Takshashila: The world’s first known university

takshashila

At least 2,800 years ago, circa 800BCE, there existed a giant University at Takshashila (often called Taxila), a town located in the north-western region of India (in today’s Pakistan). According to references in the Ramayana, King Bharata founded the town in the name of his son, Taksha.

The site initially began to develop as a loosely connected group of buildings where learned persons resided, worked and taught. Over the years, additional buildings were added; rulers made donations and more scholars migrated there. Gradually a large campus developed, which became a celebrated seat of learning in the ancient world.

Some interesting facts about Takshashila:

– Not only Indians but also students from as far as Babylonia, Greece, Syria, Arabia, Phoenicia and China came to study.

– 68 different streams of knowledge were taught and studied.

– A wide range of subjects were taught by experienced masters: Vedas, Language, Grammar, Philosophy, Medicine, Surgery, – – Archery, Politics, Warfare, Astronomy, Astrology, Accounts, Commerce, Futurology, Documentation, Occult, Music, Dance, etc.

– The minimum entrance age was 16 and there were 10,500 students.

– The panel of masters included renowned names like Kautilya (the author of the “Arthashastra”), Panini (the codifier of – Sanskrit into today’s form), Jivak (medicine) and Vishnu Sharma (author and compiler of the Panchtantra).

– When Alexander’s armies came to the Punjab in the fourth century B.C., Takshashila had already developed a reputation as an important seat of learning. Thus on his return Alexander took many scholars from there with him to Greece.

Being near the north-west frontier of India, Takshashila had to face the brunt of attacks and invasions from the north and the west. Thus the Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Shakas and Kushanas laid their destructive marks on this institution. The final blow, however, came from the Huns (also the destroyers of the Roman Empire) who, A.D. c.450, razed the institution. When the Chinese traveller Huen T’sang (A.D. 603-64) visited Takshashila, the town had lost all its former grandeur and international character.

Related article:

Education system in pre-British India (Ram Swarup)

Nalanda university (another famous ancient Indian university, slightly later than Takshashila)

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Comments

  1. Neeraj Bhandari says:

    Thank you Rajesh ji for great information but I heard that at that there were about 60000 students from across the world and Chandragupt Maurya & Shri Chanakya also related with Takshila. Am right

  2. Hi Neeraj,

    From what I know – it is generally believed that Chanakya & Chandragupta wee connected with Takshashila.

    I do not have any firm information as to the number of students who studied there. But to put it into perspective, 10,000 – 15,000 is the population of quite a large university even today; so either way it was a large institution.

    Rajesh

  3. ethicalman says:

    ‘Vishnu Sharma (author and compiler of the Panchtantra).’ i don’t think think that is right..Panchtatra were written later on ..defintely after 1000 ADE..whereas Taxila reign ended by 500 ADE as you have written..

  4. Hi ethicalman,

    On what basis do you say the Panchatantra was written so late?

    Please check the wikipedia entry on Panchatanta – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panchatantra.

    Although Wikipepia is not the best source of history, it does illustrate that it is conventional wisdom that the Panchtantra were compiled a few centuries BCE. The after 1000CE is more likely to be related to the date the works first reached Europe.

    Kind regards

    Rajesh

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