Science (Part 1) (Saints and Science)
By Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha
Amazing Science, Cosmology and Psychology, Medicine (Ayurveda),
Aviation, Surgery, Paediatrics, Gynaecology, Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology, Embryology, Blood Circulation, Rhinoplasty, Amputation, Caesarian and Cranial surgeries, Anesthesia, Antibiotic herbs, Atomic
theory, Chemistry Alchemical Metals, Astronomy and Mathematics,
Geography, Constellation science, Botany and Animal science, Algebra, Arithmetic and Geometry, Planetary positions, Eclipses, Cosmography,
and mathematical techniques, Force of Gravity, The Decimal, Metallurgy.
Science (Part 2)
From The Mahabharata
Bacteria -Viruses, Physiology, Science of Speech
Amazing Science (Part 3)
By Sadhu Brahmaviharidas
Taxila University (The world's first university), Mathematics, Zero, the most
powerful tool, Geometry, The value of Pi in India, Pythagorean Theorem or Baudhayana Theorem? Raising 10 to the power of 53, Astronomy, The
Law of Gravity- 1200 years before Newton, Measurement of Time, Plastic
surgery in India 2600 years old, 125 types of surgical instruments, 300
different operations, India's contributions acknowledged by historians and scholars
Amazing Science (Part 4)
By J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
Grammar, Phonetics, Phonology, Morphology
Sanskrit was the classical literary language of the Indian
Hindus and Panini is considered the founder of the
language and literature.
Amazing Science (Part 5)
Amazing Science (Part 6)
The Kautiliya Arthasastra
Minerals and Metals and Ethnobiological
Information in Kautilya's Arthasastra
It is surprising that even in the I Millennium BC, they had
developed an elaborate terminology for different metals,
minerals and alloys. Brass (arakuta) was known, so also
steel (vrattu), bronze (kamsa), bell-metal (tala) was an
alloy of copper with arsenic, but tin-copper alloy was
known as trapu. A bewildering variety of jewellery was
also classified and given distinctive names.
and instructions about various other aspects
of social life, including man's relationship with animals
Ethnobiological Information contained in the Arthasastra.
It deals with forests, plants, animals, animal husbandry
including veterinary suggestions, agriculture medicinal-
industrial commercial importance and application of flora
and fauna, and the uses of plants and animals in biological
and chemical warfare, besides weapon making and other
The Ruins Of Nalanda University (Photo)
A Buddhist University, 5th Century, Bihar, India
A fascinating historical
account from the 5th century by
The Chinese pilgrim Hieun Tsang
(A student of Nalanda in 5th century)
The Royal Patrons of the University of Nalanda
By Rev. H. Heras, S.J., M.A.
Nalanda - An ancient University (Photo)
A travelogue by Surajit Basu
Science (Part 1)
(Saints and Science)
By Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha
When we look at scientists who are credited with the most important ideas of our time we find mainly Greeks, Europeans, Americans listed. Yet western history seems to have been arbitrarily begun during the Greek era. In fact, when we extend the boundaries of history to view the longer span of history we find some amazing developments predating "modern" history originating in India more than 5,000 years ago.
The ancient thinkers of India were not only scientists and mathematicians, but also deeply religious, esteemed saints of their time. While it may surprise some to think of religious sages as mundane scientists, the Indian view is that religion (universal) and science are but two sides of the same coin - in short semantics. Whether one calls a natural phenomena wind or the wind god - Vayu - one is speaking of the same thing.
Yet it seems that having a spiritual foundation not only brought out important discoveries still in use today, but these discoveries also were helpful without causing harm or destruction.
In fact this article will cite the origins of some amazing and here-to-for mis-credited discoveries as coming from India. Some examples include so-called Arabic numerals, the concept of the zero, so-called Pythagorean theory, surgery and more. It may seem astonishing, but the ancient texts are there to show the thinking and writing of these great Indian thinkers.
Why is India not credited? It seems that in the West we have a condescending, Euro- or Greco-centric view that civilizations older than Greece were uncivilized barbarians. This notion was further melded into our collective psyche through Hollywood's portrayal of ancient cultures. One only has to look at old Tarzan movies to see ancient tribes shown as barbaric, superstitious idol worshipping people. Tarzan himself was shown to be a non-speaking animal-like person. In fact, in the original books, Tarzan was a well-educated and highly eloquent speaker.
Chauvinistic misrepresentation exists even today. Nearly every book written on the history of mathematics is equally biased. The one bright spot is the Crest of the Peacock. Even this year, during the recent Hindu festival, the Kumbha Mela - the largest human gathering in history (70 million people) the modern-day press mainly reported on the most negative aspects of the event.
It was not credited as the largest gathering, nor was it pointed out that for 1 week, the area was the worlds largest city (larger population than London, Tehran, Rio, Paris, Chicago, Beijing, Hyderabad and Johannesburg put together). Virtually no one spoke of the sacredness of the event, the hardships people endured for this holy event. Further, the whole event went off without a hitch - adequate food, water, electricity - a marvel by any standards. There were more than 13,000 tons of flour, 7,800 tons of rice, 20,000 public toilets, 12 hospitals, 35 electric power centers, 20,000 police, 1,090 fire hydrants and much more.
Rarely was an ardent devotee interviewed or photographed. Instead reporters and cameramen only focused on the minority elements - naked sadhus smoking ganja (marijuana) and implying prayers were to some lesser god. But it sells newspapers and TV news. In truth, the Indian media showed an equal amount of bias and lack of cultural pride. In short the media still portrays India in a deeply condescending manner.
But I digress. The point is that westerners have been brought up for decades incorrectly viewing ancient civilizations as intellectually and culturally inferior to modern man. So it is no surprise to be surprised in learning some of the greatest discoveries not only came from India, but from ancient India. It shakes the very foundations of prejudicial beliefs. Here are but a few examples of India's enlightened thinkers.
(Saints and Science)
By Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha
Cosmology & psychology
According to India's ancient texts, around 3000 BCE sage Kapil founded both cosmology and psychology. He shed light on the Soul, the subtle elements of matter and creation. His main idea was that essential nature (prakrti) comes from the eternal (purusha) to develop all of creation. No deeper a view of the cosmos has ever been developed. Further, his philosophy of Sankhya philosophy also covered the secret levels of the psyche, including mind, intellect and ego, and how they relate to the Soul or Atma.
Medicine (Ayurveda), Aviation
Around 800 BCE Sage Bharadwaj, was both the father of modern medicine, teaching Ayurveda, and also the developer of aviation technology. He wrote the Yantra Sarvasva, which covers astonishing discoveries in aviation and space sciences, and flying machines - well before Leonardo DaVinchi's time. Some of his flying machines were reported to fly around the earth, from the earth to other planets, and between universes. His designs and descriptions have left a huge impression on modern-day aviation engineers. He also discussed how to make these flying machines invisible by using sun and wind force. There are much more fascinating insights discovered by sage Bharadwaj.
Medicine, Surgery, paediatrics, gynaecology. anatomy,
physiology, pharmacology, embryology, blood circulation
Around this era and through 400 BCE many great developments occurred. In the field of medicine (Ayurveda), sage Divodasa Dhanwantari developed the school of surgery; Rishi Kashyap developed the specialized fields of paediatrics and gynaecology. Lord Atreya, author of the one of the main Ayurvedic texts, the Charak Samhita, classified the principles of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, embryology, blood circulation and more. He discussed how to heal thousands of diseases, many of which modern science still has no answer. Along with herbs, diet and lifestyle, Atreya showed a correlation between mind, body, spirit and ethics. He outlined a charter of ethics centuries before the Hippocratic oath.
Rhinoplasty, amputation, caesarean and
cranial surgeries, anesthesia, antibiotic herbs
While Lord Atreya is recognized for his contribution to medicine, sage Sushrut is known as the "Father of surgery". Even modern science recognizes India as the first country to develop and use rhinoplasty (developed by Sushrut). He also practiced amputation, caesarean and cranial surgeries, and developed 125 surgical instruments including scalpels, lancets, and needles.
Lord Atreya - author of Charak Samhita. Circa 8th - 6th century BCE. Perhaps the most referred to Rishi/physician today The Charak Samhita was the first compilation of all aspects of ayurvedic medicine including diagnoses, cures, anatomy, embryology, pharmacology, and blood circulation (excluding surgery).
He wrote about causes and cures for diabetes, TB, and heart diseases. At that time, European medicine had no idea of these ideas. In fact, even today many of these disease causes and cures are still unknown to modern allopathic medicine.
Other unique quality of Ayurveda is that it uncovers and cures the root cause of illness, it is safe, gentle and inexpensive, it sees 6 stages of disease development (where modern medicine only sees the last two stages), it treats people in a personalized manner according to their dosha or constitution and not in any generic manner.
Further, Ayurveda being the science of 'life', Atrea was quick to emphasize, proper nutrition according to dosha, and perhaps above all else, that there was a mind/body/soul relationship and that the root cause of all diseases and the best medicine for all conditions is spiritual and ethical life.
Rishi Sushrut is known as the father of surgery & author of Sushrut Samhita. Circa 5 - 4th century BCE. He is credited with performing the world's first rhinoplasty, using anesthesia and plastic surgery. He used surgical instruments - many of them look similar to instruments used today; and discussed more than 300 types of surgical operations. One of the Ayurvedic surgical practices being used today in India involves dipping sutures into antibiotic herbs so when sewed into the person, the scar heals quicker and prevent infection. The modern surgical world owes a great debt to this great surgical sage.
