Nalanda University, a set on Flickr.
Nalanda, where ruins of the great ancient university have been excavated, is situated at a distance of 90 km. in the south east of Patna by road. The ruins extend over a large area and represent only a part of the extensive establishment. There are many versions of what the term Nalanda means. One is that Nalam means Lotus and Da means to give. Both combined together, Nalanda means Giver of Lotus. Since Lotus is supposed to represent knowledge, Nalanda means Giver of Knowledge.Nalanda was the largest residential centre of learning that the world had ever known. The library was located in a nine storied building. Since the time of Buddha, the bhikkus were always encouraged to study the various arts and sciences. Learning was greatly encouraged as served dual proposes: knowledge and practice. The monks, therefore took to learning so that they might practice it and realise Dhamma perfectly and thereby enrich the masses.
The University of Nalanda was founded in the 5th century by the Gupta emperors. There were thousands of students and teachers. The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of learning. The courses offered at Nalanda included the study of scriptures of Mahayana and Hinayana Schools of Buddhism, Brahminical vedic texts, Philosophy, logic theology, grammer, astronomy, mathematics and medicine. Its importance as a monastic university continued until the end of the 12th century.