Nalanda is home to the world’s oldest and finest academic residential university and for Gautama Buddha who visited this place very often. Alongside this, it’s a pilgrim centre wrapped completely in a thread of spirituality for Buddhist followers. Nalanda District in Bihar is a vibrant amalgamation of spirituality, history, culture, and architecture.
Best Time to Visit Nalanda
September to March is the best time to visit Nalanda as the climate is quite pleasant during this time. The geographical location of Nalanda is such that during summer, the climate is too hot and the temperature reaches 45-degree Celcius, which is not at all ideal to explore the place to the fullest.
History of Nalanda
Nalanda was a village in the vicinity of Rajgriha, the capital city of ancient Magadh. It was founded in the 5th Century and was initially known to be a maha vihara (Buddhist Monastry). Later Nalanda prospered and became a university that attracted students and scholars from across the globe. Nalanda adapted to various cultures that came with every ruler that ruled this land and some major kingdoms and rulers under which Nalanda flourished were Gupta rulers, and Mauryan kings till the time it was destroyed by Mughal invaders in the 12th Century.
An elaborate written account shared by Hieun Tsang, a popular Chinese traveller, says a lot about the place and its liberal culture. Tsang visited Nalanda in the 7th century and stated that Nalanda University had 2000 scholars and 10,000 students at that time. Scholars and students from Tibet, China Korea, Turkey, Mongolia, Japan, Sri Lanka and many other countries of Central Asia and South East Asia used to visit Nalanda.
Interesting Facts and Famous Visitors of Nalanda
Nalanda was visited by various influential and popular personalities like Gautama Buddha who is believed to have given many lectures at Nalanda University. Lord Mahavira along with many Jain Tirthankaras also stayed in Nalanda during the 6th century. A famous Chinese traveler and scholar Xuan Zang also visited this place and some ancient texts claim that during this time around 10 thousand students used to live here.
Nalanda was a place where all the subjects were taught. Medicine, Buddhism, Grammar, Philosophy, Meta Physics, Astronomy, and many more subjects were available for students to explore and study in detail. Apart from a wide variety of subjects, there were 3 big libraries that had the collection of sacred texts, written accounts, and articles on many subjects that students can access to enhance their knowledge and understanding.
Legends have it that the place got its name after a naga that lived there. According to another popular folklore, the name is a combination of two names ‘Nalam’ and ‘Da’, nalam means lotus while da means to give and because lotus symbolizes knowledge the place got named Nalanda: A place where knowledge is given.
Best Places to Visit in Nalanda
1. Nalanda Archaeological Museum
Home to the ancient remnants of Nalanda University, Nalanda Archaeological Museum is a must-visit spot in Nalanda. The museum features bronze statues of Lord Buddha, Terra-cotta jars, Pala art, and various assorted artifacts from the ancient times that are displayed and preserved over here. Statues at the museum are engraved on basalt stone while some of them had been created out of stucco bronze, stone, and terracotta.
A pious destination to visit for the Jain followers. Sited in the Nalanda district of the Bihar state of India this holy site is known since Lord Mahavira, the last Tirthankara breathed his last here. A pond was created around the funeral pyre and later a marble temple was constructed in the center of the pond which is known as Jal Mandir. The place is a pilgrimage spot for the Jain followers.
3. The Great Stupa
Existing among the ruins of Nalanda University, this Stupa was constructed in the 3rd century by Ashoka in the honor of Sariputra. The structure was established like a pyramid and is flanked by flights of steps along with superb sculptures.
4. Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall
Constructed to immortalize the Chinese scholar Hiuen Tsang, this monument is an amazing reminder of the architectural style of Nalanda University. Along these lines, you’d find many writings of Tsang conserved here.
5. Cafeteria Nalanda
A wonderful spot for lunch, you can enjoy delicious dishes over here. One may enjoy many locals dishes of Bihar at the cafeteria and listen to the stories of the place by the locals.
6. Nandyavarta Mahal
Explore the small temple complex with three white temples. The temple is dedicated to Digambar Jain sect followers and is visited by followers and tourists from across the country.
How to Reach Nalanda
Nalanda is home to once the largest teaching institute which is now in ruins but still a landmark destination to explore on the map of India. In addition to that, Nalanda also has many more interesting sites such as the archaeological museum, Jain temples, Hindu temples, and numerous cultural events.
You can arrive here via a well-developed network of roadways, railways, and airways. From Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru one has to cover a distance of approximately, 1,100, 1,800, 500, and 2,100 km respectively. Listed below are some best routes and modes that you may consider to reach Nalanda.
If you wish to travel by roadways then you may either book an inter-state tourist bus to reach Nalanda in Bihar or take your own vehicle for a really long drive to the city. Nalanda district is well connected by roads hence after reaching Nalanda one may reach any desired destination by personal vehicle or via public transport. Following is the distance estimate in kilometers and the best route to take if arriving from nearby cities.
Gaya - 97 km via NH 120
Patna - 60 km via NH 31 and NH 431
Prayagraj - 430 km via NH 19
Ranchi - 270 km via NH 20
Nalanda railway station is where you have to deboard the train to explore the popular tourist destinations that this district has to offer. Nalanda railway station is well-connected to all the Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities of India such as Delhi, Lucknow, Pune, Hyderabad, and more. The following are the direct trains to Nalanda that you may consider to travel to the district.
Delhi - Shramjevi Express
Lucknow - Shramjevi Express
Patna - Rajgriha Express, Budhpurnima Express
Jayprakash Narayan International Airport (PAT), Patna is the nearest airport to the Nalanda district. From the airport, one has to cover a distance of approx. 90km to reach Nalanda. One may take a taxi, or a bus to reach Nalanda which is a 2 and a half-hour drive away. Patna airport is also known as Jay Prakash Narayan International Airport that is well-connected with direct and connecting flights from across the country and abroad. You may travel with the following airlines via their direct flights to Nalanda district.
Here is a list of Indian cities from where flights are available to Nalanda