A little background here:
Patna, July 24 (IANS) The Nalanda Mentor Group, headed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen that is overseeing the opening of an international university in Nalanda in Bihar, will submit its report to the external affairs ministry by early next year.
The first meeting of the Nalanda Mentor Group was held in Singapore July 13-14. Three more meetings will be held in Tokyo, Beijing and New Delhi.
The idea of the university was first mooted in the late 1990s but it was President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s initiative in early 2006 that gave shape to the project, which is to come up at the ancient site of Buddhist learning.
Nalanda is the Sanskrit term for giver of knowledge. Nalanda University, which existed until 1197 AD, attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a pedestal of higher education in India. The excavated site of the ancient university is protected as a place of national importance.
New Nalanda in The Telegraph:
The symposium of Asian, Western and non-resident Indian scholars was the soft packaging for high-powered hard-sell. The aim is to raise Rs 5 billion, not only from Singapore but, through Singapore acting as “a facilitator, a catalyst” from the rest of Asia. The Chinese government, which gave Rs 570,000 as long ago as 1960 — yes, an embryonic plan has been gathering dust for 46 years — is pledged to provide up to Rs 4 crore. If China comes, can Japan be far behind? In fact, the Japanese have already indicated their willingness to develop the historical trails of Buddhism. Other sponsors are expected to sign up at next month’s East Asia Summit in the Philippines when Manmohan Singh will unfold details and make another pitch for funds.
SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY, further on Bihar:
My first book, Bihar Shows the Way, traced Jayaprakash Narayan’s idealism to the heroic legacy of the land that bore him. Bihar is Vaishali, the world’s oldest democracy. It is Pavapuri where the tirthankar Mahavira preached. It is Pataliputra, pride of the Mauryan empire. Megasthenes paid tribute to its finely graded sales tax system, Hieun Tsang to its learning. Forty-two years after Bakhtiyar Khilji sacked Nalanda, the Tibetan pilgrim, Chag Lotsawa, found that scholarship, like love, survived among the ruins. A solitary teacher, 90-year-old Rahul Shribhadra, still devotedly discharged his duty to 70 students.
Bihar achieved great things; it is also a graveyard of ideas and institutions. Pataliputra cradled Ajatasatru who — remember “Pujarini”? — cruelly suppressed Buddhism. When I sought his capital, no one in Patna, not even my Bihar government guide, knew what I meant. The word Pataliputra conveyed nothing. They knew the site as Kumraon. But Bakhtiarpur immortalizes the man who destroyed Nalanda though not many know he was taliban’s spiritual ancestor. The story goes that before attacking the ancient Buddhist university he asked, “Is there a copy of the Quran there?”
Nalanda lay forgotten for centuries until British archaeologists unearthed its remains in 1860. The flickering lamp of Pali studies at the Nava Nalanda Mahavira is its only link with the glorious past