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A Nalanda contemporary seat of learning

A Nalanda contemporary seat of learning

Author: Statesman News Service
Publication: The Statesman
Date: October 18, 2003

This university possibly never found a mention in Huien Tsang's memoirs. But around the same time the great Chinese traveller-scholar was laying bare the tenets of Buddhism to his students at Nalanda University, a few hundred miles to the south, devout Hindus were absorbed in studying the four Vedas, a recent archaeological find suggests.

Evidence of a 5th Century AD Vedic Hindu university located at Benisagar village in West Singhbhum district (bordering Mayurbhanj in Orissa) has recently been unearthed by archaeologists. According to Mr Onkar Chauhan, archaeological superintendent of the Ranchi Chapter of the Archaeological Survey of India, the findings are based on the recovery of a seal, which bears characters of the Brahmi script belonging to the Gupta era. Mr Chauhan told The Statesman that the seal was discovered from the rain gullies of an ancient mound in August this year and is currently in the possession of a local villager. The seal, which is circular with a linear border, has a horizontal line bifurcating the motifs and the legends. The motifs are depicted on the upper half while the legends lie on the lower half. The motifs, according to Mr Chauhan, represent rosary beads, kamandalu and danda, while the legends comprise nine letters. It reads: Priyangu Dheyam Chaturvidya, translated, one who is well-versed in the four Vedas. The 5th century AD Brahmi script denotes the Sanskrit language.

Mr Chauhan said the archaeological remains of the place consist of low mounds, ruins of bricks and stone temple, apart from phallic and stone images. The mounds are scattered all over the area, but the many-layered remains converge at a particular spot known as Devasthan on the eastern embankment of a large tank - Benisagar - from which the village derives its name. The discovered seal is one that belonged to Brahmins. Mr Chauhan said that the large number of private seals discovered during excavations of Bhita and Basrah regions in Kutch bear resemblance to the Benisagar seal. In both cases, the script character used in the inscription measures 1.5 inches. While the Kutch seal dates back to the 8th century AD, the Benisagar seal belongs to the 5th century AD. Researches revealed, the Vedic systems of learning were prevalent between 1st and 11th century AD. The four education systems included Charan, Agahara, Travidya and Chaturvidya. The seal recovered from Benisagar indicates that it was a seat of learning where the four Vedas were taught.

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