Thursday Doors – Indian Nationality Room

Welcome to Indian Nationality Room
Welcome to Indian Nationality Room

Late last year, I featured The Cathedral of Learning, on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus, in a couple of posts, including a Thursday Doors post. I mentioned that one of the signature elements of the Cathedral of Learning is a group of Nationality Rooms that have been built on the first and third floors around the Commons. I promised to share some information about these rooms “beginning in January” – it looks like I missed that deadline. Oh well, what’s a couple of days among friends?

Originally, these rooms were dedicated to the various ethnic groups that played an important role in the history of Western Pennsylvania. The rooms were supposed to occupy the first floor, with rooms related to Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania occupying the 2nd and 3rd floors. The plans for the 2nd and 3rd floor rooms fell short, and the Nationality Rooms began to expand to the 3rd floor. They also expanded the scope of the rooms to allow inclusion of: “a body of people associated with a particular territory and possessing a distinctive cultural and social way of life…”

The rooms have been designed to have a common theme and purpose. They do not include political references or symbols and they do not include portraits of living people. All but two of the rooms are functioning classrooms; I had a class in one when I was in graduate school at Pitt. One of the guiding principles dictates the period represented in each room’s design:

The design of a given historical period must be cultural and aesthetic, not political. The period depicted should be prior to 1787, the year the University was founded.”

The Indian Nationality Room, is the first room that I want to share, for two reasons. One, the room contains a lot of doors. Two, my friend Sharukh Bamboat lives in India, and I thought it would be a nice way of honoring our friendship. Sharukh also helped me with the research on the room’s design.

According to the archives of the Indian Nationality Room Committee:

The committee was inspired by the ancient Nālandā University, an eminent institution in India from the 5th through 12th centuries CE, which they chose to represent Indian culture and heritage in their nationality room. Nālandā was an international center of learning in Asia, providing free education to those students fortunate enough to pass the rigorous entrance examinations.”

According to Sharukh:

Nalanda was initially a place where monks would come in to learn more about Vedas and the scriptures. It was an international residential school (with meditation halls, classrooms and dorms). The city still exists and is an administrative district in the state of Bihar (pronounced as Bee-har). The name of the state comes from the word Vihar (Vee-har). It became one of the top places across Asia for Vedic learning during the Gupta Empire.

A little bit about the Gupta dynasty – They were the pioneers in the field of art, dialects, engineering, literature, logic and mathematics. It was during the Gupta dynasty that scholars like Aryabhatta (who studied here) first came up with the concept of zero.”

I have left out much of the information Sharukh shared with me, but I am encouraging him to share the full story with readers of his wonderful India travel blog.

I am going to add one more excerpt from Sharukh’s information, because it explains a prominent artifact in the room (and in my photos), the seal on the wall:

Regarding the round Nalanda seal that you see on the wall (in your pictures it’s done on the wood). The Sanskrit scripture says – “Sri Nalanda Mahavihariya Arya Bhiksusamghasya” which means “Community of the Monks of the Great Monastery at Nalanda”. The circle in the seal is the Dharmachakra (Wheel of Dharma). It would be hard for me to explain the concept of dharma, but in an outline, it encompasses the “way of living”. You know its like every individual has to be responsible for his role on the planet, his duties, his conducts with his loved ones and the world, his virtues and so on. This is the Wheel of Dharma which sits high on the seal. The deers symbolize the deer park at Sarnath which is close to Nalanda. A place where monks would go to meditate.”

Thanks again to Sharukh, and thanks also to Norm Frampton, without whom, Thursday Doors would be, well that’s the point, it wouldn’t be. Norm lets us share our doors each week on his list. If you have a door to share, or if you just want to see some great doors, slide on up to Norm’s place. Check out Norm’s doors, which are always worth a look, and then find and click on the blue frog.

I hope you enjoy the photos from the Indian Room. I plan to share other photos and stories, but since I don’t have many door photos, I’ll have to find another home for them on the blog.

77 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Indian Nationality Room

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    1. Thank you Teagan. I’m glad you like “Cathy” because I have many more photos to share. I think 2017 is a good year to highlight the celebration of the different people and cultures that made my hometown great. They started building these rooms almost 90 years ago, and they are still building them. I think that’s a good thing.

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  1. Thank you Dan for honoring the friendship. I’m honored and glad that I could contribute in some way to Thursday Doors. The last image is a miniature version of Buddhist stupa. Stupa is this mound-shaped structure that contains relics of monks and nuns. It is usually placed in the meditation area. Symbolically is represents Lord Buddha in the sitting position. It also represents five elements of the nature i.e. water, fire, earth, air and the space above. Stupas come in different sizes. You remember I did a Bhaja Caves hiking with Sarah and my colleagues. In my post An Expedition to Bhaja Caves you can see me standing in front of a stupa. Some stupas are as large as 5-floors building and you can actually walk inside it.

