You probably would have heard of Nalanda, but have you ever heard of Vikramashila?
Like Nalanda, Vikramashila was also a center of learning for students from various cultures.
Vikramashila is located in the Antichak village of Bhagalpur district in Bihar of present India. Kahalgaon is the nearest big town around Vikramashila. We know you must be pretty excited to visit the place.
Vikramashila was founded in the late 8th or early 9th century by the second ruler of the Pala dynasty. The sole purpose of the creation of Vikramashila was to counterbalance the supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nalanda.
In various Tibetian texts, Atiśa is mentioned as the abbot of the Vikramashila. Atiśa was a renowned Bengali Buddhist religious leader from the Indian subcontinent. The monastery was known to be a center for Vajrayana and also employed instructors of tantra.
Predominantly the institute taught philosophy, grammar, metaphysics, Indian logic, etc. Buddhist tantra was one of the key learnings students got here.
Apart from Nalanda and Vikramashila many other monasteries grew up during the Pāla reign in ancient Bengal and Magadha. As per various Tibetian sources there used to exist five great Mahaviharas. Along with Nalanda and Vikramashila the three other Mahaviharas were Somapura, Odantapura, and Jagaddala. The five centers of learning formed a close network and existed in a great system of coordination.
The legend of Vikramashila is greatly manifested to us through the writings of the 16th - 17th century historian, a tibetian monk Tāranātha.
Vikramashila, the premier university of the era flourished greatly close to 4 decades and was later destroyed by the Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji around 1193. The Buddhist monks and Hindu brahmins were outrageously slaughtered by Khalji’s troops.
When the new regime encountered the books and writings of the Hindu priests and Buddhists monks they demanded the presence of some scholars from the Vikramashila community. To their surprise they couldn't find any living priest or monk left, since they slaughtered the community to the very roots.
Even after the country's independence, not much attention was paid to the once global learning center. The carelessness of the authorities also caused greater damage to the remains of Vikramashila.
Although the archaeological survey of india has started to work on the remains of the Vikramashila, the site is far from being termed restored. Prime Minister back in 2015 also declared a restoration package of Rs. 500 crore to the site.
The excavated site of the university holds Vikramashila Mahotsav every february which makes this university a favorite tourist destination.