[Note; The following institution offers more
knowledge on the subject of Ayurveda]
Ayurveda Holistic Center & School of Ayurveda
2-Year Certification & Ph.D. programs
Read the Ayurveda Encyclopaedia
Sage Kanad (circa 600 BCE) is recognized as the founder of atomic theory, and classified all the objects of creation into nine elements (earth, water, light or fire, wind, ether, time, space, mind and soul). He stated that every object in creation is made of atoms that in turn connect with each other to form molecules nearly 2,500 years before John Dalton. Further, Kanad described the dimension and motion of atoms, and the chemical reaction with one another. The eminent historian, T.N. Colebrook said, "Compared to scientists of Europe, Kanad and other Indian scientists were the global masters in this field."
Chemistry alchemical metals
In the field of chemistry alchemical metals were developed for medicinal uses by sage Nagarjuna. He wrote many famous books including Ras Ratnakar, which is still used in India's Ayurvedic colleges today. By carefully burning metals like iron, tin, copper, etc. into ash, removing the toxic elements, these metals produce quick and profound healing in the most difficult diseases.
Astronomy and mathematics
Sage Aryabhatt (b. 476 CE) wrote texts on astronomy and mathematics. He formulated the process of calculating the motion of planets and the time of eclipses. Aryabhatt was the first to proclaim the earth was round, rotating on an axis, orbiting the sun and suspended in space. This was around 1,000 years before Copernicus. He was a geometry genius credited with calculating pi to four decimal places, developing the trigonomic sine table and the area of a triangle. Perhaps his most important contribution was the concept of the zero. Details are found in Shulva sutra. Other sages of mathematics include Baudhayana, Katyayana, and Apastamba.
science, botany and animal science.
Varahamihr (499 - 587 CE) was another eminent astronomer. In his book, Panschsiddhant, he noted that the moon and planets shine due to the sun. Many of his other contributions captured in his books Bruhad Samhita and Bruhad Jatak, were in the fields of geography, constellation science, botany and animal science. For example he presented cures for various diseases of plants and trees.
Knowledge of botany (Vrksh-Ayurveda) dates back more than 5,000 years, discussed in India's Rig Veda. Sage Parashara (100 BCE) is called the "father of botany" because he classified flowering plants into various families, nearly 2,000 years before Lannaeus (the modern father of taxonomy). Parashara described plant cells - the outer and inner walls, sap color-matter and something not visible to the eye - anvasva. Nearly 2,000 years -later Robert Hooke, using a microscope described the outer and inner wall and sap color-matter.
Algebra, arithmetic and geometry, planetary positions, eclipses, cosmography, and mathematical techniques. force of gravity
In the field of mathematics, Bhaskaracharya II (1114 - 1183 CE) contributed to the fields of algebra, arithmetic and geometry. Two of his most well known books are Lilavati and Bijaganita, which are translated in several languages of the world. In his book, Siddhant Shiromani, he expounds on planetary positions, eclipses, cosmography, and mathematical techniques. Another of his books, Surya Siddhant discusses the force of gravity, 500 years before Sir Isaac Newton. Sage Sridharacharya developed the quadratic equation around 991 CE.
Ancient India invented the decimal scale using base 10. They number-names to denote numbers. In the 9th century CE, an Arab mathematician, Al-Khwarizmi, learned Sanskrit and wrote a book explaining the Hindu system of numeration. In the 12th century CE the book was translated into Latin. The British used this numerical system and credited the Arabs - mislabelling it 'Arabic numerals'. "We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made." - Albert Einstein.
India was the world-leader in Metallurgy for more than 5,000 years. Gold jewellery is available from 3,000 BCE. Brass and bronze pieces are dated back to 1,300 BCE. Extraction of zinc from ore by distillation was used in India as early as 400 BCE while European William Campion patented the process some 2,000 years later. Copper statues can be dated back to 500 CE. There is an iron pillar in Delhi dating back to 400 CE that shows no sign of rust or decay.
There are two unique aspects to India's ancient scientists. First their discoveries are in use today as some of the most important aspects of their field; and are validated by modern technological machines. Second, their discoveries brought peace and prosperity rather than the harm and destruction of many of our modern discoveries.
Due to their intense spiritual life, they developed such power of discrimination (vivek). Spirituality gives helpful direction and science brings speed. With a core of spirituality, modern scientists' discoveries can quickly bring only helpful ideas to help humanity. While Einstein is credited with the idea that one can travel faster than the speed of light, it was written about centuries before in the ancient Vedic literature. Perhaps it was Einstein's association with the famed Indian physicist, Bose that led to his introduction to the views about the speed of light. Through deep meditation and reading the ancient Vedic texts, who knows what our modern-day scientists will discover?
There are two points here, the first is that India should be proud of its amazing achievements and be properly credited, and second is that India leaves a blueprint, compass and map for how to develop safe and helpful discoveries for the future betterment of mankind.
Swami Sadashiva Tirtha. AHC Press 1988
Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swami Sri Bharati Krsna
Tirthaji Maharaj. Motilal Banarsidass 1988
The Crest of the Peacock
George G. Joseph. I.B. Taurist Co, London 1991
Indian Astronomy & Mathematics
O.P. Jaggi. Atma Ram & Sons, Delhi 1986
Reb. E Burgess translator. Swaran Press. Delhi 1977
magazine May/June 2001
© Copyright 2001, Ayurveda Holistic Center.
All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Swami Sadashiva Tirtha, D.Sc. is the founder of the Ayurveda Holistic
Center & the Swami Narayan Tirtha Math in US. For free monthly
e-newsletter, free article library, meditation room, dosha test and
much more, visit his website: http://ayurvedahc.com
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Amazing Science (Part 2)
From The Mahabharata, Santi Parva Section XV
and immobile universe is food for living creatures.
This has been ordained by the gods. The very ascetics cannot support their lives without killing creatures. In water, on earth, and fruits, there are innumerable creatures. It is not true that one does not slaughter them. What higher duty is there than supporting one's life? There are many creatures that are so minute that their existence can only be inferred. With the falling of the the eyelids alone, they are destroyed.
The Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Section CCCXXI
Reproduced from Page Empty Chamber
constituent elements of the body, which serve diverse
functions in the general economy, undergo change every
moment in every creature. Those changes, however, are so
minute that they cannot be noticed. The birth of particles,
and their death, in each successive condition, cannot be
marked, O king, even as one cannot mark the changes in
the flame of a burning lamp. When such is the state of the
bodies of all creatures, - that is when that which is called
the body is changing incessantly even like the rapid
locomotion of a steed of good mettle- who then has come
whence or not whence, or whose is it or whose is it not,
or whence does it not arise? What connection does there
exist between creatures and their own bodies?
[Note: The fact of continual change of particles in the body was well known to the Hindu sages. This discovery is not new of modern physiology. Elsewhere it has been shown that Harveys great discovery about the circulation of the blood was not unknown to the Rishis.
The instance mentioned for illustrating the change of corporal particles is certainly a very apt and happy one. The flame of a burning lamp, though perfectly steady (as in a breezeless spot), is really the result of the successive combustion of particles of oil and the successive extinguishments of such combustion.]
From The Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Section CCCXXI
Sulabha said: O king, speech ought always to be free from the nine verbal faults and the nine faults of judgment. It should also, while setting forth the meaning with perspicuity, be possessed of the eighteen well-known merits.
To read the full text click here > Speech - Science
The Chhandogya Upanishad
XVIII. vii. 23-26
Narada approached Sanatkumara and said: Sir, teach me.
Come and tell me what you know, he replied, and then I will teach you what is beyond that.
Sir, I know the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda and Atharvan the fourth; and also the Itihasa-Purana as the fifth. I know the Veda of the Vedas (viz., grammar), the rules for the propitiation of the Pitris (ancestors), the science of numbers, the science of portents, the science of time, the science of logic, ethics and politics, the science of the gods, the science of scriptural studies, the science of the elemental science, the science of weapons, the science of the stars, the science of snake-charming and the fine arts all these, Sir, I know,
But, Sir, with all these I am only a knower of words, not a knower of the Self. I have heard from holy men like you that he who knows the Self crosses over sorrow. I am in sorrow. Do, Sir, help me to cross over to the other side of sorrow.
To him he then said: Verily, whatever you have learned here is only a name.
That which is Infinite
that, indeed, is happiness. There is no happiness in anything that is finite.
The Infinite alone is happiness. But this Infinite one must desire to understand.
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Amazing Science (Part 3)
topics are researched and the text written by
AARSH - Akshardham Centre for Applied Research in Social Harmony
worlds first university)
Around 2700 years ago, as early as 700 BCE there existed a giant University at Takshashila, located in the northwest region of India.
Not only Indians but also students from as far as Babylonia, Greece, Syria, Arabia and China came to study.
68 different streams of knowledge were on the syllabus.
Experienced masters taught a wide range of subjects.
Vedas, Language, Grammar, Philosophy, Medicine, Surgery, Archery, Politics, Warfare, Astronomy, Accounts, commerce, Futurology, Documentation, Occult, Music, Dance, The art of discovering hidden treasures, etc.
