• Pranav Nandurkar

Do you know: All about worlds first and oldest university - Taxila (Takshashila) 

Taxila also known as Takshashila, flourished from 600 BC to 500 AD, in the kingdom of Gandhar. 68 subjects were taught at this university and the minimum entry age, ancient texts show, was 16. At one stage, it had 10,500 students including those from Babylon, Greece, Syria, and China. Taxila had a great influence on Hindu culture and the Sanskrit language. It is perhaps best known for its association with Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, the strategist who guided Chandragupta Maurya and assisted in the founding of the Mauryan empire. Chanakya's Arthashastra (The knowledge of Economics) is said to have been composed in Taxila. The Ayurvedic healer Charaka also studied at Taxila.

The renowned University of Taxila became the greatest learning centre in the region, and allowed for exchanges between people from various cultures. It's widely acknowledged as first example of higher learning in the world history. The University was particularly renowned for science, especially medicine, and the arts, but both religious and secular subjects were taught, and even subject such as archery or astrology. Students come from distant parts of India. Many Jataka of early Buddhist literature mention students attending the University.

The role of Taxila University as a center of knowledge continued under the Maurya Empire and Greek rule (Indo-Greeks) in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. The destruction of Toramana in the 5th century CE seem to have put an end to the activities of the University.

- What did they use to teach?

Generally, a student entered Taxila at the age of sixteen. The ancient and the most revered scriptures, and the Eighteen Silpas or Arts, which included skills such as archery, hunting, and elephant lore, were taught, in addition to its law school, medical school, and school of military science. Students arriving at Taxila usually had completed their primary education at home, and their secondary education in the Ashrams and therefore came to Taxila chiefly to reach the ends of knowledge in specific disciplines.

The campus offered different courses in various fields such as-

  • Vedas

  • Archery

  • Astronomy

  • Grammar

  • Philosophy

  • Futurology

  • Ayurveda

  • Agriculture

  • Surgery

  • Politics

  • Warfare

  • Commerce

  • Music

  • Dance

Complex mathematical calculations-

The panel of masters at the university included legendary scholars like Kautilya, Panini, Jivak and Vishnu Sharma.

- Was there any admission fees?

Comparing to today's universities fess, teachers in Taxila university provide free boarding and accommodation for poor students. Students had to do manual work for the teachers. Gurudakshina was expected for completion of a student’s studies. A wealthy student offers umbrellas, pair of sandals and turban to the teachers.

- Did they had any entrance exam for admission?

Admissions into Takshasila University were based on the merit of the students. The student would option for electives and then would do research and study in-depth into their field of choice.

- Is Taxila the first university in the world?

By some accounts, Taxila was considered to be one of the earliest (or the earliest) universities in the world. Others do not consider it a university in the modern sense, in that the teachers living there may not have had official membership of particular colleges, and there did not seem to have existed purpose-built lecture halls and residential quarters in Taxila.

- Some of the noble alumni were -

- Acharya Chanakya was also known as Vishnugupta and Kautilya. Chanakya was an Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor.

- Panini

Panini was an Ancient Sanskrit linguist, the grammarian. Ashtadhyayi was written by Panini. He was the father of Indian Linguistics.

- Charaka

Also named as Ayurvedic healer, is regarded as the father of Medicine.

- Vishnu Sharma

Vishnu Sharma was an Indian Scholar and Author. Panchatantra and Five Discourses on Worldly Wisdom books were written by Vishnu Sharma.

- Jivaka Komarabhacca

Jivaka was a physician in Ancient India. Jivaka was an expert in pulse reading.

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