Nalanda was an ancient Mahavihara, a large and revered Buddhist monastery, in the ancient kingdom of Magadha (modern-day Bihar) in India. The site is located about 95 kilometres (59 mi) southeast of Patna near the city of Bihar Sharif, and was an important centre of learning from the fifth century CE to c. 1200 CE. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The highly formalized methods of Vedic scholarship helped inspire the establishment of large teaching institutions such as Taxila, Nalanda, and Vikramashila, which are often characterised as India’s early universities. Nalanda flourished under the patronage of the Gupta Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries, and later under Harsha, the emperor of Kannauj. The liberal cultural traditions inherited from the Gupta age resulted in a period of growth and prosperity until the ninth century CE. The subsequent centuries were a time of gradual decline, a period during which the tantric developments of Buddhism became most pronounced in eastern India under the Pala Empire.