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    1. Thank you Sharukh, I’ll edit the caption for that photo and direct people to your comment. I was going to wait so that we could coordinate a little better on these photos, but I wanted to put something out here that shows how we celebrate our differences. These rooms make the statement that it is our differences that made/make us strong. I am so glad that the India room had a wealth of doors, because this is the most popular day of the week on my blog. I am glad that more people will see this room than may see the others, although they are all important.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Some of the artifacts in all the Nationality Rooms are donated by the countries/regions that are represented. This represents a much earlier time, but I hope the message survives.

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  2. I have a chequered past with doors, having once walked into one, while on another occasion, one was slammed in my face (thanks mum)
    However, I thought the doors above were very nice and may have helped ease my aversion to them as a generic entity.
    I therefore thank you
    Good day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Dan, for sharing the story and doors and to Sharukh for providing some of the research. It’s an absolutely beautiful and inviting room! I have a question, though. Do all of the classrooms within the Nationality Rooms have the chairs/desks arranged in a similar pattern? Or is it unique to the India Room? The India room took me back to a time when I attended a church in southern Wisconsin where the pews are arranged like this, facing each other rather than the front. It was odd to me.

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    1. Thanks Mary. As you will see in future posts, the rooms are all somewhat different. Many have groups of chairs, in a traditional classroom setting. Some have a center table. Some have several tables. Some have lecterns, others just a blackboard. Most of the rooms have artifacts that were provided by the country/region being recognized.

      I’m with you, I’m not sure I could study in this kind of arrangement.

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    2. Mary, this is a courtyard-style arrangement. In this arrangement, every participant can see each other while discussing. In a regular classroom arrangement if a backbencher has something to say, the front benchers will have to turn around to see who’s speaking.

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    1. Thanks Deborah. For a variety of reasons, I think this was the best room to start with. The beautiful woodwork really appealed to me. It will take me a while to get through all of them, but I’m not in a hurry. I think a periodic reminder of the value other cultures bring to the table is a good message.

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  4. How beautiful the Indian room is, as well as the door. The wood comes out so beautifully when it is finished like this. And you did so much research on it. If I had a research committee, you would be on it! Since research was part of my training, I am not saying this lightly:)

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  5. This is wonderful collaboration between you and Sharukh, Dan. As an Indian ( who doesn’t live in India at the moment) I love how you guys got together to work on this project. Buddhism and Hinduism had their origins in India, and the ‘dharma’ was part of a social and cultural renaissance in the period. I wish India could some day again claim a place as a centre of learning as it did in the times of Nalanda.

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    1. Thank you Damyanti. I learned so much while preparing this post. I hope Sharukh follows with a more complete post. He gave me so much information, I wish I could have shared more. I wanted to start this series because I think we need to remember how much value other cultures bring to our own.

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  6. ASTOUNDING post, Dan! The information you packed in here for us to read left me here a long time. The workmanship in all I saw floored me. Detail after detail I looked at longing to be there in person. Thank you for reminding all of us how important each and every one of our cultures is and how important it is to be friends with all. LOVED this and I SO thank you!! <3

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    1. Thank you Amy. I am so happy with the reaction to this post. The room is one of the most beautiful rooms in the collection, and it is somewhat unique in the level of detail of the recreation. The level of craftsmanship is amazing. It really felt like we ad entered another place on the planet. To realize that we were in a room on the 3rd floor of a Gothic cathedral felt a little strange.

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  7. It really is an impressive undertaking. What a beautiful place to start your Nationality Rooms posts. The wood is so intricate and the contrast of the marble columns against the brick is really unique. You and Sahrukh did a wonderful job sharing it.

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    1. Thanks Cheryl. I think this was the perfect room to start with. It’s almost magical, to walk out of a Gothic Cathedral and step into 12th century India. Sharukh was so helpful. I can’t thank him enough.

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  8. This building just keeps getting better and better! The care and attention that went into the planning and construction of it just blows me away. The detail in this Indian Room is stunning … however I’m trying to imagine sitting through a long meeting or lecture in one of the benches ;)

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    1. Thanks Joanne. It really is beautiful I would guess that they use the classroom for discussions more than lectures. I only had one class that used a Nationality Room, and we didn’t use it on a regular basis. It was one of the large ones, and it worked better for one topic, so the professor moved us in for a few classes. They also use the rooms for special events, guest speakers and group meetings. Of course, at my age, the thought of sitting on an unpadded chair for any length of time makes me cringe.

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      1. In spite of all the padding I have, my butt would be complaining in no time ;)

        This post inspired me to read a little bit about dharma – a word I’ve run across on numerous occasions but never really dwelled on it.
        What I read was that if rta represents cosmic order, then dharma represents “the way” to achieve it. It is the moral and ethical behaviours that provides balance and harmony in life.
        I rather like that :)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think we could use a little more of that approach in the world. I am encouraging Sharukh to build on the research he sent me. I hope I can get him to put together a post. He has done a great job explaining elements of Indian culture and other religions that are/were practiced.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I hope better late than never, Dan. . . At least it’s not another Thursday yet! :)
    I remember your mentioning nationality doors and this carved Indian Nationality Door is beautiful and detailed.
    I liked the double arched photograph in the hall outside the Indian door. The best part of this post was how you collaborated with Sharukh. His input was interesting and lends honest validation to the details given.

    Liked by 1 person

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