Reviving old glory

Reviving old glory

With the approval for an enabling legislation by parliament, the ground has been prepared for the establishment of an international university at Nalanda in the present day Bihar. There are many positive ideas that have gone into the setting up of the university at about the same place where the famous centre of learning once flourished for centuries before it was destroyed in the 12th century. It is now conceived as a symbol of international co-operation, befittingly as the successor of an institution which in its heydays attracted students from many parts of the world, including China, Persia and Greece. The decision to set up the university was the result of an agreement reached at the East Asia Summit in 2009, of which India was a participant. It has international patronage and a mentor group, having diverse representation and headed by Amartya  Sen, will be the first governing body.

It may be wrong to imagine the new Nalanda as the reincarnation of the old university which was among the first great universities of the world. The debate in parliament on the bill brought out the differing historical perceptions about Nalanda, with some members dwelling on its decline after it was ransacked during the foreign invasion and others emphasising the need to recover the catholicity of its academic character. As it was well said, there is no settling of historical scores in the re-establishment of the university. It would only underline the continuity of Indian civilisation which has absorbed the best of everything that flowed into it. The greatness and appeal of a centre of learning lies also in the inclusive nature of the knowledge it imparts and in its attitude to knowledge. Nalanda became a brand in its days because the best of knowledge in the world was available there and it had its doors open to the whole world.

The development of a world class university will also help India connect to the world in a way it has not done for centuries. It has hardly any institution of learning which attracts global attention and the increasing number of aspiring students and scholars have to go elsewhere to pursue their academic interests. In the beginning, the Nalanda university will be a post-graduate institution and will offer seven disciplines for study. With collaboration from 16 countries in the Asian region, it represents the first major international educational and cultural project of its kind.

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