Destruction of Nalanda

(This extract is adopted from the book of S.K.Ramachandra Rao 'Tibetan Tantric Tradition', Arnold Heineman publishing house).

Founded in 425 A.D., the Nalanda 'maha-vihara' (monastic university) soon attained unprecedented celebrity in India and in the neighboring countries. It flourished till 1205 when it was suddenly and totally destroyed by the Muslim army. It was the chief centre of academic Mahayana Buddhism, specializing in sadhana. Great names like Nagarjuna, Asanga, Santarakshita, Rahulabhadra, Kamalasila, Padmasambhava and Atisa, all of whom moulded the Tibetan talent, were associated with this institution. It may be recalled that the Tibetan genius who gave the country its script, THom-Mi Sambhota, was sent by the Tibetan monarch around 640 A.D. to Nalanda for the pur-pose. Nalanda was very much in the imagination of Tibetans both when it was flourishing and after it was forgotten in India. Tibetan scholars were streaming in, even when the great Chinese pilgrim Hsuan-tsang was in residence there. And a great monastery that was built in Tibet in 1351 was named 'Nalanda'; this monastic University, as recorded in the Blue Annals, was filled with monks of different sects, even as its Indian counter-part was. It is from Tibetan sources that we learn about the 'Dharmaganja' ('Dharma-Mart') establishment in Nalanda and about 
the final destruction of the great centre. And a Tibetan was the last soul to bravely stick on at Nalanda, even after its devastating destruction. 
An interesting story of the Tibetan scholar, known by his Indian name, Dharmasvami, who was in Nalanda around 1230, was recovered by Rahula Sankrtyayanafrom a monastery in Central Tibet. During his travel in India, 
this Tibetan monk settled down to study Sanskrit grammar under the 8o-year old Indian Buddhist monk, Rahula-Sribhadra, who was one of the very few professors who continued to reside and teach in Nalanda, when it had already been battered by the Muslim invaders. The zeal for learning had prompted several eager students to reside with this old Pandita, who was supported and looked after by a Brahmin nobleman, Jayadeva of Odantapura. Muslims were again planning to ransack Magadha, and Jayadeva had by then got into trouble and had been thrown into prison by the Muslim overlords. But he struggled hard and succeeded in communicating the news of the impending Muslim attack to Rahula-Sribhadra so that the old monk could escape in time. When the news reached Nalanda and when the Muslim hordes were in sight, the few scholars who had held on fled and deserted the premises, except the old Rahula and his Tibetan student Dharmasvami. Rahula urged the student to fly to safety; he himself was too old to run away and did not in fact care what happened to him. But the Tibetan youth refused to leave the teacher alone, and stayed on with him. Soon, however, when the Muslim army arrived on the scene, the Tibetan scholar carried his old teacher on his back along with a supply of rice, sugar and some books, and walked into hiding in a ruined temple not far from Nalanda. When the invaders ransacked the monastery and left, the Tibetan scholar and the Indian teacher returned to Nalanda to continue their study of grammar!

...These universities should not be described' as exclusively Buddhist, although most of their renowned masters were
Buddhist monks. The curriculum appears to have been comprehensive,including all the 'orthodox' and 'heterodox"
schools of thought current at that time. The students were likewise drawn from many religious and ethnic groups. But
these institutions were predominantly and unmistakably Tantrik in their orientation. The association of these universities with the Tantrik adepts known as 'siddhas' was an intriguing but important detail, for they brought to bear the influence from other parts of the country, especially the hilly regionsof Swat valley, Orissa and South India. Saraha from Orissa and Nagarjuna from South India, the most creative architects of the Siddha cult, were connected with Nalanda; Tillo-pa and Naro-pa, the siddhas who heralded the Maharmudra ('the great seal": doctrine in Tibel through the latter's pupil Marpa, and Ratnakara-santi (Santi-pa) were associated with Vikramasila.