The Thursday Post 28.3.13

Another famous example of university of ancient age was Taxila, that is in Pakistan these days. There is a guess that it dated back to 5th Century B.C.

Takshashila became a noted centre of learning (including the religious teachings of HInduism) at least several centuries BCE, and continued to attract students from around the old world until the destruction of the city in the 5th century. At its height, it has been suggested that Takshashila exerted a sort of “intellectual suzerainty” over other centres of learning in India., and its primary concern was not with elementary, but higher education. Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. The Vedas, the ancient and the most revered Hindu 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 came to Takshashila from far-off places such as Kashi, Kosala and Magadha, in spite of the long and arduous journey they had to undergo, on account of the excellence of the learned teachers there, all recognized as authorities on their respective subjects.

Famous students and teachers

Takshashila had great influence on the Hindu culture and Sanskrit language. It is perhaps best known because of its association with Chanakya or Kautilya, the strategist who guided Chandragupta Maurya to become the emperor of Magadha and assisted in the founding of the Mauryan empire. The Arthasastra (Sanskrit for The knowledge of Economics) of Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Takshashila itself. The Ayurvedic healer Charaka also studied at Taxila. He also started teaching at Taxila in the later period. The ancient grammarian Panini, who codified the rules that would define Classical Sanskrit, has also been part of the community at Takshashila. Those who are aware of Indian history can guess the jewels that once were studded in this crown, those who are curious to know can google the name of these legends to know their level of r expertise in their fields.

The institution is very significant in Buddhist tradition since it is believed that the Mahayana branch of Buddhism took shape there. Jivaka, the court physician of the Magadha emperor Bimbisara who once cured the Buddha, and the enlightened ruler of Kosala, Prasenajit, are some important personalities mentioned in Pali texts who studied at Takshashila.

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