Nalanda Mahavihara Archaeological Site in Nalanda, Bihar – World Cultural Heritage in India

The Nalanda Mahavihara site is located in the state of Bihar, northeastern India. It includes the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholarly institution dating from the 3rd century BC to the 13th century AD. It includes stupas, temples, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important works of art in mortar, stone, and metal. Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent. It engages in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years. The historical development of the site attests to the growth of Buddhism as a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.

Accreditation year: 2016
Criteria: (iv)(vi)
Area: 23 hectares
Buffer zone: 57.88 ha

Outstanding global value

The Nalanda Mahavihara Archaeological Site is located in the state of Bihar, Northeastern India. Spread over an area of ​​23 hectares, the Archeological site of Nalanda Mahavihara is still standing from about five circa. 3rd century BC with one of the earliest, largest and longest serving monastic institutions in the Indian Subcontinent from 5th century AD – 13th century BC when Nalanda was looted and abandoned in the 13th Century. It includes stupas, chaityas, viharas, shrines, numerous votive structures, and important works of art in mortar, stone and metal. The layout of the buildings exemplifies the change from grouping around the stupa to a formal linear alignment along an axis from south to north.

Criterion (iv): The Nalanda Mahavihara Archaeological Site established and developed the principles of planning, architecture, and art that were later adopted by many similar organizations in the Indian Subcontinent, South Asia and Southeast Asia applies.

The standardization of the architecture of the monasteries and the development of temple-like chaitya into Nalanda archetypes represent a sustained exchange and patronage of the expansion of the physical infrastructure. The quadrilateral independent vihara of the Gandhara period developed into a complete residential cum educational infrastructure borrowed by monastic cities in South Asia such as Paharpur, Vikramshila, Odantapuri and Jagaddala.

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Nalanda shows the appearance and integration of a chaitya with a pentagram (five folds). As a reflection and representation of changing religious practices, this new form replaced the traditional stupa that dominated and influenced Buddhist temples in the region.

Criterion (vi): Nalanda Mahavihara, as a center of higher learning marks the culmination in the development of the sangharama (monastic establishment) into the earliest medieval Indian institution of higher learning neck. Its merit-based approach is said to have included all modern sources of knowledge and learning systems practiced in the Indian subcontinent.

Nalanda remains one of the earliest and longest-serving extraordinary institutional builders. Its pedagogical, administrative, planning and architectural systems were the basis on which the later Mahaviharas were founded. Nalanda continues to inspire modern university campuses in the region such as Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Nalanda University and several others across Asia.


The archaeological remains of Nalanda Mahavihara were systematically excavated and preserved simultaneously. These are the most important pieces of the property that represent developments in Nalanda’s planning, architecture and artistic traditions. As evidenced by the surviving artifacts, this site clearly of a scholar’s life is recorded as a convent-cum-academic facility.

Although the mahavihara was originally a much larger complex, all of the surviving ruins of Nalanda are present in the 23-hectare site that includes 11 viharas and 14 temples, in addition to many smaller temples. and votive structures, fully exhibiting its properties such as zoning and axial layout along the north-south axis, its architectural expression and extant building materials, and Decorative decorations are applied. Preserved in situ are the structural remains of the vihara and the chaitya whose layers of construction show the development of the respective forms. The placement of these structures on the extent of the site reveals Nalanda’s unique planned layout. The property also retains an inventory of movable and immovable artefacts and art deco details that show iconic developments reflecting changes in the Buddhist belief system.

The archaeological site covers the entire protected area of ​​the property maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The property’s buffer zone is sparsely populated with farmland and seasonal waters and therefore poses no threat to the property. The property and buffer zone are protected by national legislation, the Antiquities and Archaeological Sites Act (AMASR), 1958 and (Amendment and Confirmation, 2010) and are overseen by the Heritage Management Authority. National Council (national level) and District Commissioner’s office, Bihar State Government (local level).

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In subsurface conditions for more than seven centuries, the archaeological remains of Nalanda Mahavihara were systematically excavated in the early 20th century CE and preserved in situ by the Archaeological Survey of India. The method adopted by the Archaeological Survey of India to preserve and strengthen its monasteries and temples ensures the preservation of its historical structure through adequate covering with layers that can reverse and sacrifice as well as provide support whenever needed. All conservation and intervention work is documented through photographs and drawings and published in ASI’s annual reports.

Further historical research is needed, supported by appropriate literature, with particular attention to the identification of all excavation work carried out prior to the Archaeological Survey of India, as well as other excavations. excavations by any other party to the property, and identify all repairs performed throughout the site, paying particular attention to brick repairs and documenting structural differences. authentic antiques and additional repairs and additional coatings and sacrificial layers, some marked by date stamping on selected bricks in inconspicuous locations.

Nalanda’s layers of construction, symbols, and records prove that these remains are the oldest surviving parts of it. The clear spatial organization in these excavated monuments proves its systematic planning. The temple-like form of the chaityas and the quadrangle of the vihara with its complete infrastructure attest to Nalanda’s contribution to the development of Buddhist sacred architecture and academia-cum-residency. . Its stucco, stone, and metal art retains iconic features that allow for changes in Buddhist belief systems and transitions from Mahayana to Vajrayana.

No longer functioning as an organization (13th century C.E.), Nalanda’s institutional-building role is evidenced by the later Mahaviharas of the 8th century CE borrowing its organizational system. Nalanda’s pedagogical system is best preserved in Tibetan monasteries, where lectures are delivered through debate and dialectic. Furthermore, universities across Asia regard Nalanda as a symbol of academic excellence.

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Protection and management requirements

The property is owned, protected, maintained and managed by Archaeological Survey of India vide national law – Ancient Monuments and Monuments Act 1958 (Amendment and Confirmation, 2010) Decisions regarding its conservation and management are governed by the National Conservation Policy for Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Monuments issued by the Archaeological Survey of India.

The conservation and management of the property is regulated by a perspective plan and an annual conservation program. An internal committee of the Archaeological Survey of India monitors the conservation status and conducts a needs analysis. A conservation plan for the excavated remains of the site should be in place to protect its Outstanding Universal Value and authenticity. In addition, visitor plans should be developed to strengthen visitor management and interpretation methods. A risk preparedness plan should also be completed.

The buffer zone is also managed by the National Monuments Authority vide Antiquities and Archaeological Sites and Monuments Act (AMASR), 1958, (Amendment and Confirmation, 2010) in consultation with the Agency. National Monument (NMA), New Delhi and Bihar State Government. The buffer zone also has facilities to enhance the visitor experience.

The Integrated Master Plan of Nalanda should be prepared and implemented by the Government of the State of Bihar, taking into account national and regional legislation, to minimize concerns about any development in the vicinity of the city. property can affect its Outstanding Global Value. And Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) should be conducted for any development in the vicinity of the site, by the competent authorities, Archaeological Survey of India, Bihar State Government. and the Nalanda County Collector’s Office for review.

Map of Nalanda Mahavihara Archaeological Site in Nalanda, Bihar

Video Nalanda Mahavihara Archaeological Site in Nalanda, Bihar

See also: UNESCO World Cultural/Natural Heritage Sites

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