The minimum entrance age was 16 and there were 10,500 students.
panel of Masters included renowned names like Kautilya, Panini, Jivak and Vishnu
(later corrupted as Taxila),one of the topmost centers of
education at that time in India became Chanakyas breeding ground of
acquiring knowledge in the practical and theoretical aspect. The teachers were highly knowledgeable who used to teach sons of kings. It is said that a certain teacher had 101 students and all of them were princes! The niversity at Taxila was well versed in teaching the subjects using the best of practical knowledge acquired by the teachers. The age of entering the university was sixteen. The branches of studies most sought after in around India ranged from law, medicine, warfare and other indigenous forms of learning. The four Vedas, archery, hunting, elephant-lore and 18 arts were taught at the university of Taxila. So prominent was the place where Chanakya received his education that it goes to show the making of the genius. The very requirements of admission filtered out the outlawed and people with lesser credentials.
At a time when the Dark Ages were looming large, the existence of a
university of Taxilas grandeur really makes India stand apart way ahead
of the European countries who struggled with ignorance and total information blackout. For the Indian subcontinent Taxila stood as a light house of higher knowledge and pride of India. In the present day world, Taxila is situated in Pakistan at a place called Rawalpindi. The university accommodated more than 10,000 students at a time. The university offered courses spanning a period of more than eight years. The students were admitted after graduating from their own countries. Aspiring students opted for elective subjects going for in depth studies in specialized branches of learning. After graduating from the university, the students are recognized as the best scholars in the subcontinent. It became a cultural heritage as time passed. Taxila was the junction where people of different origins mingled with each other and exchanged knowledge of their countries.
The university was
famous as "Taxila" university, named after the city
where it was situated. The king and rich people of the region used to donate lavishly for the development of the university. In the religious scriptures also, Taxila is mentioned as the place where the king of snakes, Vasuki selected Taxila for the dissemination of knowledge on earth.
Here it would be essential to mention briefly the range of subjects taught in the university of Taxila. (1) Science, (2) Philosophy, (3) Ayurveda, (4) Grammar of various languages, (5) Mathematics, (6) Economics, (7) Astrology, (8) Geography, (9) Astronomy, (10) Surgical science, (11) Agricultural sciences, (12) Archery and Ancient and Modern Sciences.
The university also used to conduct researches on various subjects.
Chanakya - Nitishastra
See also Appendix to this page
The Ruins of Nalanda University, Bihar, India
A Buddhist University, 5th Century
Zero The Most Powerful Tool
India invented the Zero, without which there would be no binary system. No computers! Counting would be clumsy and cumbersome! The earliest recorded date, an inscription of Zero on Sankheda Copper Plate was found in Gujarat, India (585-586 CE). In Brahma-Phuta-Siddhanta of Brahmagupta (7th century CE), the Zero is lucidly explained and was rendered into Arabic books around 770 CE. From these it was carried to Europe in the 8th century. However, the concept of Zero is referred to as Shunya in the early Sanskrit texts of the 4th century BCE and clearly explained in Pingalas Sutra of the 2nd century.
Invention of Geometry
The word Geometry seems to have emerged from the Indian word Gyaamiti which means measuring the Earth. And the word Trigonometry is similar to Trikonamiti meaning measuring triangular forms. Euclid is credited with the invention of Geometry in 300 BCE while the concept of Geometry in India emerged in 1000 BCE, from the practice of making fire altars in square and rectangular shapes. The treatise of Surya Siddhanta (4th century CE) describes amazing details of Trigonometry, which were introduced to Europe 1200 years later in the 16th century by Briggs.
The Value of PI in India
The ratio of the circumference and the diameter of a circle are known as Pi, which gives its value as 3,1428571. The old Sanskrit text Baudhayana Shulba Sutra of the 6th century BCE mentions this ratio as approximately equal to 3. Aryabhatta in 499, CE worked the value of Pi to the fourth decimal place as 3.1416. Centuries later, in 825 CE Arab mathematician Mohammed Ibna Musa says that "This value has been given by the Hindus (Indians)".
Pythagorean Theorem or Baudhayana Theorem?
The so-called Pythagoras Theorem the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle equals the sum of the square of the two sides was worked out earlier in India by Baudhayana in Baudhayana Sulba Sutra. He describes: "The area produced by the diagonal of a rectangle is equal to the sum of the area produced by it on two sides."
[Note: Greek writers attributed the theorem of Euclid to Pythagoras]
100BCE the Decimal system flourished in India
"It was India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by means of ten symbols (Decimal System) .a profound and important idea which escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity."
Raising 10 to the Power of 53
The highest prefix used for raising 10 to a power in todays maths is D for 10 to a power of 30 (from Greek Deca). While, as early as 100 BCE Indian Mathematicians had exact names for figures upto 10 to the power of 53.
shatam =100 (10 to the power of 10)
sahasram =1000 (10 power of 3)
dashasahasram =10000 (10 power of 4)
lakshaha =100000 (10 power of 5)
dashalakshaha =1000000 (10 power of 6)
kotihi =10000000 (10 power of 7)
ayutam =1000000000 (10 power of 9)
niyutam = (10 power of 11)
kankaram = (10 power of 13)
vivaram = (10 power of 15)
paraardhaha = (10 power of 17)
nivahaaha = (10 power of 19)
utsangaha = (10 power of 21)
bahulam = (10 power of 23)
naagbaalaha = (10 power of 25)
titilambam = (10 power of 27)
pragnaptihi = (10 power of 29)
hetuheelam = (10 power of 31)
karahuhu = (10 power of 33)
hetvindreeyam = (10 power of 35)
samaapta lambhaha = (10 power of 37)
gananaagatihi) = (10 power of 39)
niravadyam = (10 power of 41)
mudraabaalam = (10 power of 43)
sarvabaalam = (10 power of 45)
vishamagnagatihi = (10 power of 47)
sarvagnaha = (10 power of 49)
vibhutangamaa = (10 power of 51)
tallaakshanam = (10 power of 53)
(In Anuyogdwaar Sutra written in 100 BCE one
numeral is raised as high as 10 to the power of 140).
mapping the skies for 3500 years.
1000 Years Before Copernicus
Copernicus published his theory of the revolution of the Earth in 1543. A thousand years before him, Aryabhatta in 5th century (400-500 CE) stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, "just as a person travelling in a boat feels that the trees on the bank are moving, people on earth feel that the sun is moving". In his treatise Aryabhatteeam, he clearly states that our earth is round, it rotates on its axis, orbits the sun and is suspended in space and explains that lunar and solar eclipses occur by the interplay of the sun, the moon and the earth.
The Law of Gravity - 1200 Years Before Newton
The Law of Gravity was known to the ancient Indian astronomer Bhaskaracharya. In his Surya Siddhanta, he notes:
"Objects fall on earth due to a force of attraction by the earth. therefore, the earth, the planets, constellations, the moon and the sun are held in orbit due to this attraction".
It was not until the late 17th century in 1687, 1200 years later, that Sir Isaac Newton rediscovered the Law of Gravity.
Measurement of Time
In Surya Siddhanta, Bhaskaracharya calculates the time taken for the earth to orbit the sun to 9 decimal places.
Bhaskaracharya = 365.258756484 days.
Modern accepted measurement = 365.2596 days.
Between Bhaskaracharyas ancient measurement 1500 years ago and the modern measurement the difference is only 0.00085 days, only 0.0002%.
34000TH of a Second to 4.32 Billion Years
India has given the idea of the smallest and the largest measure of time.
Krati Krati = 34,000th of a second
1 Truti = 300th of a second
2 Truti = 1 Luv
2 Luv = 1 Kshana
30 Kshana = 1 Vipal
60 Vipal = 1 Pal
60 Pal = 1 Ghadi (24 minutes)
2.5 Gadhi = 1 Hora (1 hour)
24 Hora = 1 Divas (1 day)
7 Divas = 1 saptaah (1 week)
4 Saptaah = 1 Maas (1 month)
Maas = 1 Rutu (1 season)
6 Rutu = 1 Varsh (1 year)
100 Varsh = 1 Shataabda
10 Shataabda = 1 sahasraabda
432 Sahasraabda = 1 Yug (Kaliyug)
2 Yug = 1 Dwaaparyug
3 Yug = 1 Tretaayug
4 Yug = 1 Krutayug
= 1 Mahaayug (4,320,000 years)
1000 Mahaayug = 1 Kalpa
1 Kalpa = 4.32 billion years
Plastic Surgery In India 2600 Years Old
Shushruta, known as the father of surgery, practised his skill as early as 600 BCE. He used cheek skin to perform plastic surgery to restore or reshape the nose, ears and lips with incredible results. Modern plastic surgery acknowledges his contributions by calling this method of rhinoplasty as the Indian method.
125 Types Of Surgical Instruments
"The Hindus (Indians) were so advanced in surgery that their instruments could cut a hair longitudinally".
Shushruta worked with 125 kinds of surgical instruments, which included scalpels, lancets, needles, catheters, rectal speculums, mostly conceived from jaws of animals and birds to obtain the necessary grips. He also defined various methods of stitching: the use of horses hair, fine thread, fibres of bark, goats guts and ants heads.
