Nalanda University was the prime center of Buddhist learning in ancient India. Established around 6th century BC, Nalanda attracted intellects from all over the world till its destruction in 12th century AD by Muslim invaders. Details of the system of instruction followed in Nalanda are believed to have set the model for several later western universities. An authentic report of the functioning of Nalanda University is seen in Hiuen Tsang's work on the subject.
Nalanda gained further prominence through the visits of Buddha and Lord Mahavir, who had made compassion and love a way of life through their tenets enshrined in Buddhism and Jainism. The center thrived on the patronage of powerful rulers of the likes of Ashoka and Kanishka.
The admission to the university was on the basis of an oral examination at the gates by a specifically appointed scholar. Sanskrit was the medium of instruction. Students spent average 10 years to master different subjects. There were instructions in various topics such as philosophy, medicine, Buddhist concepts, fine arts and science. Success was determined purely by merit. Nalanda is believed to have had a library with nine floors.
Recent excavations have located the ruins of this university 90 km south of Patna which is 62 km from Bodhgaya. Remnants of lecture halls, stupas, prayer rooms and other artifacts are found scattered over a large area. An excellent collection of these have been exhibited in the museum near the site.