Nalanda University

Nalanda University, Why Did Bakhtiyar Khilji Destroyed Ancient Nalanda University

Bakhtiyar Khilji attacked Nalanda Mahavira in 1193 AD. The result was a gruesome massacre and destruction of invaluable treasures.

What was this invaluable treasure and why did Bakhtiyar Khilji destroy it?

Why was Nalanda attacked? It was neither a king’s fort nor a treasure hoarding temple, it was a university for education.

Introduction of Nalanda

Nalanda University emerged during the 5th is one of the most ancient universities of the world and situated in present day Bihar. Nalanda word is a combination of three Sanskrit words- Na+Alam+Da, which means “unstoppable flow of knowledge”.

Chinese travelers Haeun Tsang and Tsing mentioned Nalanda Mahavira in their accounts. Heian Tsang visited Nalanda in the 7th century, he mentioned Gupta ruler, Kumar Gupta 1 as the founder of Nalanda University.

Heian Tsang writes, Nalanda was residential University with 10000 monks and 1510 teachers. Students from countries like that China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Persia, Turkey, and Sri Lanka studied at here. Subjects like Buddhism astronomy mathematics philosophy medicine and grammar were tough at Nalanda. the education at Nalanda was free and it is believed that the original manuscripts of Upanishads were present here. Harshvardhan, Dharmpal Nagarjuna, Heian Tsang, Aryabhata were alumni of Nalanda. It is also believed that the great astronomer and mathematician Aryabhata was head of this university.

This center of education continued to flourish like this for 800 years but by the 20th century it had disappeared into the obscurity of the past.

Invasion of Nalanda

Nalanda was attacked not once, twice but three Nalanda was rebuilt after the first two attacks but the third one turned out to be fatal for it.

The first attack was carried out by the Hunas under the leadership of Mihir Kula in 455-467AD during the reign of Samudragupta. Hunas were a central Asian tribal group, they entered India through Khyber Pass. They invaded India during 4th and 6th century i.e., during the reign of Gupta empire. But the successor of Skand Gupta not only restored Nalanda but also improved with making new multistorey buildings.

The second attack on Nalanda took place during the early 7th century by Gaudas Rajvansh of Bengal. After this attack Buddhist king Harshavardhan rebuilt Nalanda. the 3rd and brutal attack on Nalanda were carried out by Turkish invader Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193AD.

Why did Bakhtiyar Khilji destroy Nalanda?

It is said that once Khilji had fallen ill and there was no improvement in his health even after the treatment of many hakims. Then someone suggested Khilji to get treatment from Rahul Sri Bhadra, principal of Nalanda University, to cure his disease. Bakhtiyar Khilji was not allowed to be treated by a non-Muslim so first he ignores this suggestion, but the health goes to more critical than he feel Rahul Shri Bhadra should be called one. Rahul Sri goes to Khilji and starts to check up. Khilji put a condition in front of Rahul Shri Bhadra that he will not take any of his medicine. Khilji used this opportunity to humiliate Hindus, but Rahul Shri Bhadra assured that his health would improve.

Rahul Shri gives Kuran to Khilji and says to read some pages Daily. Khilji does this same and soon his health starts improving.

Rahul Shri applied medicines on the page of holy Quran and asked Khilji to read it daily, Khilji’s health improved.

When he found out about this, he felt unsecure and jealous. He thinks how non-Muslims have more knowledge then Muslims and thus decide to destroy the source of knowledge.

Destruction of Nalanda University

Nalanda’s library was the source of knowledge of Rahul Sri and other monks. Nalanda’s library “Dharma Ganj” was the world’s biggest library at that time. The library had 3 multi-Storey buildings- Ratnasagar, Ratnodadhi and Ratnaranjak having a collection of 90 lakh books.

Bakhtiyar Khilji brutally massacred the monks and scholars of Nalanda and fired the library.

Contemporary historian Mihad Siraj writes in his book Tabaqat-i-nasiri that it took 3 months to burn all the books of Nalanda University. Many original manuscripts were lost forever.


Khilji not only destroyed a university but destroyed a whole tradition, the brutal destruction was beyond repair. After Nalanda, Khilji destroyed the other two universities of Bihar, Vikramshila and odandaPuri. This was not only a loss of India, but it was also loss of entire world.

Due to the insecurity of a single person the entire world lost an invaluable treasure of knowledge.

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