300 Different Operations
Shushruta describes the details of more than 300 operations and 42 surgical processes. In his compendium Shushruta Samhita he minutely classifies surgery into 8 types:
Aharyam = extracting solid bodies
Bhedyam = excision
Chhedyam = incision
Aeshyam = probing
Lekhyam = scarification
Vedhyam = puncturing
Visraavyam = evacuating fluids
Sivyam = suturing
The ancient Indians were also the first to perform amputation, caesarean surgery and cranial surgery. For rhinoplasty, Shushruta first measured the damaged nose, skilfully sliced off skin from the cheek and sutured the nose. He then placed medicated cotton pads to heal the operation.
Indias Contributions Acknowledged
"It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to the west, such gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all numerals and the decimal system."
Will Durant (American Historian, 1885-1981)
"The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure, more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin and more exquisitely refined than either".
Sir William Jones (British Orientalist, 1746-1794)
~If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point out to India".
Max Muller (German Scholar, 1823-1900
"There can no longer be any real doubt that both Islam and Christianity owe the foundations of both their mystical and their scientific achievements to Indian initiatives".
- Philip Rawson (British Orientalist)
"After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of Quantum Physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense".
W. Heisenberg (German Physicist, 1901-1976)
"The surgery of the ancient Indian physicians was bold and skilful. A special branch of surgery was devoted to rhinoplasty or operations for improving deformed ears, noses and forming new ones, which European surgeons have now borrowed".
Sir W.Hunter (British Surgeon, 1718-1783)
"In the great books of India, an Empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the questions that exercises us".
- R.W.Emerson (American Essayist, 1803-1882)
Panini's grammar has been evaluated
from various points of view. After all these different evaluations, I think that
the grammar merits asserting ... that it is one of the greatest monuments of human
- An evaluation of Panini's contribution by Cardona
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Amazing Science (Part 4)
Phonetics, Phonology, and Morphology
Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland
about 520 BC in Shalatula (near Attock),
now Pakistan Died: about 460 BC in India
Panini was born in Shalatula, a town near to Attock on the Indus river in present day Pakistan. The dates given for Panini are pure guesses. Experts give dates in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th century BC and there is also no agreement among historians about the extent of the work which he undertook. What is in little doubt is that, given the period in which he worked, he is one of the most innovative people in the whole development of knowledge. We will say a little more below about how historians have gone about trying to pinpoint the date when Panini lived.
Panini was a Sanskrit grammarian who gave a comprehensive and scientific theory of phonetics, phonology, and morphology. Sanskrit was the classical literary language of the Indian Hindus and Panini is considered the founder of the language and literature. It is interesting to note that the word "Sanskrit" means "complete" or "perfect" and it was thought of as the divine language, or language of the gods.
A treatise called Astadhyayi (or Astaka ) is Panini's major work. It consists of eight chapters, each subdivided into quarter chapters. In this work Panini distinguishes between the language of sacred texts and the usual language of communication. Panini gives formal production rules and definitions to describe Sanskrit grammar. Starting with about 1700 basic elements like nouns, verbs, vowels, consonants he put them into classes. The construction of sentences, compound nouns etc. is explained as ordered rules operating on underlying structures in a manner similar to modern theory. In many ways Panini's constructions are similar to the way that a mathematical function is defined today. Joseph writes in :-
Sanskrit's potential for scientific use was greatly enhanced as a result of the thorough systemisation of its grammar by Panini. ... On the basis of just under 4000 sutras [rules expressed as aphorisms], he built virtually the whole structure of the Sanskrit language, whose general 'shape' hardly changed for the next two thousand years. ... An indirect consequence of Panini's efforts to increase the linguistic facility of Sanskrit soon became apparent in the character of scientific and mathematical literature.
Joseph goes on to make a convincing argument for the algebraic nature of Indian mathematics arising as a consequence of the structure of the Sanskrit language. In particular he suggests that algebraic reasoning, the Indian way of representing numbers by words, and ultimately the development of modern number systems in India, are linked through the structure of language.
Panini should be thought of as the forerunner of the modern formal language theory used to specify computer languages. The Backus Normal Form was discovered independently by John BACKUS in 1959, but Panini's notation is equivalent in its power to that of BACKUS and has many similar properties. It is remarkable to think that concepts which are fundamental to today's theoretical computer science should have their origin with an Indian genius around 2500 years ago.
At the beginning of this article we mentioned that certain concepts had been attributed to Panini by certain historians which others dispute. One such theory was put forward by B Indraji in 1876. He claimed that the Brahmi numerals developed out of using letters or syllables as numerals. Then he put the finishing touches to the theory by suggesting that Panini in the eighth century BC (earlier than most historians place Panini) was the first to come up with the idea of using letters of the alphabet to represent numbers.
There are a number of pieces of evidence to support Indraji's theory that the Brahmi numerals developed from letters or syllables. However it is not totally convincing since, to quote one example, the symbols for 1, 2 and 3 clearly don't come from letters but from one, two and three lines respectively. Even if one accepts the link between the numerals and the letters, making Panini the originator of this idea would seem to have no more behind it than knowing that Panini was one of the most innovative geniuses that world has known so it is not unreasonable to believe that he might have made this step too.
There are other works which are closely associated with the Astadhyayi which some historians attribute to Panini, others attribute to authors before Panini, others attribute to authors after Panini. This is an area where there are many theories but few, if any, hard facts.
We also promised to return to a discussion of Panini's dates. There has been no lack of work on this topic so the fact that there are theories which span several hundreds of years is not the result of lack of effort, rather an indication of the difficulty of the topic. The usual way to date such texts would be to examine which authors are referred to and which authors refer to the work. One can use this technique and see who Panini mentions.
There are ten scholars mentioned by Panini and we must assume from the context that these ten have all contributed to the study of Sanskrit grammar. This in itself, of course, indicates that Panini was not a solitary genius but, like Newton, had "stood on the shoulders of giants". Now Panini must have lived later than these ten but this is absolutely no help in providing dates since we have absolutely no knowledge of when any of these ten lived.
What other internal evidence is there to use? Well of course Panini uses many phrases to illustrate his grammar and these have been examined meticulously to see if anything is contained there to indicate a date. To give an example of what we mean: if we were to pick up a text which contained as an example "I take the train to work every day" we would know that it had to have been written after railways became common. Let us illustrate with two actual examples from the Astadhyayi which have been the subject of much study. The first is an attempt to see whether there is evidence of Greek influence. Would it be possible to find evidence which would mean that the text had to have been written after the conquests of Alexander the Great? There is a little evidence of Greek influence, but there was Greek influence on this north east part of the Indian subcontinent before the time of Alexander. Nothing conclusive has been identified.
Another angle is to examine a reference Panini makes to nuns. now some argue that these must be Buddhist nuns and therefore the work must have been written after Buddha. A nice argument but there is a counter argument which says that there were Jaina nuns before the time of Buddha and Panini's reference could equally well be to them. Again the evidence is inconclusive.
There are references by others to Panini. However it would appear that the Panini to whom most refer is a poet and although some argue that these are the same person, most historians agree that the linguist and the poet are two different people. Again this is inconclusive evidence.
Let us end with an evaluation of Panini's contribution by Cardona in :-
Panini's grammar has been evaluated from various points of view. After all these different evaluations, I think that the grammar merits asserting ... that it is one of the greatest monuments of human intelligence.
Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland
"Panini, famous grammarian of the Sanskrit language, lived in India some time between the 7th and the 4th centuries B.C. Following in the steps of the Brahmi alphabet makers, he became the most renowned of the grammarians. His work on Sanskrit, with its 4,168 rules, is outstanding for its highly systematic methods of analyzing and describing language.
The birth of linguistic science in Western Europe in the 19th century was due largely to the European discovery of Panini's Sanskrit grammar, making linguistics a science.
The modern science of linguistics is the basis for producing alphabets for languages yet unwritten today."
JAARS Alphabet Museum
Waxhaw, NC 28173
Panini's grammar (6th century BCE or earlier) provides 4,000 rules that describe the Sanskrit of his day completely. This grammar is acknowledged to be one of the greatest intellectual achievements of all time. The great variety of language mirrors, in many ways, the complexity of nature and, therefore, success in describing a language is as impressive as a complete theory of physics. It is remarkable that Panini set out to describe the entire grammar in terms of a finite number of rules. Scholars have shown that the grammar of Panini represents a universal grammatical and computing system. From this perspective it anticipates the logical framework of modern computers. One may speak of a Panini machine as a model for the most powerful computing system.
Source: Staal, F. 1988. Universals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Aryan Language Family
Panini was a Sanskrit grammarian who gave a comprehensive and scientific theory of phonetics, phonology, and morphology. Sanskrit was the classical literary language of the Indian Hindus.
In a treatise called Astadhyayi Panini distinguishes between the language of sacred texts and the usual language of communication. Panini gives formal production rules and definitions to describe Sanskrit grammar. The construction of sentences, compound nouns etc. is explained as ordered rules operating on underlying structures in a manner similar to modern theory.
Panini should be thought of as the forerunner of the modern formal language theory used to specify computer languages. The Backus Normal Form was discovered independently by John Backus in 1959, but Panini's notation is equivalent in its power to that of Backus and has many similar properties.
