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Communication: "Revive Nalanda"

Bill Aitken

The concept of revitalizing Nalanda as a centre of learning excellence seems timely as India is poised to become a leading player in the world. The educational scene hovers between the middling and  disgraceful  and badly needs a beacon light to prove that excellence is not foreign to the Indian milieu. To inspire needs a powerful symbol and regeneration of a former  scene of  internationally recognized excellence makes  Nalanda  the  perfect choice for several reasons.   (1)    Nalanda‘s excellence is a matter of historical record and its recall does not involve escape to some mythical realm  or imaginary landscape. (2)     Nalanda‘s inspiration derives from  Gautams the Buddha‘s openminded quest for human excellence, irrespective of  the seeker‘s birth, sex or social standing. (3)   Nalanda represents the essential Indian spirit of fearless enquiry (4)     Nalanda  stands for a universalist outlook that transcends  provincialism. (5)     Nalanda‘s intellectual associations are free of  extreme religious positions. (6)    Nalanda‘s freedom from  fundamentalist concerns  give  it  a secular de-mocratic character in keeping with the constitution. (7)    Nalanda‘s revitalisation will hasten the return of the glories of Magadh to Bihar. (8)    Nalanda‘s principles have been  subliminally incorporated in the natio-nal logo (which  displays  only  three of  the  four lions on the Ashokan pillar.) Nalanda‘s  restoration will  symbolize  the harnessing of  the dormant  fourth lion  to educational reconstruction.   All the great educational institutions have been inspired by dedication to what their founders perceived as essential  (as opposed to doctrinal) values. William of Wykeham‘s medieval belief  that “manners maketh man”  were honed by  Dr Arnold  in the nineteenth century. Translated into  modern incarnations like Mayo and the Doon School  the excellence of  those medieval  standards  remain but has  become  essentially Indian. Gandhiji‘s Nai Talim, Rabindranath Tagore‘s Shantinketan  and Krishnamurthi‘s  Rishi Valley on the other hand, though valuable experiments  have not caught on to suggest that  inspiration  alone is not enough.  There has to be a viable system  that outlives the passing of the founder. Public  acclaim is an accurate  barometre  of  institutional success.  The pursuit of educational excellence is  the top priority of most  ordinary citizens who  value above all  what is good for their children.   To restore Nalanda will require imagination and humility more than funds. A small beginning  where the students and staff  contribute in the physical reconstruction of the campus  will  raise more public sympathy than the fanfare that goes with cutting the ...

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