Nalanda University Ruins Archaeological Complex is visited by tourists as part of their tour of the city. The architectural brilliance of the ancient times is well depicted in those ruins that have made them much popular.
The complex consists of the total area of the excavation, which is spread across about 14 hectares. All the edifices are made of the red brick. Meanwhile, the gardens are beautiful. The buildings are separated by a central walk way that connects south and north. The monasteries, also known as "Viharas" in local dialect, are located towards the east of this central alley and the temple or "Chaiyas" are located towards the west. The Vihara-1 is, indeed, the most captivating with its cells existing on two floors constructed around Nalanda University Ruins. There is even a central courtyard existing where steps lead up to what must have been a dais meant for the professors for addressing their students and conducting seminars. A small chapel still represents a half broken statue of the Lord Buddha.
Facing the Sariputra Stupa are two monasteries (sites 1A and 1B) located towards the east. The main gates could be seen on the north and it leads one to the spacious verandah with the roof balanced on pillars. There are cells of monks that are seen on all four sides. In Site 1B, there is an octagonal well in the corner of the courtyard and well planned drains for the process of sewage disposal. As one reaches further north, there are 9 other monasteries depicting the same layout, except for the entrances facing west. Each monastery was furnished with a shrine chamber having the colossal image of Buddha (most evident in Monastery Site 1). The monasteries were well planned with thick plaster walls within consisting of monastic cells, a safe, a well, and drains. They reflect the different layers of constructions and thereby ensuring different periods of occupation. Monastery Site 1 suggests no less than nine different levels with other monasteries having two or three layers.
As for the religious structures, a majority of the rectangular temples are two tiered brick structures with sanctum being centrally constructed on the upper tier with ample space meant for circumambulation. Temple Site 2 is partially different in absence of the prevalent brick structures. It consists of stones and its beauty is represented through more than two hundred sculptured panels. The themes greatly depend upon the Hindu mythology such as Siva and Parvati, Gaja Lakshmi, Kubera, Agni etc. There are other panels that have interesting geometric patterns while others are spectacular decorative devices depicting birds, animals, couples, musical instruments, etc. These panels are uniquely featured with pilasters apart from pot and foliage designs.
However, the most striking feature of the complex is its grand structure known as the Sariputra Stupa or Temple site 3 which is located towards the extreme south. The centre of attraction is the mammoth pyramidal mass of the Temple site 3 that is much impressive and from its top provides a spectacular view of the whole area. The result of the seven layers of successive constructions that protects the original stupa could be seen here, which seems to be small and buried deep within. It is abounded by smaller stupas, most of which are adorned with small and big statues of the Lord Buddha existing in different poses, known as "Mudras". It is a spectacle adorned with a stretch of niches depicting Buddha, Bodhisattvas and several other events of Buddha’s life. A staircase lets one to the top providing a better perspective of the world famous university.