The historical creation of Buddhist establishments in Nalanda is located close to the village of Bargaon. Nalanda has a very ancient history going back to the days of Mahavira and Buddha in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. According to Jain texts it was superb and situated to the north east of the famous city of Rajagriha. The importance was that the place was where Mahavira spent as many as fourteen rainy seasons. The Pali Buddhist literature contains many references to Nalanda. It is said that in the course of his journeys, Lord Buddha often halted at the place, which is mentioned as prosperous, swelling, teeming with population and containing mango-groves called Pavarika. The place near Rajagriha called Nala, which is described in the Mahasudassana -Fataka as the birth place of Elder Sariputra, a chief disciple of Buddha is another place worth visiting.
Origin of the name: According to the renowned Chinese traveller of the 17th century Hiuen Tsang and tradition, the place owed its name to a naga(Cobra) of the same name who resided in a local tank. But he thinks it is more probable that Buddha, in one of his previous births as Bodhisatva, become a king with his capital at this place, and that his liberality won for him and his capital the name Nalanda or 'charity without intermission'.
According to Taranatha, Asoka, the great Mauryan emperor of the third century B.C., gave offerings to the chaitya of Sariputra that existed at Nalanda and erected a temple here; Asoka must therefore be regarded as the founder of the Nalanda vihara. The same authority adds that Nagarjuna, the famous Mahayana philosopher and alchemist about the second century A.D. began his studies at Nalanda and later on became the high priest here.
It is also added that Suvishnu, a Brahmana contemporary of Nagarjuna, built one hundred and eight temples at Nalanda to prevent the decline of both the Hinayana and Mahayana schools of Buddhism. Taranatha also connects Aryadeva, a philosopher of century with Nalanda. Further, Asanga, a Buddhist philosopher of the Yogachara school, belonging to the fifth century is said to have spent here twelve years of his later life and to have been succeeded by his still more famous brother, Vasubandhu, as the High priest of Nalanda.
With such history attached to this place, it is a must visit place for every tourist who is engrossed in the history of India.
Main temple, Site 3: This temple is a huge solid structure standing in the middle of a court surrounded by a number of small stupas, where many of which were twice or even thrice built, one over the other on the same spot. The first three of these structures were found buried deep in the interior of the mound. The four later integuments which can be examined on the spot were much more extensive structures. The three different staircases that can be seen to the north belong to the fifth, sixth, and seventh periods respectively.
All the later additions followed the square plan of the original structure and in each case a square framework of encasing walls were built on each side with a view to give suitable additional brick work to be erected, the casing being filled up with earth. The shrine chamber on the top, facing north, can be approached by the staircase of the sixth period. It presumably contained a colossal image of Buddha.
Many historians and history lovers visit this unique place and if you are one such person, do not miss this place!
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