The grand vision of resurrecting the ancient international glories of Nalanda University may take some time to fulfil as ambitions are being tailored to current financial limitations, admitted Amartya Sen, chairman of the Nalanda Mentor Group.

The Group concluded its two-day meeting here on Tuesday, having worked on a blueprint to set up the international venture.

First step

The first big step toward making the dream a reality is likely to be taken this week, when the Nalanda University Bill, approved by the Union Cabinet last month, is introduced in Parliament.

However, Dr. Sen admitted that the University would be starting relatively small — and the growth could be relatively slow.

“The building work will begin as soon as the Bill passes…I should imagine that within a couple of years, there will be buildings and we will begin faculty appointments. You must understand that a university takes a long time to establish.”

He pointed out that it was unclear when the ancient university was started, with a section of historians saying that it probably began life as a local institution in the 4th century and grew to an international stature in the 5th century. Its heyday came only in the 7th century.


Money — or the lack of it — is part of the reason for the slow growth envisaged.

Answering a question of the international nature of the student body, Dr. Sen said that while the University was committed to a globally diverse population, it would be “feasible when the funding comes up.”

Similarly, when asked about the lack of science courses in an institution that was renowned for its mathematicians and astronomers in ancient days, Dr. Sen pointed out that the study of science required expensive equipment in modern days.

“It is much more expensive than setting up literature or business schools. The feasibility question did influence the choice of subjects,” said Dr. Sen, adding that the Bill allowed for the addition of new schools later.

“If we were to raise more money, could we start a new School of Mathematics or Astronomy? Of course, yes.”

‘In the fullness of time’

In fact, his repeated phrase was “in the fullness of time,” curbing the impatience of questioners demanding a deadline for the project.

The only money currently available is the Rs.50 crore, allocated by the Planning Commission as an endowment fund in the form of special grant for the commencement of activities. However, the Bill puts the estimated cost of establishing the University at Rs.1,005 crore.

Funds are being welcomed from private donors, as well as the governments of the east Asia region, which have initiated the project in the first place.

How can the project to revive the Nalanda University, an ancient centre of Buddhist scholarship, not involve the Dalai Lama, one of the most prominent icons of modern Buddhism? Some reports have indicated that sensitivity to the concerns of China, a major player in the east Asia grouping which initiated the Nalanda project, is behind the Tibetan leader’s non-involvement.

However, the Nobel laureate had another explanation. “The Dalai Lama is the leader of a religious group. But being religiously active is not essential for religious studies,” he said, in response to a question from The Hindu.