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Location of Vikramaśīla
in Bihar and India
Coordinates 25°21′N 87°20′E / 25.35°N 87.33°E / 25.35; 87.33
Country  India
State Bihar
Nearest city Bhagalpur
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Ruins of Vikramshila University

Vikramaśīla University was one of the two most important centers of Buddhist learning in India during the Pala dynasty, along with Nālandā University. Vikramaśīla was established by King Dharmapala (783 to 820) in response to a supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nālandā. Atisha, the renowned pandita, is sometimes listed as a notable abbot.

Vikramasila (village Antichak, district Bhagalpur, Bihar) is located at about 50 km east of Bhagalpur and about 13 km north-east of Kahalgaon, a railway station on Bhagalpur-Sahebganj section of Eastern Railway. It is approachable through 11 km long motorable road diverting from N.H.80 at Anadipur about 2 km from Kahalgaon.



A number of monasteries grew up during the Pāla period in ancient Bengal and Magadha. According to Tibetan sources, five great Mahaviharas stood out: Vikramaśīla, Nalanda, Somapura, Odantapurā, and Jaggadala. [1] The five monasteries formed a network; "all of them were under state supervision" and their existed "a system of co-ordination among them . . it seems from the evidence that the different seats of Buddhist learning that functioned in eastern India under the Pāla were regarded together as forming a network, an interlinked group of institutions," and it was common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among them.[2]

Vikramaśīla was founded by Pala king Dharmapala in late 8th or early 9th Century A.D. It prospered for about four centuries before it was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji during fighting with the Sena dynasty along with the other major centers of Buddhism in India notably Nalanda at around 1200 A.D. [3][4]

Great source of Information to Vikramshila is known to us mainly through Tibetan sources, especially the writings of Tāranātha, the Tibetan monk historian of 16th-17th Century A.D. Vikramasila was one of the largest Buddhist universities, with more than hundred teachers and about one thousand students. It produced eminent scholars who were often invited by foreign countries to spread Buddhist learning, culture and religion. The most distinguished and eminent among all was Atisa Dipankara, a founder of the Sarma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Subjects like theology, philosophy, grammar, metaphysics, Indian logic etc. were taught here, but the most important branch of learning was tantrism.


According to scholar Sukumar Dutt, Vikramaśīla appears to have had a more clearly delineated heirarchy than other mahaviharas, as follows:[5]

  • Abbot (Adhyakṣa)
  • Six gate protectors or gate scholars (Dvārapāla or Dvārapaṇḍita), one each for the Eastern, Western, First Central, Second Central, Northern, and Southern Gates
  • Great Scholars (Mahapaṇḍita)
  • Scholars (Paṇḍita), roughly 108 in number
  • Professors or Teachers (Upādhyāya or Āchārya), roughly 160 in number including paṇḍitas
  • Resident monks (bhikṣu), roughly 1,000 in number

According to Tāranātha, at Vikramaśīla's peak during the reign of King Canaka (955-83), the dvārapāla were as follows: Ratnākaraśānti (Eastern Gate), Vāgīsvarakīrti (Western Gate), Ratnavajra (First Central Gate), Jñānaśrīmitra (Second Central Gate), Naropa (Northern Gate), and Prajñākaramati (Southern Gate).[6] If this is correct, it must have been toward the end of Canaka's reign given the generally accepted dates for Naropa (956-1041).

Layout and excavation

Pilgrimage to
Holy Sites
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The Four Main Sites
Lumbini · Bodh Gaya
Sarnath · Kushinagar
Four Additional Sites
Sravasti · Rajgir
Sankissa · Vaishali
Other Sites
Patna · Gaya · Kosambi
Kapilavastu · Devadaha
Kesariya · Pava
Nalanda · Vikramshila · Varanasi
Later Sites
Sanchi · Mathura

Ellora · Ajanta
Ratnagiri · Udayagiri
Bharhut · Barabar Caves

The remains of the ancient university have been partially excavated at village Antichak in the Bhagalpur district, Bihar state, India, and the process is still underway. Meticulous excavation at the site was conducted initially by Patna University (1960-69) and subsequently by Archaeological Survey of India (1972-82). It has revealed a huge square monastery with a cruciform stupa in its centre, a library building and cluster of votive stupas. To the north of monastery a number of scattered structures including a Tibetan and a Hindu temple have been found. The entire spread is over an area of more than one hundred acres.

The monastery, or residence for the Buddhist monks, is a huge square structure, each side measuring 330 metres having a series of 208 cells, 52 on each of the four sides opening into a common verandah. A few brick arched underground chambers beneath some of the cells have also been noticed which were probably meant for confined meditation by the monks.

The main stupa built for the purpose of worship is a brick structure laid in mud mortar which stands in the centre of the square monastery. This two terraced stupa is cruciform on plan and about 15 metres high from the ground level accessible through a flight of steps on the north side. On each of the four cardinal directions there is a protruding chamber with a pillared antechamber and a separate pillared mandapa in front. In the four chambers of the stupa were placed colossal stucco images of seated Buddha of which three were found in situ but the remaining one on north side was possibly replaced by a stone image after the clay image was somehow damaged.

The walls of both the terraces are decorated with mouldings and terracotta plaques which testify the high excellence of terracotta art flourishing in the region during Pala period (8th to 12th Century A.D.).

About 32 metres south of the monastery on its south west corner and attached with the main monastery through a narrow corridor is a rectangular structure identified as a library building. It was air-conditioned by cooled water of the adjoining reservoir through a range of vents in the back wall. The system was perhaps meant for preserving delicate manuscripts.

The architecture of the stupa and the themes of terracotta plaques of Vikramasila Mahavihara are comparable to the contemporary Somapura Mahavihara, Paharpur (Bangladesh). On plan both are very much alike with the significant difference that Somapura is centered around a central temple rather than a stupa. Vikramasila monastery is also larger and has fort like projections on its outer wall.

A large number of antiquities of different materials, unearthed from this place in the course of excavation, are displayed in the site museum maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Restoration Work

Being neglected for Years which contributed to extensive damages to the monument A.S.I. is now planning to develop the excavated site of Vikramshila University.[7][8][9]

How To Reach There

Nearest Big Town is Kahalgaon about 13km ,It is approachable through 11 km long motorable road diverting from N.H. 80 at place Anadipur about 2 km from Kahalgaon.

In popular culture

Indian Railway Train fames this place by running a Train No. 2367/2368 Vikramshila Express that runs from Delhi to Bhagalpur, Bihar.



  1. ^ Vajrayogini: Her Visualization, Rituals, and Forms by Elizabeth English. Wisdom Publications. ISBN: 0-86171-329-X pg 15
  2. ^ Buddhist Monks And Monasteries Of India: Their History And Contribution To Indian Culture. by Dutt, Sukumar. George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London 1962. pg 352-3
  3. ^ The evolution of ideals of womenhood in Indian society By Candrabalī Tripāṭhī, Chandra Mauli Mani
  4. ^
  5. ^ Buddhist Monks And Monasteries Of India: Their History And Contribution To Indian Culture. by Dutt, Sukumar. George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London 1962. pg 360-61
  6. ^ Buddhist Monks And Monasteries Of India: Their History And Contribution To Indian Culture. by Dutt, Sukumar. George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London 1962. pg 360-61
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^

See also

External links



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