Rajgir (Bihar), Aug 27 (IANS) The new Nalanda University here will emulate its historical predecessor in helping the youth pursue intellectual, philosophical, historical and spiritual studies, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday.
“Our goal is to bring together the brightest and the most dedicated students from all over the world, especially Asia, and enable them acquire a liberal education,” he said at the first convocation ceremony of the Nalanda University here, in which he awarded degrees and medals to students.
Mukherjee said the new Nalanda University is envisioned as a non-state, non-profit, secular and self-governing international institution.
He said the ancient seats of learning like Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramashila and Valabhi attracted scholars from all over the world and stood at the crossroads of many civilisations.
“Sadly, India’s modern day universities are yet to reach the top position in world rankings. We must work towards regaining that glory of the past,” the President said.
He, however, expressed satisfaction over some Indian institutions breaking into the top ranks of the universities of the world.
“I am particularly happy that as a result of persistent efforts, Indian institutions for the first time secured ranks within the top 200 universities in the world in the QS world university rankings 2015,” he said, noting that IISc-Bangalore stood at 147th position, IIT-Delhi at 179th and IIT-Bombay at 202nd.
He said the most important characteristic of ancient Nalanda was that it was an “international institution” where Inter-Asian connections flourished.
Chinese monks like Xuan Zang, Yijing and Huichao, among others, visited, lived, studied and taught in Nalanda.
He hoped that the new university will attain the glory associated with its eponymous predecessor.
“It is my hope that this university will truly attain the status of Nalanda of yore. There are many practices of the ancient Nalanda which are worthy of emulation by the new Nalanda,” he said.
Ancient Nalanda was known for the high level of debate and discussion it nurtured. It was not a mere geographical expression but it reflected an idea and a culture. Nalanda conveyed the message of friendship, cooperation, debate, discussion and argument, he said.
“Discussion and debate are part of our ethos and life. They cannot be done away with. Universities and higher education institutions are the best forums for debate, discussion and free exchange of views,” the President said.
Mukherjee also launched the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the new university campus.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Chancellor of the university George Yeo and former Chancellor and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen were also present at the ceremony.
Representatives of eight countries participated in the convocation.