NALANDA TOURISM | TOP PLACES TO VISIT & TRAVEL GUIDE TO NALANDA
#2 of 4 Places to visit in Bihar
Ideal Trip Duration: Full Day
Nearest City to Nalanda: Patna (92 Kms)
Best Time to Visit Nalanda: October to March
Peak Season: November to February
At a distance of 12 km from Rajgir, 25 km from Bihar Shariff, 80 km from Bodhgaya, 92 km from Patna, 138 km from Vaishali, 145 km from Muzaffarpur, 205 km from Darbhanga, 230 km from Dhanbad, 252 km from Ranchi, 290 km from Purulia, 316 km from Varanasi, 318 km from Sarnath, 436 km from Prayagraj, and 624 km from Lucknow, Nalanda is an ancient city situated in the northeast Indian state of Bihar. It is one of the popular places of heritage in Bihar and among the must include places in the Buddhist Circuit of India that also includes Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Lumbini.
Nalanda is one of the greatest centers of learning in the ancient kingdom of Magadha (modern-day Bihar) in India. The city houses one of the world's oldest and finest residential universities which itself was an architectural masterpiece. Nalanda was initially a prosperous village that ran past the route of Rajgriha (modern Rajgir) which was then the capital of Magadha. It is said that the Jain Tirthankara, Mahavira, spent 14 rainy seasons at Nalanda. Gautama Buddha too is said to have delivered lectures in this area and one of his two chief disciples, Sariputra, was born in the area. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Though the Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime, this famous center of Buddhist learning shot to fame much later, during the 5th-12th centuries AD. The 17th-century Tibetan Lama, states that the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka, built a great temple at Nalanda at the site of Sariputra's chaitya during the 3rd century BCE. However, Nalanda obtained significant fame during the Gupta era, according to the seal found in the name of King Kumaragupta. His successors expanded the empire by building many more monasteries and temples. Post Gupta period, Nalanda flourished under the reign of emperor Harsha. But the place suffered a big blow under the rule of the Pala dynasty when it was plundered and destroyed by the Muslim Mamluk Turkish kings. Later in 1915, the Archaeological Survey of India studied the site and excavated 6 temples and 11 monasteries.
The rich past of Nalanda can be ascertained by the fact that scholars from Tibet, China, Turkey, Greece, and Persia and students from far and wide came here to seek knowledge. Nalanda shone on the world map after the Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang came here in the 7th century. The Nalanda University has 'viharas' or monasteries, and 'chaityas' or temples. In addition to this, the complex houses a charming little museum, which has a collection of several original Buddhist stupas, Hindu and Buddhist bronzes, coins, terracotta jars, a sample of burnt rice, etc. Although in ruins, the entire complex presents a pretty picture and is flocked by tourists day in and day out. Besides, Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall, The Great Stupa, Pawapuri, and Kundalpur are some prominent places to visit in Nalanda.
Patna Airport is the nearest airport which is about 90 km from Nalanda. Patna is well connected by flights with all the major cities of India like Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, and Varanasi. Nalanda Railway station is well connected by Rajgir, Danapur, Kolkata, and Delhi. About 12 km, Rajgir Railway Station is the major railhead that has well-connected trains from Danapur, Fatuha, Gaya, Bakhtiyarpur, Tilaiya, and Howrah. Nalanda is connected by a good road with Rajgir, Bodh Gaya, Patna, Pawapuri, and Bihar Sharif.
There are very few options available in Nalanda to stay. Rajgir is the nearest town that has several accommodation options ranging from budget to standard, and luxury for tourists to stay and explore the nearby places. There are some roadside stalls and eateries near the university & museum that serve veg snacks.
October to March is the best time to visit Nalanda when the climate is pleasantly cool and perfect to explore Nalanda. Besides, one can also visit the ancient city of Nalanda during monsoons as the city receives irregular rainfall. The occasional rains seem to add a natural shade to the city as it appears washed and fresh in this season. Avoid visiting summers as it is quite hot and it becomes really difficult to explore the city under the scorching heat of the sun.