In the heart of Bihar, India, lies the enigmatic remnants of an ancient seat of learning —Nalanda University, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its historical and cultural significance. Founded around the 5th century CE, it was one of the world’s first residential universities and a renowned centre for learning and Buddhist studies. 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar-Sheet1
Mesmerising view of Temple No.- 3_© CC BY-SA 4.0,

Nalanda attracted scholars and students from across Asia, fostering intellectual exchange and the pursuit of knowledge in fields such as philosophy, astronomy, medicine, and logic.Echoing with the whispers of a bygone era, this archaeological site stands as a testament to the intellectual prowess and cultural richness of ancient India. As one traverses through its weathered pathways and crumbling structures, a narrative of scholarly pursuit and spiritual enlightenment unfolds.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar-Sheet2
Buddhists praying in front of Site no 03_© Rajneesh Raj,

Nalanda, dating back to the 5th century CE, flourished as a centre of knowledge and wisdom during the Gupta and Pala dynasties. It attracted scholars and students from far and wide, fostering an environment where diverse thoughts and ideologies intersected, debated, and thrived. Its curriculum spanned a wide array of subjects, ranging from philosophy and astronomy to medicine and logic, making it a beacon of holistic education in the ancient world.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar-Sheet3
Excavated Remains of Nalanda Mahavihara: Site during excavation_© Archaeological Survey of India,

Today, as visitors wander through the labyrinthine ruins of Nalanda, they are transported back in time, where the echoes of scholarly discourse still resonate faintly. The site stands as a poignant reminder of the impermanence of empires and the enduring power of knowledge to transcend boundaries and generations. In its silent stones and fractured pillars, Nalanda University continues to inspire awe and curiosity, inviting all who tread upon its hallowed grounds to ponder the timeless pursuit of enlightenment.

Outstanding Universal Value

The property area of 23 hectares comprises 11 viharas and 14 temples, displaying attributes such as axial planning, architectural manifestation, and extant building materials. Preservation efforts by the Archaeological Survey of India have maintained the historic fabric of viharas and chaityas through reversible and sacrificial layers, ensuring authenticity and integrity.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar-Sheet4
A map of Nalanda and its environs from Alexander Cunningham’s 1861–62 ASI report which shows a number of ponds (pokhar) around the Mahavihara_©Alexander Cunningham,

The architectural layout of Nalanda University reflects its academic ethos. Sprawling over an expansive area, it comprised numerous monasteries, libraries, lecture halls, and meditation centres. The most iconic structure, the Great Stupa, stood as a symbol of reverence and contemplation, embodying the spiritual essence that permeated through the institution.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar-Sheet5
Stone pillars in front of the subsidiary shrine of Site no. 12_© Rajneesh Raj,

Radiating outwards from the Great Stupa were the sprawling monastic complexes, where scholars and students resided and engaged in rigorous intellectual discourse. These monasteries, characterised by their austere yet elegant design, comprised a network of cells, meditation halls, and communal spaces. The simplicity of their architecture belied the vibrant intellectual energy that pulsed within, as monks and academics delved into the depths of knowledge and philosophical inquiry.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar-Sheet6
Nalanda, Buddhist university 04_© CC BY-SA 4.0,

Adjacent to the monastic quarters stood the imposing structures of the library complex, repositories of ancient texts and manuscripts from across the known world. These libraries, meticulously curated and maintained by generations of scholars, housed a wealth of knowledge spanning a myriad of subjects. Their architecture, with soaring columns and intricate carvings, spoke of a reverence for learning and a commitment to the preservation of knowledge for future generations.

Enduring Memories of Nalanda

Scattered throughout the university were lecture halls and seminar rooms, where teachers imparted their wisdom to eager students hungry for knowledge. These spaces, though now reduced to ruins, once buzzed with the animated discussions and debates that were the hallmark of Nalanda’s academic culture. The simplicity of their design, with raised platforms for the instructors and seating areas for the students, belied their significance as crucibles of intellectual exchange and enlightenment.

For more Photos – visit this site



Websites referred for data and information 


Devapriya is an architect from Kerala, a fresher who is trying to acknowledge her strength in different fields of architecture. An energetic soul more attached to history and emotions, being expressive and approachable is another quality that makes her indulge in platforms like writing, teaching, Also her love for tropical architecture and sustainable design approaches.