Nālanda University

high-definition creative commons photographs from Nalanda near Rajgir, the most famous University in Medieval India, showing the Monastic and Temple ruins, together with further information.

Short History and Rediscovery of Nālanda

Temple No. 3

This temple is the most imposing structure in the Park, and has had seven identifiable phases of construction. The earlier four phases are too dilapidated and being very small they have been concealed again. The fifth, sixth and seventh phases may be seen clearly with their separate staircases. The pedestal once contained a colossal image of Buddha. A large number of votive stupas and miniature shrines have been added around this temple by devotees at different times.

On the basis of the art and architecture, the fifth phase has been assigned to 6th century A.D. This phase has beautiful stucco images placed in the niches on the exterior walls of the temple. Decorative solid towers were erected at four corners but only two are now visible. The sixth and seventh phases are a further enlargement and somewhat conceal the earlier structure. Contrary to the general scheme of other temples at the site this temple is facing north.

Text adapted from a sign in the Archeological Park

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Temples 12-14

Temple no. 12 was constructed in two phases, with the second phase covering the first. In front of this Temple there are many votive stupas, which are richly decorated with Buddha images. Some of these have had gold leaf pressed on them by devotees. Temple no. 13 has a large entrance, and originally contained a giant Buddha statue which is now destroyed down to its base. Temple no. 14 was walled off, and only seen from outside.


Many of the Monasteries in the site originally had several stories, and must have been very imposing when they were still standing. Now however, they have been levelled to around one story, all of which lack a roof. This gives a good view of the ground plan of the kutis, their doors and staircases. There are also what appear to be raised teaching platforms, where senior monastics would sit to teach their students.

Temple no. 2

This temple is a little different from the other temples in Nalanda in that its general character and architecture do not conform to the normal schematic layout of the site. Its plan is almost square, with each side being about thirty two metre wide. There is a circumambulatory path which can be approached through a flight of steps towards the east.

An interesting feature of this temple is the symmetrically arranged rows of two hundred and eleven sculptured panels over the beautiful base mouldings veneered with stone. On the eastern side both sides of the entrance have twenty panels, whereas the remaining sides have fifty-seven panels each.

There are images of gods and goddesses, Jataka stories, scenes from everyday life, human figures, animals, birds, kinnaras, geometrical motifs, etc. which have been beautifully sculpted. The pilasters intervening between the panels are decorated with pots and foliage designs, which are surmounted by arches. On the basis of the art and architecture, if has been assigned to the seventh century.


Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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