Odantapuri

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Odantapuri (Odantapura) Buddhist Bihar was situated in Magadha, about 10 kilometre away from Nalanda in West Bengal. It was established by king Dharmapala (770-810) of Pala Dynesty in the 8th century. It is considered as the second oldest universitiy of ancient India. Acharya Sri Ganga of vikramashila mahavihara (village Antichak, district Bhagalpur, Bihar) had been a student of this University.

With the rise of Buddhism in ancient Bengal there dawned the golden age of Indians culture and civilisation. There was progress in all aspects of Indian civilisation under the impact of Buddhism. Buddhist monks, could opt for a life of meditation in the forests, or a life of teaching, preaching, propagating the Dharma. As a result of the activities of the teaching of the monks, seats of learning arose. These seats of monastic learning gradually developed and some of them became full-fledged universities. Consequently ancient Bengal came to have five major universities, which achieved extensive reputation. A number of monasteries grew up during the Pala period in ancient Bengal and Magadha. According to the Tibetan sources, five Universities or monasteries were most significant. They were; Vikramashila, the premier university of the era; nalanda mahavihara, past its prime but still illustrious, somapura mahavihara, Odantapuri, and Jaggadala. The five monasteries formed a network; all of them were under state supervision and they formed a system of co-ordination among them.

Odantapuri was considered as the second oldest of Indians universities. According to the Tibetan records there were about 12,000 students at Odantapuri. In a Tibetan history of the Kalachakra Tantra called by the Sakya master Jamgon Amye Zhab (1597'1659), It is mentioned that Odantapuri was administered by 'Sendhapas'.

The universities perished at the hands of the Muslim invaders (Bakhtyar Khilji). Sakya Sri Bhadra, the last Buddhist teacher of Odantapuri fled to Jagaddala Vihara (in the northern region of ancient Bengal. Now situated in Naogaon District of Rajshahi Division) for his studies witnessing the ruins of the Monasteries. It is said that the Muslim Inveders mistook the universities with their high walls for fortresses. They thought that the Buddhist monks were 'shaven headed Brahmins'. Most of the earliest students and teachers of the Odantapuri and Nalanda were from Bengal region. [Nasrin Akhter]

Bibliography Elizabeth English, Vajrayogini: Her Visualization, Rituals and Forms. Wisdom Publications; Dutt Sukumar, Buddlist Monks and Monasteries of India, Their History and Contribution to Indian Culture, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London,1962.