Friday, August 6, 2010

Spirit of Nalanda

Every great civilisation or historical epoch, at some point in its decline, witnesses the burning of its books and thereafter an erasure of or irreversible damage to the intellectual life and character of its survivors. That may sound like a sweeping universalisation, but Heinrich Heine, with the poet’s simplification of things forbiddingly complex, was blindingly correct in saying, “Where books burn, people burn.” The burning of books signified the fall of Granada and the end of Moorish Spain. The Nazis made bonfires of Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud, et al. It is said that when the great library was set on fire after Nalanda’s sacking, it burnt for months.

The idea and ideal behind a new university near the ruins of Nalanda are about to ensure at least three things — a quality centre of higher learning in a country in desperate need of good institutions to meet the needs of its growing number of higher-education seekers. Second, a retrieval of roots — a connection to the soul of Indian learning, at least symbolically, at almost the exact physical location of the ancient university. Third, Nalanda of yore was a global brand, where scholars came from as far as China, Greece, Persia. Given the collaboration with several nations and interest groups with a stake in this ancient seat of learning, there’s every opportunity for the new university to make itself a signature of the new India in a globalised world.

Full report here Indian Express

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