Birth place of “0” (zero or cipher)
Imagine a world without “0” (zero)? No! It is impossible to live in a world without a zero. Way back in 458 A.D. Bihar gave to the world the magical numeral “0”. And the world was never the same place again. It is Bihar where zero became a number.
If you want to visit the place where this magic number originated, you have to move about 30 km away to Taregana from Patna. How interesting, Tare means stars and Ganana means counting. It was here where astronomer and mathematician Aryabhatta not only observed and made theories on the constellation, heavenly bodies and cosmic world but also invented zero.
Today’s squat-little Taregana or Taregna may be a forgotten or forlorn place today where life comes to an end with the fall of the night but 1500 years ago, it was a very well known place in Aryavarta as Aryabhatta lived here. Scholars from all over Aryavarta would come he Taregna to learn mathematics and astronomy from Aryabhatta.
Without Bihar’s Taregna, the world would not have been what it is today. It is believed Aryabhatta was born here. It was he who developed zero and also taught about its application. Some claim it was Brahmagupta who discovered zero, but it was certainly Aryabhatta who recognized “0” as a number, gave theories on how to reach to a zero and also developed mathematical operation using zero.
Theory on the Eclipses Originated in Bihar
At a time when fear, curiosity, myths, legends and superstitions were associated with the solar and lunar eclipses, Aryabhatta evolved scientific concept of solar and lunar eclipses. Can you believe, the people around the earth at that time had no idea that moon and planets had no lights of their own and are lighted by the sun.
It may be Aryabhatta’s observatory located at Taregana or Khagaol in Patna from where he studied the planetary motions but his theory on eclipses was absolutely accurate. Legends has it that one of his laboratories might have been located at Khagaol. Nearly 1500 years ago when Aryabhatta propounded his theories on eclipses, the people in almost all other parts of the world were so ignorant about eclipses that they thought wolves eat up the sun and a giant frog devoured the sun. Some blamed marauding demons and ravenous jaguars devoured the moon.
One really feels proud while walking through the ancient lanes and by-lanes of Khagaol and Taregana that from these two non-descript places, the scientific theories on eclipse travelled to various parts of the world.
Concept of Global University
Much before the concepts of global universities were born in the world, they were functioning in Bihar. Believe it or not, the concept of Mahavira or international universities first took its root in Telhara, Odantapuri, Nalanda (Nalanda city) and Vikramshila (modern Bhagalpur).
When we talk of ancient universities, the names of Platonic Academy and Peripatetic School of Athens of Greece comes in the forefront. These institutions came into being in 387 B.C. and 335 B.C. respectively.
As the name suggests, the Platonic Academy was established by philosopher Plato and Peripatetic School by Plato’s disciple Aristotle. But they were not international centres of learning or universities as the students primarily were the Grecians.
In fact, the concept of global universities had not emerged in those days when battle cries, bloodshed and internecine skirmishes were common. People could not even imagine of a seat of learning where students, scholars, philosophers and experts on theology could congregate.
A realistic look at the functioning of three independent universities – Nalanda, Vikramshila, Odantapuri and Telhara – in or around 5th century A.D. proves that the concept of global universities must have spread to other parts of the world from Bihar.
Just imagine there was a time hundreds of years back when the local people habilitating in these four university towns could listen various languages and also see people of South East Asia and Tibet moving around wearing saffron or maroon robes of Buddhism.
Records of various Chinese travellers and scholars who had studied and taught in these universities establishes it beyond doubt that they were global universities. Written records and chronicles of the Chinese Buddhist scholars Fa Hien, Huen Tsang and scholars of South East Asia go to prove that these universities had independent board of education, board of administration, board of discipline and the board of charge of entrance examination.
They had professors and students from all parts of contemporary India and South East Asia. Such universities used to attract a large number of students from China, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Mayanmar, Mongolia, Japan and Vietnam.
To claim Bihar’s primordial contribution towards giving birth to the concept of global university, let us first walk to Odantapuri what is today known as Bihar Sharif, only six miles from the ruins of Nalanda University. We may not now have much knowledge of Odantapuri but in the 7th century A.D. this was a very famous university where nearly 12,000 students from all across Asia studied.
A large number of ancient Tibetan chronicles speak about Odantapuri: one of the most prominent universities where a large number of students from Tibet thronged.
As you trot through the narrow lanes of non-descriptive Telhara hamlet in the Hilsa sub-division of Nalanda district, you can hardly imagine that nearly 1500 years ago, it was a place that could virtually be termed as mini-South Asia as Chinese scholars here rubbed their shoulders with Tibetan philosophers while Sri Lankan monks would hold arguments on philosophies of Buddhism with their Mongolian counterpart.
Huen Tsang mentions about Telhara in his account In Bihar
Archaeological excavations are being carried out in and around Telhara to locate the lost university. Way back in 1872, the Magistrate of Nalanda A.M. Broadley wrote a letter to the British Government about the ruins of Telhara that he had noticed.
Among the four global universities, the most prominent happened to be Nalanda Mahavira flourishing between 5th century A.D. till 12th century A.D.. In fact, the very name of Nalanda conjures up scenes of scholars and students from Korea, Tibet, China, Mongolia and other parts of Central Asia gathering here to study Buddhism, logic, law, medicine and philosophy.
It seems each and every brick of the vast ruins of Nalanda Mahavihara tells us the tale of those bygone days when Fa Hien and Huen Tsang stayed here.
Fa Hien and Huen Tsang, in their travel accounts, have vividly painted those ancient days when today’s ruins were beautiful buildings and the whole university ground used to be abuzz with students, researchers, scholars and learned teachers. Huen Tsang described the Mahavihara in a very lyrical way:“….where an azure pool winds around the monasteries adorned with the full-blown cups of blue lotus….
the dazzling red flowers of lovely Kanaka hang here and there outside groves of mango trees offer the inhabitants their dense and protective shade….”
Fa Hien, visiting the Mahavihara in 5th century A.D., copied a large number of books on Buddhist philosophy, science, linguistics, logic and mathematics. He took them back home in China. Huen Tsang also did the same thing, proving that there existed a vast library of books in the university premises.
As you walk along the ruins of Antichak village near Kahalgaon in Bhagalpur district on a full-moon night, suddenly you feel the ruins of the ancient Mahavihara of Vikramshila have turned very talkative. Of course, the ruins do have every right to talk….and talk a lot about its past glory when King Dharmapala established this international university some 13 years back.
Today, hardly anybody in India is aware of the ancient Antichak but this was the place from where Dipankar Atish, one of the teachers of Vikramshila Mahavihara, had taken Buddhism to Tibet way back in 10th century A.D.
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