Nalanda: How the world’s oldest university was lost for 800 years

Nalanda, a renowned Buddhist university was located in Bihar (ancient Magadha). Considered by historians to be the world’s first residential university and among the greatest centers of learning in the ancient world, it was located near the city of Rajagriha (now Rajgir) and about 90 kilometers (56 miles) southeast of Patna (then called Pataliputra).

Operating from 427 until 1197 CE, Nalanda played a vital role in promoting the patronage of arts and academics all over the world during the 5th and 6th century CE, a period that has since been described as the Golden Age of the subcontinent by scholars. The great seat of learning for thousands of students from the region was destroyed in 1193 by Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turko-Afghan military general of the Ghauri ruler Muhammad of Ghor, who led the Muslim conquests of the subcontinent’s eastern regions of Bengal and Bihar and established himself as their ruler.

Khilji is said to have set fire to the University –valuable books kept in its library burnt for months until reduced to ashes. More than 10 thousand students and 2 thousand teachers lived in the housing complex of the ancient varsity.