematics, astronomy, grammar, logic, and defense studies at a time when the concept of a university was almost unheard of, the six schools of the current university teach Historical Studies, Ecology and Environmental Studies, Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religion, Languages ​​and Literature/Humanities, Management Studies and International Relations.

In 2021, it launched global PhD programs and introduced two Masters courses in World Literature and Hindu Studies (Sanatan). He also launched two study centers – the BIMSTEC-Centre for Bay of Bengal Studies and another on Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies.

To give it a “gurukul” feel, the university aims to achieve a teacher-student ratio of 1:8 – Nalanda Mahavira reportedly had 2,000 teachers for its 10,000 students.

Vice-Chancellor Singh, who was VC of English and Foreign Languages ​​University (EFLU) in Hyderabad until 2017, said: “The idea may be to recreate Nalanda, but it is impossible to to recreate that kind of ethics… On the contrary, we examine it. as the university of the future which will establish a civilizational influence. What is most remarkable about Nalanda is that he remained in cumulative consciousness as a vishwa (world leader) guru even 1,000 years after he ceased to exist.

University officials said the new campus, designed by Vastu Shilpa Consultants, deliberately used only 8% of the total area for construction of buildings to “match the architectural and geographical setting that the old university of Nalanda would have provided”.

The campus, approximately two km from the main entrance, is a no-vehicle zone, and visitors, students and faculty will need to walk or use bicycles to get around.

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The iconic exposed brick architecture, as well as the elevated staircase – a characteristic image of the Nalanda ruins – finds a replica in the administrative block or Wing-1 building which houses the VC office as well as other offices.

The campus is a mix of modernity and tradition – from classrooms bathed in natural light to whiteboards and electronic podiums for teachers. Although the eight-foot-wide walls of ancient Nalanda cannot be replicated, the main wall is made up of two parallel walls with a cavity in the middle that retains heat. Other energy-saving ideas include a plan to use heat from air conditioners to produce hot water in bathrooms.

At the academic backbone, which will eventually house all schools and study centers, are open halls resembling the student cells of Nalanda Mahavihara. Students will have the option of using them as study spaces, a university official said.

The center of campus will feature the Kamal Sagar, or lotus pond, one side of which will feature a horizontal chain of arcades or bottle-shaped bazaars where students can purchase everything from stationery to food.

With 17 countries, apart from India, signing bilateral or multilateral agreements for the establishment of the university, the VC said the institution transcends the boundaries of geography and religion. “If we don’t learn to collaborate, we won’t exist; unitary existence is nothing… The very idea of ​​Nalanda has been endorsed by 17 East Asian member countries because history, culture and spiritualism have connected us,” she said. declared.

As of August 2016, India had contributed 684.74 crore rupees, and China and Australia had each contributed $1 million, in addition to contributions from Thailand and Laos. According to the university’s annual report of 2019-2020, he used Rs 493 crore. Officials declined to disclose the estimated cost of the entire project.

The VC said: “Our mandate is to create a next-generation think tank… We now have a center for peace and conflict… The old certainties are missing and we must embark on a new path of compassion (and) peace. . It is the strength of Indian culture…that we can fight back with letters and knowledge.