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Amazing Science (Part 6)
The Kautiliya Arthasastra
The Kautiliya Arthasastra, a Sanskrit work of the c. 4th century B.C., is more known for its contents on politics and statecraft. But the book contains information and instructions about various other aspects of social life, including man's relationship with animals and plants. The present monograph of Prof. P. Sensarma is an excellent treatise in lucid English on the Ethnobiological Information contained in the Arthasastra. It deals with forests, plants, animals, animal husbandry including veterinary suggestions, agriculture medicinal-industrial commercial importance and application of flora and fauna, and the uses of plants and animals in biological and chemical warfare, besides weapon making and other military uses.
Minerals and Metals in Kautilya's Arthasastra
It is interesting to note that Kautilya prescribes that the state should carry out most of the businesses, including mining. No private enterprise for Kautilya! One is amazed at the breadth of Kautilya's knowledge. Though primarily it is treatise on statecraft, it gives detailed descriptions and instructions on geology, agriculture, animal husbandry, metrology etc. Its encyclopedic in its coverage and indicates that all these sciences were quite developed and systematized in India even 2500 years ago. It is surprising that even in the I Millennium BC, they had developed an elaborate terminology for different metals, minerals and alloys. Brass (arakuta) was known, so also steel (vrattu), bronze (kamsa), bell-metal (tala) was an alloy of copper with arsenic, but tin-copper alloy was known as trapu. A bewildering variety of jewellery was also classified and given distinctive names.
The chapter begins with the importance of 'mines and metals' in the society and here we are told that one of the most crucial statements in the Arthasastra is that gold, silver, diamonds, gems, pearls, corals, conch-shells, metals, salt and ores derived from the earth, rocks and liquids were recognized as materials coming under the purview of mines. The metallic ores had to be sent to the respective Metal Works for producing 'twelve kinds of metals and commodities'. Though the authors wish to show the importance of mines and metals in the society, yet what they point to is their importance for the state and the powers that the state exercised over them. Perhaps, Kautilya himself did not treat the matter so and focused to show its importance for the state alone as the book Arthasastra is on statecraft and not on society.
The next section deals with the gem minerals and is treated more extensively than others. We wonder if it is not due to the fact that the gem minerals reflected the richness of Indian kings. Here we are told that Mani-dhatu or the gem minerals were characterized in the Arthasastra as 'clear, smooth, lustrous, and possessed of sound, cold, hard and of a light color'. Excellent pearl gems had to be big, round, without a flat surface, lustrous, white, heavy, and smooth and perforated at the proper place. There were specific terms for different types of jewellery: Sirsaka (for the head, with one pearl in the centre, the rest small and uniform in size), avaghataka (a big pearl in the center with pearls gradually decreasing in size on both sides), indracchanda (necklace of 1008 pearls), manavaka (20 pearl string), ratnavali (variegated with gold and gems), apavartaka (with gold, gems and pearls at intervals), etc. Diamond (vajra) was discovered in India in the pre-Christian era. The Arthasastra described certain types of generic names of minerals red saugandhika, green vaidurya, blue indranila and colorless sphatika. Deep red spinel or spinel ruby identified with saugandhika, actually belongs to a different (spinel) family of minerals. Many other classes of gems could have red color. The bluish green variety of beryl is known as aquamarine or bhadra, and was mentioned in the Arthasastra as uptpalavarnah (like blue lotus). The Arthasastra also mentions several subsidiary types of gems named after their color, lustre or place of origin. Vimalaka shining pyrite, white-red jyotirasaka, (could be agate and carnelian), lohitaksa, black in the centre and red at the fringe (magnetite; and hematite on the fringe?), sasyaka blue copper sulphate, ahicchatraka from Ahicchatra, suktichurnaka powdered oyster, ksiravaka, milk coloured gem or lasuna and bukta pulaka (with chatoyancy or change in lustre) which could be cat's eye, a variety of chrysoberyl, and so on.
The authors further mention that at the end was mentioned kacamani, the amorphous gems or artificial gems imitated by coloring glass. The technique of maniraga or imparting colour to produce artificial gems was specifically mentioned.
We are told that the Arthasastra also mentions the uses of several non-gem mineral and materials such as pigments, mordants, abrasives, materials producing alkali, salts, bitumen, charcoal, husk, etc.
Pigments were in use such as anjan ,( antimony sulphide), manahsil ( red arsenic sulphide), haritala, (yellow arsenic sulphide) and hinguluka (mercuric sulphide), Kastsa (green iron sulphate) and sasyaka, blue copper sulphate. These minerals were used as coloring agents and later as mordants in dyeing clothes. Of great commercial importance were metallic ores from which useful metals were extracted. The Arthasastra did not provide the names of the constituent minerals beyond referring to them as dhatu of iron (Tiksnadhatu), copper, lead, etc.
Having reviewed the literary evidence the authors maintain that the Arthasastra is the earliest Indian text dealing with the mineralogical characteristics of metallic ores and other mineral-aggregate rocks. It recognizes ores in the earth, in rocks, or in liquid form, with excessive color, heaviness and often-strong smell and taste. A gold-bearing ore is also described. Similarly, the silver ore described in the Arthasastra seems to be a complex sulphide ore containing silver (colour of a conch-shell), camphor, vimalaka (pyrite?). The Arthasastra describes the sources and the qualities of good grade gold and silver ores. Copper ores were stated to be 'heavy, greasy, tawny (chalcopyrite left exposed to air tarnishes), green (color of malachite), dark blue with yellowish tint (azurite), pale red or red (native copper). Lead ores were stated to be grayish black, like kakamecaka (this is the color of galena), yellow like pigeon bile, marked with white lines (quartz or calcite gangue minerals) and smelling like raw flesh (odour of sulphur). Iron ore was known to be greasy stone of pale red colour, or of the colour of the sinduvara flower (hematite). After describing the above metallic ores or dhatus of specific metals, the Arthasastra writes: In that case vaikrntaka metal must be iron itself which used to be produced by the South Indians starting from the magnetite ore. It is not certain whether vaikrntaka metal was nickel or magnetite based iron. Was it the beginning of the famous Wootz steel?
The Arthasastra mentions specific uses of various metals of which gold and silver receive maximum attention. The duties of suvarna-adhyaksah, the 'Superintendent of Gold, are defined. He was supposed to establish industrial outfits and employ sauvarnikas or goldsmiths, well versed in the knowledge of not only gold and silver, but also of the alloying elements such as copper and iron and of gems which had to be set in the gold and silver wares. Gold smelting was known as suvarnapaka. Various ornamental alloys could be prepared by mixing variable proportions of iron and copper with gold, silver and sveta tara or white silver which contained gold, silver and some coloring matter. Two parts of silver and one part of copper constituted triputaka. An alloy of equal parts of silver and iron was known as vellaka.
Gold plating (tvastrkarma) could be done on silver or copper. Lead, copper or silver objects were coated with a gold-leaf (acitakapatra) on one side or with a twin-leaf fixed with lac etc. Gold, silver or gems were embedded (pinka) in solid or hollow articles by pasting a thick pulp of gold, silver or gem particles and the cementing agents such as lac, vermilion, red lead on the object and then heating.
The Arthasastra also describes a system of coinage based on silver and copper. The masaka, half masaka, quarter masaka known as the kakani, and half kakani, copper coins (progressively lower weights) had the same composition, viz., one-quarter hardening alloy and the rest copper.
The Arthasastra specifies that the Director of Metals (lohadhyakasa) should establish factories for metals (other than gold and silver) viz., copper, lead, tin, vaikrntaka, arakuta or brass, vratta (steel), kamsa (bronze), tala (bell-metal) and loha (iron or simply metal), and the corresponding metal-wares. In the Vedic era, copper was known as lohayasa or red metal. Copper used to be alloyed with arsenic to produce tala or bell metal and with trapu or tin to produce bronze. Zinc in India must have started around 400 BC in Taxila. Zawar mines in Rajasthan also give similar evidence. Vaikrntaka has been referred to some times with vrata, which is identified by many scholars including Kangle, as steel. On the top of it, tiksna mentioned as iron, had its ore or dhatu, and the metal was used as an alloying component. Iron prepared from South Indian magnetite or vaikrantakadhatu was wrongly believed to be a different metal.
To read the full text > click Kautilya Arthasastra
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The Ruins Of Nalanda University
A Buddhist University, 5th Century
THE ANCIENT SEAT OF LEARNING
Towards the Southeast of Patna is a village called the 'Bada Gaon', in the vicinity of which, are the world famous ruins of Nalanda University. Housing about 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers, this university attracted pupils from all over the world. A Walk in the ruins of the university, takes you to an era, that saw India leading in imparting knowledge, to the world - the era when India was a coveted place for studies. The university flourished during the 5th and 12th century.
The ruins of Nalanda university is spread over an area of 14 hectares. This university was totally built in Red clay bricks. The Nalanda university attracted scholars from all over the world. Even Chanakya or Kautilya was once a student of this university. This university was seat of knowledge for the world, the light of knowledge spread all over the world from Nalanda. Today only the memories of those glorious days are refreshed in the ruins. Whatever remains of the great university has been well preserved. Among the ruins one still recognizes the different sections of the place. Particularly the place of worship and the hostels are very distinct. The whole area is surrounded by beautiful lawns.
