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Global competition for Nalanda university design

Thursday July 07, 2011 08:08:12 PM, Imran Khan, IANS

Patna: A global competition will be held to get the best architectural design for the Nalanda International University at the ancient seat of learning in Bihar, officials Thursday said.

"For the sake of the best design for Nalanda university, a global competition will be held soon," said N.K. Singh, a member of the Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) headed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.

The new university will be built on an area of 446 acres in Rajgir, 10 km from the site of the ancient university in Nalanda district. The members of the NMG, including Sen, visited the site of the university Thursday.

N.K. Singh said by telephone that the decision for holding a global design competition was taken at a marathon meeting of the NMG held here Wednesday.

"It was the idea of Amartya Sen not to decide the design in a hurry as it will be the university of the coming centuries," Singh told IANS.

This was the second meeting of the NMG. The first meeting was held at Bodh Gaya in 2009.

According to N.K. Singh, Sen made it clear to the interim board of governors that the revival of the ancient Nalanda university in its new 'avtar' would call for a grand architecture.

N.K. Singh said it was also decided to float a global tender for the construction of the university.

Another NMG member Sugata Bose of the Harvard University said that there were already inquiries coming in from leading architects of the world.

The objective was to bring the world to Bihar through the university. The ancient university was an architectural marvel and this one would have the cutting edge, Bose said.

University Vice Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal said that the meeting also discussed issues related to academic activities.

It was decided in the meeting that the university would begin in 2013 with two schools -the school of historical sciences and the school of environment and ecology - if the Bihar government provided suitable accommodation, she said.

The university would carry out academic activities from a rented premises for the time being till the construction of its own campus, she said.

The idea of the university was first mooted in the late 1990s but it was the then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's initiative in early 2006 that gave shape to the project.

The excavated site of the ancient university at Nalanda is a place of national importance. A fifth century architectural marvel, the university was home to over 10,000 students and nearly 2,000 teachers.

Named after the Sanskrit term for 'giver of knowledge', the ancient varsity, which existed until 1197 AD, attracted students and scholars from South Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a seat of higher education in India.

Though it was devoted to Buddhist studies, it also trained students in subjects such as fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.

Officials said the state government acquired nearly 500 acres of land needed for the Nalanda International University and infrastructure work was on at the site.

The university will be fully residential, like the ancient Nalanda. The university will have courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at










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