|AN ARTIST'S IMPRESSION OF NALANDA UNIVERSITY, |
AS DESIGNED BY ARCHITECTURAL FIRM VASTU SHILPA. Xinhua photo
At a time when Europe was mired in the Dark Ages, one lamp of learning shone brightly in the East, illuminating generations upon generations of minds. Nalanda University, an ancient seat of Buddhist learning and one of India's lost glories, was founded in the fifth century and earned a reputation for intellectual excellence long before Oxford or Cambridge universities were built.
In the 12th century, that light went out. Muslim invaders rampaged through Bihar, in the northeast of India, sacking Nalanda. Legend has it that the multi-storey library and its great towers, bejewelled and gilded to reflect the rays of the sun, was so vast it took weeks to burn. Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj narrated how "smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills".
The marauders destroyed what many say was the world's first university. Its name and reputation were known across Asia, even as far away as Greece. For 800 years, it was a centre of knowledge not only for Buddhist studies but for philosophy, medicine, astronomy and mathematics. Nalanda ceased to exist just when other universities were opening in Bologna, Italy, Paris, France, and Oxford, England.Read the rest...