Sushma Swaraj (Reuters)
Sushma SwarajReuters

The Nalanda University (NU), which was once a renowned centre for learning, reopened on Friday after a gap of over 800 years with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj formally inaugurating the varsity in the presence of Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and NUI vice-chancellor Gopa Sabharwal.

Sushma Swaraj said at the inaugural function that it was a matter of pride to have turned the vision into reality, adding that it will put Bihar on the international map.

"It is a historic day for NU which has stepped into the shoes of the glorious Mahavihara as a connecting link between India and the world. I hope that NU reaches the same heights and even more," Swaraj was quoted as saying by The Times of India. "Besides the East Asian countries, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) is also facilitating the process and opening its doors to encourage the participation of all nations." 

Swaraj planted a peepal sapling and Manjhi planted a banyan sapling on the university campus at the function. The External Affairs Minister went on to say that "NU has just taken its infant steps and I urge all NU officials to work earnestly to realize the goals envisioned for the institution."

"Nalanda was not just a university but a tradition and a tradition doesn't die. It was lost for some time but has been renewed," she added.

Situated at Rajgir in Nalanda district, 12 km away from the ancient site, the Nalanda University is built on 455-acre campus and can house 7,000 people. Only two schools - the School of Ecology and Environmental Studies, and the School of Historical Studies - are opened though seven schools are been planned. Classes at the varsity started on 1 September with 15 students and 11 faculty members.

High commissioner of Singapore Lim Thuan Kuan, Thailand's ambassador Chalit Manityakul, and former deputy chief minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi also attended the inaugural ceremony but NU chancellor and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and former CM Nitish Kumar, who was one of people working towards the revival of the university, missed it.

Nalanda University was a very popular learning centre until it was destroyed by an invading Turkish army about 821 years ago. It covered every field of learning and attracted scholars from several countries like China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Persia, Tibet and Turkey.