At the excavation site, Visitors going in for the monasteries and temples stand at the Eastern gate. The tourists going in for university ruins enter the site from the Western gate. The main temple area no. 3 is situated on the southern side of the site. The temple is surrounded by many small Stupas in a courtyard. The Vihar area no. 1 is the most important at this place. This Vihar has 9 storeys. The various levels are identified by the concrete courtyards and the walls & drains which are built one over the other. It is believed that the lower most Vihar was built by Devapal, the third king of the Pala dynasty.
This place saw the rise and fall of many empires and emperors who contributed in the development of Nalanda. Many monasteries and temples were built by them. King Harshwardhana gifted a 25m high copper statue of Buddha and Kumargupta endowed a college of fine arts here. Nagarjuna- a Mahayana philosopher, Dinnaga- founder of the school of logic and Dharmpala- the Brahmin scholar, taught here.
The famous Chinese traveller and scholar, Hieun-Tsang stayed here and has given a detailed description of the situations prevailing at that time. Careful excavation of the place has revealed many stupas, monasteries, hostels, stair cases, meditation halls, lecture halls and many other structures which speak of the splendour and grandeur this place enjoyed, when the place was a centre of serious study.
Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall:
Hieun Tsang was a Chinese traveller, who came to India in around 5th century. He has given a very detailed and vivid description of the Indian political and social conditions at that time. His writing is considered to be one of the most authentic sources of information of that period. Hieun Tsang was also attracted by the glory of Nalanda University. He came and stayed here, both as a student and as a teacher. As a student, he studied Yoga for six years under Acharya Shil Bhadra. He was in Nalanda for twelve years. The memorial Hall has been built in his memory.
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A fascinating historical account by
The Chinese pilgrim Hieun Tsang (A student of Nalanda in 5th century)
The Royal Patrons of the University of Nalanda
Researched by Rev. H. Heras, S.J., M.A.
Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society, PART I.
Vol. XIV 1928 pp. 1-23
Includes reference from I-Tsing, A Record of the Buddhist Religion
(Translated by Takakasu).
Kumarra Gupta I is undoubtedly the founder of the university of Nalanda.
The Chinese pilgrim Hieun Tsang does not say that Kumara Gupta was a Buddhist, but says only that he "respected and esteemed" the law of Buddha and "honoured very highly" the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha. In fact he seems to have been a Vaienava. But such respect and esteem for Buddhism is not a strange thing in a Hindu monarch.
Moreover we cannot doubt that Kumara Gupta gave some endowments to the university, as some of the other kings mentioned by Hiuen Tsiang also did after him, so that the students being supplied with everything should not require to ask for anything. Thus the university could be called from the beginning of its existence Nalanda, i.e. "charity without intermission." As a matter of fact I-Tsing records the fact that the lands possessed by the university, that contained more than 200 villages, had been bestowed upon the institution "by kings of many generafions."
Of this king Hiuen Tsiang says:
"Buddhagupta-raja...... continued to labour at the excellent undertaking of his father. To the south of this he built another sangharama."
Accordingly Skanda Gupta continued the policy of his father towards the university. His patronage was specially shown in the fact that he built another sangharama to the south of that erected by his father. Such enlargement of the university was most likely carried out by Skanda Gupta after his victorious return from the west where he had crushed the power of the Hunas, then for the first time invading the plains of Aryavarta.
Pura Gupta is said by Hiuen Tsiang to have "vigorously practised the former rules (of his ancestors), and he built east from this another sangharama." These words of the Chinese pilgrim point out two facts: first, the building of another college east of the one built by his brother; second, a more vigorous patronage policy in favour of the university, probably by granting privileges and endowments to the institution. We have already mentioned the fact of Pura Gupta's great devotion to Vasubandhu. It is not strange therefore that, either on his own accord or perhaps influenced by Vasubandhu, Pura Gupta should favour the institution even more than his deceased brother.
King Narasimha Gupta
Hitherto the famous university had not aparently suffered as yet any attack of any enemy. But by this time the Gupta Emperors had already lost their paramount sovereignty and had become feudatories of his foreign enemies the Hunas. The latter's king Mihirakula, whose capital seems to have been somewhere in Malwa, issued a decree during Narasimha Gupta's reign, by which he declared his purpose "to destroy all the (Buddhist) priests through the five Indies, to overthrow the law of Buddha, and leave nothing remaining."
The greatest number of Bhiksus undoubtedly resided in the kingdom of Narasimha Gupta. So this king, a fervent disciple of Vasubandhu, and who is said by the Chinese pilgrim to have "profoundly honoured the law of Buddha," as soon as news of the persecution begun by Mihirakula reached his ears "he strictly guarded the frontiers of his kingdom and refused to pay tribute.'' This was a declaration of war on the part of the Gupta sovereign. The Huna king accepted the challenge, entered the kingdom of Magadha and pursued Narasimha Gupta till the bay of Bengal.In the course of this campaign Mihirakula at the head of his army had to pass very near the university of Nalanda, for he first undoubtedly marched on Pataliputra, and only when he realised that the Gupta sovereign had fled towards the sea then he continued his march till the bay of Bengal.
This inroad of the Huna army was bound to be fatal to the kingdom of Magadha and specially to the Buddhist religion then protected and patronized by the Gupta monarchs. Mihirakula, beyond doubt, in his hatred of Buddhism destroyed all its buildings that he found in his way, and killed all its priests-- cruelties which he was shortly afterwards to repeat from his exile into Kashmir. Nalanda University was not far from the capital, Pataliputra, and its fame had also reached Mihirakula's ears. The buildings of Nalanda were then probably destroyed for the frst time, and its priests and students dispersed and perhaps kiiled.
But Mihirakula was finally defeated by the Gupta army and exiled to Kashmir by the victor.After this Narasimha Gupta, the great patron of Buddhism, could not permit that such an important institution of learning should perish. Hiuen Tsiang tells us that he built another sangharama (College) on the northeast side of the one built by his father.This sangharama (college) was still called "the college of Baladitya-raja" in the time of Hiuen Tsiang. Moreover he constructed a great vihara 300 feet high. "With respect to its magnificence," says Hiuen Tsiang, "its dimensions, and the statue of Buddha placed in it, it resembles the great vihara built under the Bodhi tree."
But besides the building of the sangharama and the vihara Nalanda undoubtedly owed to Narasimha Gupta the restoration of the whole university after the destruction by the Huna King. The new sangharama mentioned by Hiuen Tsiang was only an enlargement of the university; but the old buildings were partly reconstructed or newly built over the ruins of the former ones. This has been evidently proved in the course of the excavations. They have shown that some of the monasteries and other buildings have been erected on the ruins of earlier ones. Moreover in the time of Harsa-vardhana the main hall built by Kumara-Gupta I was still existing, either in its primitive form or partially reconstructed.This shows that after the destruction of the university the pristine plot was not abandoned. After this work of restoration was done and after the new sangharama and vihara were finished, Narasimha Gupla decided to commemorate the event with a great assembly. Hiuen Tsiang says that he "invited common folk and men of religion without distinction." The meeting of this assembly was a great succese; 10,000 priests flocked to Nalanda from every corner of India and even two monks came from far-off China.
Narasimha Gupta, on seeing the faith of these two foreign monks coming to the great celebrations at Nalanda from so distant a country, "was filled with gladness," says the biographer of Hiuen Tsiang. This gladness seems to have been the effect of a great spiritual consolation, for the Chinese pilgrim himself says that "the king then was affected by a profound faith." The result of this faith and gladness was that Narasimha Gupta resigned the crown and entered the sangha as a monk. We cannot doubt these two facts; Hiuen Tsiang records that "he gave up his country and became a recluse," while his biographer states even more explicitly that "he gave up his royal estate and became a recluse."
We know of only one episode of the life of Narasimha Gupta in the sangha. The Chinese pilgrim relates that "he (before being fully ordained) placed himself as the lowest of the priests, but his heart was always uneasy and ill at rest. 'Formerly (he said) I was a king, and the highest among the honourable; but now I have become a recluse, I am degraded to the bottom of the priesthood'." The poor ex-king, though living within the walls of his vihara, was still wishing to be the recipient of the wordly honours which he had been accustomed to in former days. He consequently manifested his grievance to the superiors of the sangha. It was consequently resolved, in order to please the royal disciple, that those monks who had not yet received the full orders should be classed not according to the number of years they had been lay disciples, but according to their natural years of life till the time of receiving full ordination. Narasimha seems to have been pleased with the decision. The only thing he could not stand was to be the last of the whole community. According to this change in the monastic customs, he had all the young monks behind --as he was then an old man--and his ambition was satisfied. "This sangharama,'' adds the Chinese pilgrim," is the only one in which this law exists." We do not know whether Narasimba Gupta was finally fully ordained.
After narrating Narasimha's life in the sangha, Hiuen Tsiang adds: "The king's son, called Vajra, came to the throne in succession." According to the Bhitari seal of Kumara Gupta II, the latter was the son and successor of Nsrasimha Gupta.It is a fact recorded by Hiuen Tsiang that "he again built on the west side of the convent a sangharama.
