The University of Nalanda, located in Bihar, India, was a Buddhist monastic institution of higher learning. The institution at Nalanda was said to have been established in 450 CE, though earlier dates have been proposed.1 The university developed from a monastic center of meditation into a center for advanced study and research.2 It remained active into the 12th century. During its heyday, Nalanda had over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. Students came from all over India and beyond - from Turkestan, Tibet, Korea, China, Japan, Mongolia, Indonesia and Persia.3 A New York Times op-ed article describes it "as the most global university of its time."
Candidates for admission to the university had to pass a strict oral examination. Typically not more than two or three out of ten candidates were selected after a screening that lasted for weeks.4 Subjects of study mentioned by the 7th century Chinese pilgrim and Nalanda student Xuan Zang were Grammar and Philosophy; Medicine; Logic; Fine Arts; and Metaphysics. The students had to study Sanskrit shastra texts and translated them into their own native languages for the furtherance of Buddhism in their home countries.5
Not only was Nalanda patronized by Indian kings such as the Guptas, the Palas and the Mauryans, a ruler of the Srivijaya Empire (whic encompassed parts of modern Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand) also made an endowment at Nalanda.6 Now, in the 21st Century, Nalanda is once again attracting international patronage through a bill presented by the Bihar government for the revival of the ancient international university. Japan and Singapore have pledged financial support to the Nalanda Initiative.7 Academics from Thailand and China have also offered their help.8