Considered as one of India’s premiere universities, the Banaras Hindu University (commonly known as BHU) is spread over 1,350 acres of land located in Varanasi, India. World-famous and said to be Asia’s biggest residential university, BHU is a public university that boasts a total of over 24,000 enrolled students in campus, consisting of both Indians and foreign students. It is also ranked 3rd according to India Today’s Top 45 Universities as of 2011.
The land it sits on was donated by the hereditary ruler of Banaras of the Kingdom of Kashi, Kashi Naresh. He is deeply revered by the people of Varanasi as a reincarnation of Lord Shiva and the chief cultural patron and a religious leader.
The Banaras Hindu University owed its beginnings to the efforts of educator and freedom fighter, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. Armed with the ideology that there should be a learning institution based on Hindu philosophies Malviya urged the government to create the Parliamentary legislation B.H.U. Act of 1915. With shared beliefs with Annie Besant, the founder of the Central Hindu School in Varanasi where BHU began, BHU started quietly in the works. Then, gathering the support of Maharaja Sir Rameshwar Singh Bahadur and Kashi Naresh, Malviya organized the university in 1916. The Central Hindu School soon became the university’s base while the rest became history.
With around 140 departments and 55 hostels for students to stay in, the vast nature of the campus makes it difficult to tour in just one day. There are many institutions located within the campus to visit and take note of. There is the Institute of Medical Sciences that offers degrees in Nursing and Pharmacology. There is also the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development and the Institute of Technology (or IT-BHU), which is ranked 16th in India’s IIT. ITT is a group of autonomous engineering and technology-oriented higher education institutes. BHU also houses one of India’s oldest institutes in agricultural sciences.
Aspiring students and those who would like to further their education can choose from a wide array of courses to take. Some of which include commerce, education, law, management studies, performing arts, visual arts, science, engineering, agriculture, medicine, dentistry, social sciences, linguistics, library and information science, law, journalism, and mass communication. There are also some specialized Hindu and Indian courses such as Ayurveda and Sanskrit.
BHU is well known for its faculty of management studies and French studies. It is also where the DBT Center for Genetic Disorders and the Nanoscience and Technology Center can be found – two notable biotechnological research centers that are currently breaking grounds in science and technology. Its central library is home to approximately 60,000 volumes and manuscripts that are mostly hard to find.
Like many central public universities, the Banaras Hindu University offers national level undergraduate and graduate entrance exams for applicants. Admission to BHU is based on merit. Graduate studies and diploma courses are also offered, attracting a number of foreign students.
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Many notable personalities and celebrities graduated from Banaras Hindu University in different fields of expertise. Some of which include the American philosopher Robert M. Pirsig, singer/filmmaker Bhupen Hazarika, and poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan among others.
Aside from the main campus in Varanasi, there is also the Rajiv Gandhi Campus. This southern campus is located near the city of Mirzapur, eighty kilometers from the Banaras Hindu University campus. There are also several other BHU-affiliated schools that work together in bringing Hindu philosophy into this century’s way of life through the youth of the nation.