" A long succession of kings," says Hiuen Tsiang, "continued the work of building, using all the skill of the sculptor, till the whole is truly marvellous to behold." The appearance of the university after all these sangharamas and buildings had been constructed is said to have been "truly marvellous" by the Chinese pilgrim. Indeed his biographer writes a fine description of the university, like a bird's-eye view, which is worth quoting as showing what the university looked like during the first half of the seventh century A.D., after all those kings had embellished its monasteries and decorated its towers and observatories. Hwui Li's description is to the following effect:
"The richly adorned towers, and the fairy-like turrets, like pointed hill-tops, are congregated together. The observatories seem to be lost in the vapours of the morning, and the upper rooms tower above the clouds. From the windows one may see how the winds and the clouds produce new forms, and above the soaring eaves the conjunctions of the sun and moon may be observed. And then we may add how the deep translucent ponds bear on their surface the blue lotus, intermingled with the Kie-ni (Kanaka) flower of deep red colour and at intervals the Amra groves spread over all their shade. All the outside courts, in which are the priests' chambers, are of four stages. The stages have dragon projections and coloured eaves, the pearl-red pillars, carved and ornamented, the richly adorned balustrades, and the roofs covered with tiles that reflect the light in a thousand shades, these things add to the beauty of the scene."
During this period there occurred in Magadha several wars, which by the natural havoc consequent on any war, may also have been destructive of Nalanda. The above-mentioned Apshad Inscription of Adityasena mentions two defeats inflicted on king Isanavarman, the first by one Kumara Gupta (probably the same Kumara Gupta II) and the seoond by Damodara Gupta; while Isanavarman himself had previously defeated the Hunas. Then Mahasena Gupta won a victory over Susthivarman. The Haraha inscription of Isanavaraman also refers to the victories of this monarch over the lord of the Andhras "who had thousands of threefold rutting elephants," over the Sulikas "who had an army of countless galloping horses, " and over the Gaudas "living on the seashore." A partial destruction of Nalanda caused by these wars (some of which were evidently fought in the territory of Magadha) may well have taken place.
Vajra, i.e. Kumara Gupta II, seems to be the last king of the Gupta family mentioned
by Hiuen Tsiang in connection with the university of Nalanda. Moreover not even
other kings of the same kingdom of Magadha, but belonging to other dynasties,
are referred to by the Chinese pilgrim. But he adds the name of a king of another
kingdom to this list of patrons of the university of Nalanda. After having mentioned
Vajra and his doings, he says: "After this a king of Central India."
This king of Central India, that appears after the extinction of the Gupta family before the arrival of Hiuen Tsiang in India, cannot be other than Harsa-vardhana of Kanauj. The same Hiuen Tsiang refer clearly to him in other two passages of his account in connection with the university. That this monarch had positively and openly declared leanings towards Buddhism is clear from other passages of Hiuen Tsiang's travels. When we read for instance Hiuen Tsiang's account of the assembly of Kanauj convoked by Harsa for propagating the doctrines of Mahayana, we cannot doubt that the great emperor had accepted in his heart the faith of Buddha.
The first dealings of Harsa with Nalanda seem, so it appears, to be connected with a double tragedy of his family. His sister Rajyasri had been married to the Maukhari king Grahavarman.This king, some years later, had been defeated and killed by king Deva Gupta of Malwa and after his death Rajyasri had been cast into prison by the victor. Harsa's brother, Rajya-vardhana, then the king at Thanesar, could not stand this affront on his family, marched against Deva Gupta and defeated him. But it so happened just at this moment that Sasanka, king of Gauda in Eastern Bengal, entered Magadha as a friend of Rajya-vardhana, but in secret alliance with the Malwa king. Accordingly Sasanka treacherously murdered Rajya-vardhana. It was most likely on this occasion that he destroyed the sacred places of Buddhism, as related by Hiuen Tsiang: " Lately Sasanka-raja" says he,''when he was overthrowing and destroying the law of Buddha, forthwith came to the place where that stone is, for the purpose of destroying the sacred marks (Buddha's foot-prints). Having broken it into pieces, it came whole again, and the ornamental figures as before; then he flung it into the river Ganges."
"In later times," the same Hiuen Tsiang goes on to say, '' Sasanka-raja, being a believer in heresy, slandered the religion of Buddha and through envy destroyed the convents and cut down the Bodhi tree (at Buddha Gaya), digging it up to the very springs of the earth; but yet he did not get to the bottom of the roots. Then he burnt it with fire and sprinkled it with the juice of sugar-cane, desiring to destroy them entirely, and not leave a trace of it behind." Such was Sasanka's hatred towards Buddhism.
Hence we cannot imagine this king
going from the Ganges to Gaya and passing so near Nalanda, the greatest centre
of Buddhism in those days, without leaving there the effects of his bigotry. That
most likely was a new occasion on which the buildings of Nalanda were razed to
the ground and its inhabitants murdered or dispersed. On hearing of the murder
of his brother, Harsa resolved at once to march against the treacherous king of
Gauda, and both the Harsa Charita and Hiuen Tsiang agreed as to the colossal success
of Harsa's efforts. After having driven Sasanka to Bengal we cannot doubt that
Harsa, the enthusiastic disciple of
Mahayana Buddhism, restored the university of Nalanda to its pristine grandeur, just as Purnavarma repaired the damages caused by Sasanka at Buddh Gaya.
But this was not all. Harsa, called by Hiuen Tsiang "a king of Central India," "built to the north of this a great sangharama." The Chinese pilgrim seems to indicate that the sangharama built by Harsa was greater than those built by other kings in the precincts of the university, for this is the only one called ''great" by him. Hiuen Tsiang mentions another building due also to the devotion and munificence of Harsa. "To the south of this," says he, " is a vihara of brass built by Siladitya-raja." It is well known that Siladitya-raja is the name given to Harsa by the Chinese pilgrim, a title which is also confirmed by numis- matics.This vihara was still under construction at the time of Hiuen Tsiang's stay at the university.
"Although it is not yet finished," he adds, "yet its intended measurement, when finished, will be hundred feet." But Hiuen Tsiang's biographer, who wrote some years later, seems to have received some more information about this building after its completion. In fact Hwui Li says that "it was renowned through all countries." The vihara, according to Hwui Li's information, was not made all of brass, but only " covered with brass plates." Indeed the appearance of the building was "magnificent and admirable." In fact the Hinayana monks of Orissa envied the Mahayana monks of Nalanda so rich and gorgeous a building."
Moreover in the time of Hiuen Tsiang Harsa had the purpose of dedicating an image of Buddha " in the hall of the monarch who first began the sangharama." This seems to be an allusion to the first sangharama built by Kumara Gupta I.Finally Harsa's patronage is also shown by the numerous endowments be granted to the university. " The king of the country," says Hwui Li, "respects and honours the priests, and has remitted the revenues of about 100 villages for the endowment of the convent. Two hundred householders in these villages, day by day, contribute several piculs of ordinary rice, several hundred catties in weight of butter and milk." The biographer here draws a consequence that discloses the great importance of these endowments of Harsa. " Hence the students here, being so abundantly supplied, do not require to ask for the four requisites (clothing, food, bedding and medicine). This is the source of the perfection of their studies, to which they have arrived." Hiuen Tsiang himself also informs us that when Harsa decided to erect an image of Buddha in the singharama of Kumara Gupta, he said too: "I will feed forty priests of the congregation every day to show my gratitude to the founder."
These endowments and grants of Harsa were most likely confirmed by official documents adorned with his seal. In fact two seals of Harsa have been found in Nalanda in the course of the excavations. All these favours and donations of the great emperor were crowned by the construction of a lofty wall enclosing all the buildings of the university.His intention seems to have been to defend the institution of any other possible hostile inroad.
of other Countries
The Chinese pilgrim speaking of a brick vihara of Nalanda, where an image of Tara Bodhisattva was venerated, says as follows: --" The kings and ministers and great people of the neighbouring countries offer exquisite perfumes and flowers, holding gem-covered flags and canopies, whilst instruments of metal and stone resound in turns, mingled with the harmony of flutes and harps. These religious assemblies last for seven days."
Who were these kings of the neighbouring countries in the time of Hiuen Tsiang besides the great Vardhana? Unfortunately the Chinese pilgrim does not give any clue for ascertaining this doubt. Anyhow six were the main kingdoms round Harsa's empire: the kingdom of the Maukharis, the kingdom of Gauda in Bengal, the kingdom of Kamarupa in Assam, the kingdom of Nepal, the kingdom of the Valabhis in Saurastra and tile kingdom of the Chalukyas in the Deccan. Let us examine separately the possibility of the patronage of Nalanda by the kings of these countries.
(a) The Maukharis.--Some of the Maukharis may undoubtedly be counted among the patrons of Nalanda. Two of their seals have also been found at Nalanda next to the seals of Harsa.Moreover Purnavarma, whom I consider to be the last Maukhari, seems to have had great affection for Buddha and his doctrines. Hiuen Tsiang tells us that when hearing of the destruction caused to the Bodhi tree by the fanaticism of Sasanka, Purnavarma exclaimed: " The sun of wisdom having set, nothing is left but the tree of Buddha, and this they now have destroyed; what source of spiritual life is there now." "He then," continues Hiuen Tsiang, "cast his body on the ground overcome with pity; then with the milk of a thousand cows he again bathed the roots of the tree, and in a night it once more revived and grew to the height of some 10 feet. Fearing lest it should be again cut down, he surrounded it with a wall of stone 24 feet high.'' Such a great devotion for the law of Buddha surely compelled also Purnavarma to patronize the Nalanda University, specially after its destruction by the same Sasanka who uprooted the Bodhi tree. In fact the same Hiuen Tsiang mentions a "pavilion of six stages" made at Nalanda by Purnavarma to enshrine a copper statue of Buddha 80 feet high.
