Almost every one of us knows the legacy of Western Universities. Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, Yale are a few of the notable ones. But very few of us are aware of the fact, “How Incredible Indian Universities were !”.
Once upon a time, India was the knowledge hub of the entire world. It was known as ‘The Land of Seekers’. Famous Chinese travellers like Fa Hien, Heuin Tsang and Xijing documented the rich culture and education system of India in their texts. But, post 12th Century all of these wonders were systematically destroyed by the Islamic invasions followed by colonial dominance.
We will not go into the details of foreign invasions and occupation, since this topic is a world by itself. We will discuss this elaborately in some other post.
For now we will keep the discussion only Ancient Indian Universities centric.
At one time there used to be a minimum of 100 Big Universities in the entire country. It is even recorded that many of the places can hold up to 10000 students at a single time!
Apart from academics, there were many other subjects that were taught by scholars, teachers and yogis. Due to the presence of so many incredible Universities, we will divide the blog into small parts. In Part 1, of the blog, we are going to discuss 5 of the Top Universities of Ancient India according to us.
Let us finally come to the point, and get to know each of the universities one by one.
1. Takshashila University –
Takshashila or Taxila(the name given by Greeks) was the first University, established in Ancient India. Post partition, unfortunately, the university fell into the region of Pakistan. According to legend, the University was founded by King Bharata, brother of Lord Rama way back in 5000 BC. But many modern historians claim that it was founded around 1000 BC.
In several historical documents of India like Puranas, Jataka Tales followed by biographies of Fa Hien & Hiuen Tsang, the glories of Takshashila is mentioned. It is said, the campus was so huge that it could accommodate more than 10k students at one time. Students from China, Babylon, Greece, Arabia all came here to receive a quality education.
Panini, the famous Sanskrit grammarian and Charaka, author of Charaka Samiha were alumni of this university. However, Takshashila gained its massive popularity due to Chanakya. It is said that he composed his famous work Kautaliya’s Arthashastra, here.
The University offered sixty different courses in various fields. Science, Mathematics, Medicine, Archery, Politics, Warfare, Astrology, Astronomy, Music are a few of the notable ones.
The legacy of Takshashila came to an end after Hephthalite invasions around the 7th Century AD.
2. Nalanda University –
Nalanda was considered the best among all the Universities in Ancient India. According to archaeological surveys, Nalanda has established a minimum of 3500 years ago. As ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) hasn’t done the necessary research, we get to know about Nalanda mostly from the writings of Chinese travellers Xuanzang and Yijing.
The Chinese travellers mentioned that the admission test of Nalanda used to be one of the hardest across the country. Only 20% of the students who applied got through it. Like Takshashila, Nalanda also had courses in a wide variety of fields. Vedantic texts, Classical Sanskrit, Science and Arts are just a few of the notable ones.
One of the key aspects of Nalanda was, it was the house for many Brahmacharis and monks. Their strong discipline and commitment to other’s well being took the place to greater heights.
Inside the campus, there were also many temples, sculptures, ponds and majestic monuments. Most of them were built by famous emperors over a period of time.
In the 12th Century due to a series of brutal and horrific Turkic invasions, Nalanda was destroyed in the worst possible manner. After that, it couldn’t recover again. A ghostly version of it is standing even today in the state of Bihar.
3. Sharda Peeth Temple University –
One of the majestic things of Ancient India was its Temple Universities. Sharda Peeth Temple University was the most popular and prominent Temple University of that time.
It was established somewhere between the 6th-12th century. The place was named after Goddess Saraswati, who is also known as Sharda. In Hindu Itihasa, Devi Saraswati resembles Education, Music, Arts & Culture. Sharda University was a plethora of all these things and thus justified the name prominently.
Like all other Temple Universities, in Sharda Peeth both Academics and Cultural Exploration used to go side by side. It used to have one of the largest libraries which have unique texts and documents. Scholars and Readers from around the country and world used to come here for their research.
The ruins of the University are still standing in the Pakistan portion of Kashmir.
4. Pushpagiri University –
Pushpagiri was another important university of Ancient India. It is located in modern-day Orissa. However, ASI hasn’t done any research until 1990, when a local teacher accidentally stumbled upon the ruins of the University.
Whatever little we know about Pushpagiri, is mostly from Huien Tsang’s texts. Pushpagiri was actually composed of three campuses located on adjoining hills. They are Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri. Together they were known as Pushpagiri Vihara. From the little research over Pushpagiri, we know that it was built during the times of Maurya or Gupta rule.
By seeing the pattern of the sculptures it is found that Pushpagiri was a great centre for Buddhist studies. Though Buddhism is a part of the broader Hindu Culture, still many people authorize Pushpagiri as a Buddhist University.
5. Vallabhi University –
Vallabhi was established in the year 1200 CE. It is located in modern-day Gujarat. This is also a place where excessive research is urgently needed. However, in the year 2017, the Central Government formed a forum for the revival of the University.
Like Pushpagiri, Vallabhi is also branded as a Buddhist seat of learning. However many ancient Brahmin texts had been discovered here. Vallabhi was mainly popular for business, administration and political science-based studies. Students after graduation either took up entrepreneurship or hired as important government counsels.
The University was entirely funded by local rulers and education was offered free of cost like many other Indian Universities. Many ancient scholars used to compare Vallabhi with Nalanda. It is like Modern Era’s IITs vs BITs. Like most other Indian Universities, its legacy was also destroyed by foreign invasions.
We will come up soon with Part 2 of this blog. Till then stay happy and keep learning !!
Curated & Written by Satyaki KC