How academics, government officials, and one Nobel prize winner are fighting to resurrect ancient Nalanda from the ruins.
Ruins of ancient Nalanda University. Photo by Bpilgrim/Wikimedia Commons
Back in September, a cadre of prominent Indians, including Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, trouped down to Rajgir, Bihar, to mark the opening of a new university. Given the recent rapid expansion of higher education in India, a nation with almost 700 universities, you’d expect that only some new mega-facility could draw the attention of luminaries. Yet this institution, Nalanda University, boasts less than a dozen faculty members and 15 students, all huddled into the local convention center while their meager campus awaits completion. The new facility has drawn attention as a symbol of national pride and pan-Asian ambition because it’s not really an entirely new facility; it’s an attempt to resurrect an ancient school of higher education—one of the wonders of old India and perhaps the first university in the world—which once stood nearby.