India: Marketing family planning in a land of one billion people

 The ruins of Nalanda University, founded in the 5th century A.D.

THE DISPATCHES: Amit Sinha, David Plink, Julie Earne, Mona Gavankar, Dhruti Patel

Crossing the Ganges, exploring an ancient university, and doing a little cooking

During the middle of last week we toured various rural towns and villages, including Paliganj, Biharsharif, Muzzafarpur, Bihta, Bikram and Harnouth, in the searing Indian summer of the Gangetic plains. As we traveled north of Patna, we crossed the Ganges, a magnificent river still full of water and over 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in breadth. (Read more about the Ganges, including the blind species of dolphins that live in it.)

We also visited the archaeological ruins of Nalanda University, which contrasts starkly with the illiteracy of present-day Bihar. One of the world's earliest universities, Nalanda was founded in the 5th century AD under the auspices of Mahayana Buddhism and flourished until the 12th century. At its peak it housed 10,000 students and 1,500 teachers. Most of the university's history was recorded by foreign travelers from China and East Asia as the university itself was burned down by invader Bakhtiyar Khilji and lay burning for several months. These ruins were excavated in the 19th century.

We also had our first taste of weekend life in Patna. On Saturday night we took a cooking class, learning to make Bindi Masala and Daal Fry. We're convinced that we can now give some of the Indian joints back home on University Avenue a run for their money! On Sunday night we were transported into the world of Colonial India as we dined at the Patna Club. It was a wonderful way of ending our first week in Patna.

óMona and Julie

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