Nalanda is one of the oldest universities in the world, but definitely the most popular and prominent of all, which spares me from going into its introduction that everyone learned in school.
For me it is awe-inspiring to know the sheer scale of the institution, ancient narrations indicate that at its peak the university housed a whopping 10000 students and 2000 teachers from across the globe. The tall libraries safeguarded hundreds of thousands of scriptures and scrolls and the numerous temples adorned with intricate carvings intensified the institution's grandeur and divinity. Truly, the Nalanda University was gargantuan and unprecedented.
So what can this great temple of learning teach us today in this time and age? Although existing in an archaic period the university seems to have upheld values and morals our society thrives for.
Let's start off with their holistic and rounded education. It is said that the curriculum included astronomy, architecture, logic, math, grammar, medicine, philosophy along with the Vedas. What catches my eye straight away is the study of logic, tharka shastra. A scarily scarce resource nowadays, just imagine the magnitude of problems it can solve if included in our current system !!
Moreover, they employed a top-to-bottom approach of education, where one was taught a wide array of subjects based on occupation first, who later chose to delve into the depths and fundamentals of a subject/occupation of his liking. Whereas today, we students are taught basics initially, which are rendered futile to a certain extent, when we take up a specific subject for further studies. Later we are left as blind as a bat when pushed out to search for an occupation.
For any establishment today having a set of core values and an identity of it’s own is indispensable to it’s success. But the crux of the 700 hundred years of Nalanda’s success lies in the fact that they had no specific identity or values. It was an evolving continuum. There were no defined borders, any person, idea, theory or philosophy were welcome; they only had to stand the test of debate and deliberations against their contemporaries. The indicant of this is simply the harmonious presence of different schools of thought from Hinduism, and Buddhism that were present at the same time.
This for me is the real spirit of democracy, where there is absolutely no barriers and prejudice towards receiving new ideas, but in the same fashion, there is absolutely no room for perception and emotion when it comes to processing those inputs with logic and facts. Such a system would create a complex self-evolving society, what we like to consider exists today.
Well, it is at this point, I ran out of lessons to derive from Nalanda. In other words, I got distracted by something more interesting.
PS: As I mentioned already all religions coexisted in Nalanda, this fact is incontrovertible and accepted all over. Yet at every mention of Nalanda, we find that it is cited as a Buddhist center of education. Somehow there is a stubborn tag of Buddhism attached with it! This leads me to my discovery of what I call ‘b-washing’ of Indian Ancient History, Catch it on my next piece!!