India revives ancient university after more than 800 years


The ancient Indian University of Nalanda on Monday held its first classes after more than 800 years, under a revival plan with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen serving as its chancellor.

The internationally renowned Buddhist centre of learning was founded in the eastern state of Bihar in the 5th century, but was destroyed by Afghan invaders in 1193 AD.

At its height, it had 10,000 students and subjects including Buddhist studies, history, law, architecture, medicine and astronomy.

"We had a low-key launch today with classes today at two schools," university spokesman Aditya Gogoi said from the institute in Rajgir, a Buddhist pilgrim centre, about 100 kilometres from state capital Patna.

"There are a total of 15 students, including two international students from Japan and Bhutan as well as 11 faculty members," he said.

The classes were held at a makeshift campus but a fully residential university spread over 450 acres will be completed by 2020, the IANS news agency reported.

Gogoi said the initiative to resurrect the university came from former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam. East Asian Summit countries including Singapore and China pledged their support to the project last year.

Sen said the re-establishment of the university had several key objectives.

"Even though Asia, including India, had a long tradition of higher education, the great universities of today are primarily in the West," he said.

"It would be absurd to expect that Nalanda would burst into excellence within a very short time, but that is the kind of a long-run goal that the new Nalanda can pursue. The old Nalanda can be a great inspiration for that."


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