It’s amazing how history revisits itself and how times change. The current efforts to revive the ancient age old University in Nalanda is just another indicator of the glorious past of Bihar. The revival of Nalanda symbolizes the great future which awaits Bihar and going by efforts of Nitish govt one assume that that day is not far when history will repeat itself and Nalanda will once again become world’s greatest seat of learning and education. Interesting things is that there are many versions of what the term Nalanda means. One is that Nalam means Lotus and Da means to give. Both combined together,Nalanda means Giver of Lotus and as Lotus is supposed to represent knowledge, Nalanda means Giver of Knowledge.
What’s even more pleasing is to see the new Brand Ambassador which Nalanda has got. President Abdul Kalam has been a great admirer of Nalanda and has personally shown great interest in the reviving the historic institution. Bihar govt is thinking of offering him the top post of “visitor” at the proposed Nalanda International University, coming up at the historical site.Nalanda is attracting global attention and Japan,South Korea,Singapore and China are now coming together to bring Nalanda to back on the global map.
“You can gauge the enthusiasm from the fact that the issue figured in the recent talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao and then with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. It also figured in the East Asian Summit held in January in Philippines this year and is likely to be raised again at the summit in November in Singapore,” says N.K. Singh, Deputy Chairman, State Planning Board.
Though countries from East and Southeast Asia—for whom Bodh Gaya and Nalanda were crucial pilgrimages—had always wanted to revive the university, it took concrete shape when it was pursued by outgoing President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He had outlined the contours of the proposed university during his special address to the Bihar Legislature last year. Of the 10 suggestions for a prosperous Bihar, revival of the university figured as crucial.
The kind of global interest which this ancient University is generating can be gauged from the fact that NYT reports on how revival of Nalanda could start a new Knowledge age for Asia.
But Nalanda represents much of what Asia could use today — a great global university that reaches deep into the region’s underlying cultural heritage, restores many of the peaceful links among peoples and cultures that once existed, and gives Asia the kind of soft power of influence and attraction that it doesn’t have now. The West has a long tradition of rediscovering its ancient Greek and Roman roots, and is much stronger for that. Asia could and should do the same, using the Nalanda project as a springboard but creating a modern, future-oriented context for a new university.