Nalanda University becomes heritage site; UNESCO

Image Courtesy : rakheeghelani.com

It’s a celebration time for India as a whole and special celebration time in Bihar as UNESCO has declared Bihar’s ancient site – the ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara – a World Heritage Site. With the inclusion of Nalanda-located, barely at a distance of 98 kms from Bihar, this would be the second UNESCO Heritage Site after Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.

Earlier, there was a doubt whether Nalanda would be declared a heritage site by UNESCO as allegedly there were several flaws in the submitted dossier. There were some technical flaws which were sorted out in the meeting before the UNESCO team. Now I am extremely happy to know the inclusion of the ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara in the UNESCO list. It is a matter of pride for India and its citizens.

About Nalanda University in brief.

The ancient seat of learning, one of the world’s oldest universities, construction of which began in 5th century AD, flourished under the Gupta rulers. It came to an end in the 12th century when it was destroyed in 1193 AD by the invading Turkish army led by its commander Bakhtiar Khilji.

Other World Heritage Sites

India is home to 32 World Heritage Sites in India that are recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as on 2014. All of these are managed by the Archeological Survey of India. Many of them are well known, particularly monuments such as the Red Fort in Delhi, erotic temples of Khajuraho, the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, ruins of Hampi in Karnataka, Sundarbans National Park in West Bengal and the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra. Undoubtedly, there are also a number of lesser-known sites that are of importance. Some of them, you may never have heard of!

The World Heritage Committee, meeting for its 40th session since 10 July, inscribed four new sites in China, India, Iran and Micronesia on the World Heritage List. Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia in the Federated States of Micronesia was inscribed both on the World Heritage List and on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

UNESCO on its website wrote: The Nalanda Mahavihara site is in the State of Bihar, in north-eastern India. It comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE. It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone, and metal.  Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent. It engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years. The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.

The Inspection in brief…..

Last year, the ruins of Nalanda university were inspected by an expert team from the Paris-based International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which also held talks with senior Bihar government officials in pursuance of the bid to get a UNESCO World Heritage tag for the ancient site. The Ministry of Culture through the ASI had sent an over ‘200-page-long’ nomination dossier on January last year and officials and staff at ASI’s Patna Circle were upbeat about the team’s visit. The inspection of Nalanda ruins (spread over in 12 hectares) was again made by Japanese expert Masaya Matsui on a positive note with expectations of inclusion of the ancient seat of learning in the World Heritage list.

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