Nalanda University was established during the 5th century A.D. The university is considered the first residential university ever in the world. The university stands proof for the prominent role played by India in imparting knowledge. The university had 2000 teachers who taught over 10000 students from all parts of the world. The uniqueness of the place could be gauged by the fact that Buddha himself was a teacher here and Hieun-Tsang, Chinese traveler and a great scholar, was a student of this university. Red rocks were used in the construction, which is built in Kushana style of architecture. The remains excavated from the university ruins include stupas, ornamented panels, lecture halls and stairway.
Historical sources indicate that the University had a long and illustrious life which lasted almost continually for 800 years from the fifth to the twelfth century CE. It was a completely residential university believed to have 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students. The Nalanda ruins reveal through their architectural components the holistic nature of knowledge that was sought and imparted at this University. It suggests a seamless co-existence between nature and man and between living and learning.
The profound knowledge of the Nalanda teachers attracted scholars from places as distant as China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Turkey, Sri Lanka and South East Asia. These scholars have left records about the ambience, architecture and learning of this unique university. The most detailed accounts have come from Chinese scholars and the best known of these is Xuan Zang who carried back many hundred scriptures which were later translated into Chinese. Close to the end of the twelfth century Nalanda was destroyed by invaders.
The period from which Nalanda ceased to exist was a time that the great universities of the western world came into being, marking the shift in knowledge production and dissemination from the East to the West. Only Al Azhar in Cairo (972 CE), Bologna in Italy (1088 CE) and Oxford in the United Kingdom (1167 CE ) had been founded before the destruction of Nalanda.