(b) Gauda in Bengal.--We have seen that its king Sasanka was a declared enemy of Buddhism. His relations with Nalanda seem to have been purely negative and destructive.
(c) Kamarupa in Assam.--The king of Kamarupa contemporary of Harsa was named Bhaskaravarman. He was a Brahmana by caste and by faith, but he respected and was much interested in the law of Buddha. When he came to know of the existence of a Chinese pilgrim, Hiuen Tsiang, at the Nalanda University he sent him three different messages inviting him to his court, till his wish was satisfied. Later on we see him accompanying Harsa-vardhana in the great Buddhist assembly of Kanauj, where Mahayana Buddhism was propounded.He must undoubtedly be counted among the patrons of the Nalanda University. One of his seals, found at Nalanda next to those of Harsa, seems to prove the same fact.
(d) Nepal.--Hiuen Tsiang gives some information about this country and its king. His name was Amsuvarman, the founder of the Thakuri dynasty. He "was a descendant of the Licchavis. The Chinese pilgrim refers to his intellectual abilities and to his religion. As regards the former he says that he was distinguished for his learning and ingenuity. He himself had composed a work on 'sounds'; he esteemed learning and respected virtue, and his reputation was spread everywhere" As to his religion Hiuen Tsiang says as follows: "His mind is well informed, and he is pure and dignified in character. He has a sincere faith in the law of Buddha.'' In fact one of the inscriptions of this king, published by Pandit Bhagvanlal Indraji, shows on the top the wheel of the law, between two deer, that is a symbol of the first sermon of Buddha at the Deer Park, Sarnath.The literary likings of this king and his religious faith make quite probable that he himself patronized in some way or other the university of Nalanda, specially if we consider that he paid homage to Harsa-vardhana, as the introduction of Sriharsa era clearly shows, and that he visited Harsa's kingdom, a fact recorded in the Parvaviya Vamsavali.
(e) The Valabhis of Saurastra.-According to Hiuen Tsiang the contemporary Valabhi king was Dhruvapata. He seems to be king Siladitya VI, who is also surnamed Dhrubhata or Dhruvabhata, i.e. "the constant warrior." About his religion the Chinese pilgrim says "Quite recently he has attached himself sincerely to faith in the three 'precious ones' (Buddha. dharma and sangha)." He moreover describes his character and likings as follows: " He is of a lively and hasty disposition, his wisdom and statecraft are shallow. He esteems virtue and honours the good; he reverences those who are noted for their wisdom. The great priests who come from distant regions he practically honours and respects." This seems to give some probability to his being one of the benefactors of Nalanda University.
(f) The Chalukyas of the Deccan.--The contemporary sovereign of the Deccan was Pulakesin II, the greatest monarch of the Chalukyan dynasty. Hiuen Tsiang says that "'his beneficent actions are felt over a great distance." Nevertheless we are not aware of his leanings towards Buddhism. Moreover, himself being an enemy of Harsa, whom ha defeated near the Narbada, it is not probable that he would favour the Nalanda University within the boundaries of his enemy's dominions. Besides these sovereigns there were in northern India several petty rajas who had acknowledged the sovereignity of Harsa. They also perhaps favoured at times the university of Nalanda. Hiuen Tsiang says that there were twenty of these kings round Harsa at the Charity Assembly he witnessed at Prayaga (Allahabad).
A Plan of the University of Nalanda
As a complement of our study about the royal patrons of Nalanda,a probable plan of the university at the time of Hiuen Tsiang's visit, and according to the data furnished by him, will not, I think, be out of place. Certainly this plan cannot be without errors. The information is not great and scattered here and there without giving the distances between buildings and buildings, excepting in two or three cases. Anyhow this rough sketch will give a general idea of what that famous institution was like and will show the munificence of its royal patrons and benefactors.
1. Sangharama or college built by Kumara Gupta I "on
a lucky spot." (Beal, o. c., p. 168.)
2. To the south of this, sangharama built by Skanda Gupta. (Ibid.)
3. To the east of this, sangharama built by Purra Gupta. (Ibid.)
4. On the north-east side, sangharama built by Narasimha Gupta. (Ibid).
5. On the west side of the convent, I understand, of the first original monastery, sangharama built by Kumara Gupta II (p. 170). The Life of Hiuem Tsiang, p.111, disagrees. Hwui Li says only that this sangharama was "to the north. " This uncertainty and the fact that he never saw Nalanda causes me to prefer Hiuen Tsiang's statement.
6. To the north of this, great sangharama built by Harsa--vardhana (Beal, o. c., p. 170.) The Life of Hiuen Tsiang, l.c., says that this sangharama was built " by the side'' of the one built by Kumara Gupta II.
7. " On the western side of the sangharama, at no great distance, is a vihara." (Beal, o. c, p. 172.)
8. "To the south 100 paces or so is a small stupa." (Ibid.)
9. "On this southern side is a standing figure of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.'' (Ibid.)
10. "To the south of this statue is a stupa in which are remains of Buddha's hair and nails." (Ibid., 173.)
11. "To the west of this, outside the wall, and by the side of a tank, is a stupa." (Ibid.) p. 22
12. Tank. (Vide No. 11.)
13. "To the south-east about 50 paces, within the walls, is an extraordinary tree, about eight or nine feet in height, of which the trunk is twofold, " (Ibid.)
14. "Next to the east there is a great vihara about 200 feet in height." (Ibid.) In the plan I placed this vihara much towards the east; otherwise there is no room for the following viharas north of this. According to this arrangement, the vihara No. 16, built by Narasimha Gupta, comes in the neighbourhood of the sangharama built by the same monarch, a fact that does not look improbable.
15. "After this, to the north 100 paces or so, is a vihara in which is a figure of Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva. " (Ibid).
16. "To the north of this vihara is a great vihara, in height about 300 feet, which was built by Baladitya- raja." (Natrasimha Gupta) (Ibid.)
17. "To the north-east of this is a stupa. " (Ibid. p. 174.)
18. "To the north-west is a place where the four past Buddhas sat down." (Ibid.)
19. "To the south of this is a vihara of brass built by Siladitya-raja." (Harsa-vardhana) (Ibid.) Accordingly this vihara built by Harsa is not far from the great sangharama also built by him.
20. "Next to the eastward two hundred paces or so, outside the walls, is a figure of Buddha standing uprigh and made of copper. Its height is about 80 feet. A pavilion of six stages is required to cover it." (Ibid.) This is the pavilion built by Purnavarma.
21. "To the north of this statue two or three li, in a vihara constructed of brick, is a figure of Tara Bodhisattva. This figure is of great height and its spiritual appearance very striking." (Ibid.) p. 23
22. "Within the souhern gate of the wall is a large well," (Ibid, p. 175.) The phrase of the pilgrim seems to show that this well was close to the gate. I had no special reason for putting it on the east side of the same.
23. "High wall" built round these edifices by Harsa-vardhana. (Ibid., p, 179.)
24. The only gate to enter the premises of the university. (Ibid.) Further on Hiuen Tsiaug says that this gate was " southern." (Ibid., p. 175.) The following quotation discloses the importance of this gate. "If men of other quarters desire to enter and
take part in the discussions, the keeper of the gate proposes some hard questions; many are unable to answer, and retire. One must have studied deeply both old and new books before getting admission. Those students, therefore, who come here as strangers, have to show their ability by hard discussion, those who failed compared with those who succeed are as seven or eight to ten." (Ibid., p. 171.)
The precise extension of the area covered by the buildings of the university is not said by Hiuen Tsiang. Anyhow Hwui Li states that this sangharama (the whole university) " is the most remarkable for grandeur and height " all over India.(1) He also states that "the priests belonging to the convent, or strangers residing therein always reach to the number of 10,000."(2) Finally I-Tsing, who travelled through India towards the close of the same century, informs us: There are eight halls and three hundred apartments in this monastery."(3) These scanty data will give some idea of the great extension of the university of Nalanda.
Nalanda - An ancient University
a travelogue by Surajit Basu
A modern map of the ancient university shows us the chaityas and the monasteries, where the students learnt and lived. The chaityas were the temples, centres of meditation and learning while the monasteries were the hostels.
2,000 teachers and 10,000 students stayed and studied in this university. Some came from other countries, other cultures. Like Hiuen Tsang from China who wrote about his days here. In the 7th century. He left an elaborate description of the excellence of Nalanda.
Nalanda - An ancient University
A travelogue by Surajit Basu
Welcome to Nalanda, the
ancient university. Set in India,
close to Gaya in Bihar, this site was lost for hundreds of
years and rediscovered.
How to get there : The nearest
airport is Patna, 90 km away.
Train services to Nalanda are available. Trains to Rajgir,
10 km away, are also available.
Grand among the greens,
row upon row of buildings.
The rediscovered Nalanda stands proudly.
may have killed her students, destroyed her walls,
shattered her beautiful images, but the foundations survive
to tell the tale to the historians, the archaeogists, and the
curious public who come to see her.