Archaeologists have made a pathbreaking discovery in Patna. It appears that the the seeds of higher education in this country were sought way before than it is generally assumed to be.
The remains of Telhara University, discovered in Bihar, are older than Nalanda and Vikramshila universities, officials said in Patna Sunday.
Bihar’s Arts, Culture and Youth Affairs Secretary Anand Kishor said that based on key findings from the excavation, it can be confirmed that Telhara University was older than Nalanda and Vikramshila.
“A team of archaeologists has found four Buddhist monastery seals made of terracotta, bearing the inscriptions – Sri Prathamshivpur Mahavihariyaye Bikshu Sanghas – in Pali language in Nalanda district that indicated the university’s real name, which is usually described as Telhara University,” Kishor said.
Kishor said Chinese traveller Heuen Tsang visited Telhara in the 7th century AD and he mentioned the university as ‘Teleadaka’ in his narrative.
Kishor told IANS that archaeologists have discovered bricks that were used to lay the ancient university’s foundation.
“Bricks’ dimension 42x32x6 cm revealed a Kushan, first century AD, influence. That is a strong evidence that the Telhara University is older than fourth century’s Nalanda University and seventh century’s Vikramshila University.”.
Kishor said the archaeological discovery was a landmark achievement for Bihar.
He said archaeologists based on previous findings placed the Telhara University in the Gupta period between fourth and seventh century. But the new findings cleared all doubts as to the university’s age.
Atul Kumar Verma, director of state archaeology, said: “It is a positive development in the field of excavation in Bihar.”
“After discovery of remains of fourth century ancient Nalanda and eight century Vikramshila universities, this is the discovery of remains of third ancient university in the state,” Verma said.
He said remains of Telhara University were found during excavation of a 45-foot high mound. “We have also found a huge floor, statues in bronze and stone, and over 100 seals.”
Verma said Heuen Tsanng has given a graphic account of a cluster of as many as seven Buddhist monasteries flourishing at ‘Teleadaka’, also called ‘Tiladhak’, at Telhara site, where about a thousand monks studied under the Mahayana school of Buddhism.
The excavation at Telhara site was started in 2009 after the then chief minister Nitish Kumar took special interest in it.
Early this year, Nitish Kumar announced that specimen from the site would be housed in the proposed International Museum in Patna.