The traditional Indian education system started declining in the mid seventeenth century due to the promotion of Western education system during the British era. The reason given by the British reformers was that Indian education system was primarily based on myths and legends. Indian civilians needed to be “civilized” was their argument. However, the historians overlooked the fact that the education system of India was far more developed than it seemed.
The History of Nalanda University
Located in the ancient kingdom of Magadh (Bihar), to the southeast of Patna near Bihar Sharif, Nalanda University was the standalone and world’s first International University of its time. It was built in the 5th century A.D by King Kumaragupta I. With over 10,000 students and 2700 facilities coming from all over the world, this university remained the best of all for the following 800 years since it’s creation.
The university premises had 10 temples, meditation centres and, the most prominent feature of this university, a grand library!! The library alone comprised of THREE buildings!! They were known as Ratnasagara, Ratnadadhi and Ratnaranjaka. These libraries boasted innumerable number of books which included books on literature, philosophy, astrology, geology, science, medicine, warfare, history, economy, law, mathematics, astronomy, diplomacy and much more!!
Many famous scholars have been a product of these universities like Harshavardhan, Dharampal, Vasubandhu, Suvishnu, Dharmashakti, Asanga, Xuanzang. This University is heavily influenced by Buddhist culture. The students came from various countries like Korea, Indonesia, China, Bangladesh (which was initially a part of India) to name a few.
Decline of the University
However, its glorious heritage of 800 years came to an end when it was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193, who was on a “mission” to uproot Buddhism . Khilji was an illiterate soldier who was recruited as the Sultan by another emperor because of his passion of killing people.
The vastness of the campus can be estimated by the fact that it took approximately 10 months for the structure to burn down completely. Invaluable books and over 9 million manuscripts were reduced to ashes. The collected wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors were turned to dust just because of the indifference of even the same people who were too afraid to lose their lives. The excavated ruins are spread over an area of 488m by 244m while the original premises is said to have covered a much larger area!!
The main reason for the decline of our traditional education system was that much of our manuscripts and books had been destroyed by various factors like attacks for invaders or even due to poor maintanence and ignorance of the people themselves. And the sad fact is that despite abundance of knowledge, ancient India has been reduced to merely a land of myths and snake charmers which in any sense is not true. Ancient India was progressive and idealistic. It made contributions which play an indispensible role in today’s time and this needs to be acknowledged by one and all.