News at Tipitaka Network
East Asia hails Bihar's Nalanda University project
Compiled by Tipitaka Network newsdesk, Sunday, November 15, 2009
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had welcomed India's initiative to revive the Nalanda University in Bihar, noting that the varsity was a "great ancient centre of learning".
Appreciating the move, towards the establishment of the university, the statement called for "appropriate funding arrangements on voluntary basis from governments and other sources including public-private partnership".
The joint statement also supported the idea of establishing the university as a "non-state, non-profit, secular and self-governing international institution with a continental focus that will bring together the brightest and the most dedicated students from all countries of Asia".
Thanking East Asian countries for endorsing the Nalanda University project, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his opening remarks at a press conference after attending the 4th East Asian Summit (EAS) and 7th ASEAN summit, said: "The EAS leaders' endorsement of the Nalanda University project which is to be located in Bihar is a matter of deep satisfaction."
"We look forward to working closely with ASEAN and other countries of the East Asia Summit process to establish the Nalanda University as an international institution of excellence in education with a continental focus," the Prime Minister said.
Singh had earlier said that this has been the product of many months of hard work put in by the Nalanda Mentor Group, and will be a "shining example of cooperative action in the field of education."
Nalanda University, which existed until 1197AD in Bihar and has been called one of the first great universities in recorded history, attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Iran and Turkey, besides being a pedestal of higher education in India.
In 1193, the Nalanda University was sacked by Muslim invader Bakhtiyar Khalji, a Turk; this event is seen by scholars as a late milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. Khilji is said to have asked if there was a copy of the Koran at Nalanda before he sacked it.
The Persian historian Minhaz, in his chronicle the Tabaquat-I-Nasiri, reported that thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism and plant Islam by the sword, and the burning of the library continued for several months and smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills.
The 4th EAS Summit and 7th ASEAN Summit was held in Cha-am and Hua Hin, Thailand, on October 25, 2009.
On other news, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) submitted a proposal earlier this year to UNESCO World Heritage Committee to make the excavated site of the ancient Nalanda University a world heritage site. The site has now been included in the tentative list of world heritage nomination from India. If accepted, the architectural marvel and the ancient Buddhist centre of learning may become 28th World Heritage Site of India and Bihar's second after the Bodh Gaya Temple.
The ancient Nalanda University was a great centre of intellectual activity in Buddhist philosophy, mathematics, medicine and other disciplines. It was one of the world's first residential universities and in its heyday accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. Its emphasis on the free exchange of ideas has implications on today's globalised world. Some paintings by Singapore artist Tan Swie Hian are inspired by Nalanda University, as a centre of intellectual open-mindedness in the ancient world.
Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, who is also a member of the Nalanda Mentor Group, said: "Centuries ago, the fact that the local economy could have supported such a huge university shows that there is, in this land, something special - favourable conditions which made possible, when human beings are organised, a very productive economy.
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