miércoles, agosto 29, 2007

The Nalanda International University (NIU) project

According to the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ,the Nalanda International University (NIU) project is receiving international co-operation and was also referred to in the joint declaration made by the Japanese premier Shinzo Abe and PM Manmohan Singh.

The declaration mentioned the Japanese assistance for the project. He said old cultural and educational heritage of Bihar will certainly be revived with the establishment of NIU and once again scholars from across the globe will come to the state for gathering knowledge and learning about the ancient cultural heritage. Nitish said that the cabinet approved the appointment of former President APJ Abdul Kalam as first Visitor of NIU.

The University of Nalanda Act has already been passed by the state legislature which was formally approved by the cabinet. The land for the university has almost been acquired and other formalities too have been fulfilled. "I am confident that the university will start functioning very soon and the students from here will no longer need to go outside," the CM said hoping that students from abroad will also come here for studies

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and Scholar like Lord Meghanand Desai have agreed to be part of an international group of consultants for setting up the university. The state government will also rope in experts from Singapore, Japan, Korea, and China for the university.

Japan and Singapore have shown interest in investing about $100 million in the university. Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has offered to donate Buddhist artefacts to the proposed university.

The University of Nalanda Bill, 2007, states that the international university would strive to create a world free of war, terror and violence.Mr.Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar said: "This (bill), which is not only for Bihar or even India, will act as a facilitator for what will emerge as a centre for renaissance of the east. I strongly feel that the university will become a reference point for international relations and a centre for peace and resolution of disputes," he said.

In its first phase, the university will offer only post-graduate, research, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. The university will impart courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects. An internationally known scholar will be the chancellor of the university and 1,137 students from both India and abroad will be enrolled in the first year. By the fifth year, the number will go up to 4,530 and in the second phase, student enrolment will increase to 5,812.

The university, spread over a 500 acres, will have a 1:10 faculty-student ratio. The architectural remains of the ancient Nalanda university are all set to become the second World Heritage site in Bihar after the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.
India has approached Unesco (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to turn Nalanda University into a World Heritage site.

The university, a fifth century architectural marvel, was home to over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers.
Nalanda is the Sanskrit name for "giver of knowledge". The Nalanda University, which existed until 1,197 AD, attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a pedestal of higher education in India.

Though it was devoted to Buddhist studies, the varsity also trained students in subjects like fine arts, medicine and mathematics. The proposed university will be fully residential like the ancient Nalanda seat of learning. In the first phase it will have seven different schools with 46 foreign faculty members and over 400 Indian academics, The university will impart courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects. An internationally known scholar will be the chancellor of the university. Nalanda is the Sanskrit name for "giver of knowledge".

Much before the Oxford, Bologna, Harvard or Yale came into existence, Nalanda was the greatest university. Founded in 427 in northeastern India, now a state called Bihar, and surviving until 1197, Nalanda was the first great university in recorded history.

The university was an architectural and environmental masterpiece. It had eight separate compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. It had a nine-story library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections. It had dormitories for students, perhaps a first for an educational institution, and housing 10,000 students in the university’s heyday and providing accommodations for 2,000 professors.
Its demise was a result of the burning of the buildings by Muslim invaders.

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. Asia can rediscover its ancient roots, using the Nalanda project as a springboard.

The rebuilt university should strive to be a great intellectual center, as the original Nalanda once was. The original Nalanda was the first to conduct rigorous entrance exams. The old university had world-class professors who did groundbreaking work in mathematical theorems and astronomy. It produced pre-eminent interpreters and translators of religious scriptures in many languages.

The new Nalanda should try to recapture the global connectedness of the old one. . A new Nalanda, starting, as it will from scratch, could set a benchmark for mixing nationalities and cultures, for injecting energy and direction into global subjects and for developing true international leaders.

Though, Nalanda was a Buddhist university, it was remarkably open to many interpretations of that religion. Today it could perform a vital role consistent with its original ethos? To be an institution devoted to religious reconciliation on a global scale. . Can Asia pull this off? For their benefit or the world’s.

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