Takshila University

The world’s first University was established in Takshila or Taxila (now in Pakistan) in 700BC. Taxila is a town and an important archaeological site in Rawalpindi district of the Punjab province in Pakistan. This centre of learning was situated about 50 km west of Rawalpindi in Pakistan. Ancient Taxila (Takṣaśilā, literally meaning “City of Cut Stone” or “Rock of Taksha”) was situated at the pivotal junction of India, western Asia, and Central Asia. It was an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist center of learning.

Takshashila , the place where this university existed, is currently in Pakistan and gets its name from Taksha, who was the son of Bharatha (the brother of Rama). Taksha ruled over the kingdom of Taksha Khanda which even extended beyond modern-day Uzbekistan, and Tashkent -the present day Uzbek capital also gets its name from Taksha/Takshashila.

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The Vayu Purana traces the start of Takshashila, to Taksha, son of  Bharata (brother of Raghu Ram Chandra). Takshashila also finds a mention in Mahabharata – citing Dhaumya, as the acharya of Takshashila. It was at Takshashila, that Vaishampayana made the first recorded narration of the Mahabharata to Janmajeya.

Taxila also known as Takshashila, flourished from 600 BC to 500 AD, in the kingdom of Gandhara. 68 subjects were taught at this university and, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. At one stage, it had 10,500 students including those from Babylon, Greece, Syria, and China. Experienced masters taught the Vedas, languages, grammar, philosophy, medicine, surgery, archery, politics, warfare, astronomy, accounts, commerce, documentation, music, dance and other performing arts, futurology, the occult and mystical sciences, complex mathematical calculations.

Panini, the famous Sanskrit grammarian, Kautilya (Chanakya) and Charaka, the famous physician of ancient India, and Chandragupta Maurya were the products of this university. It gained its importance again during the reign of Kanishka. It was probably, the earliest of the ancient seats of higher education. Takshashila is perhaps best known because of its association with Chanakya. The famous treatise Arthashastra (Sanskrit for The knowledge of Economics) by Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Takshashila itself. The panel of masters at the university included legendary scholars like Jivak and Vishnu Sharma. Thus, the concept of a full-fledged university was developed in India.

The Vedas and the Eighteen Arts, which included skills such as archery, hunting, and elephant lore, were taught, in addition, Hunas ( to its law school, medical school, and school of military science. Takshila was specialized in the study of medicine.

Must Read: Nalanda University An ancient center of Learning

The ‘end’ of Takshashila

The colonial narrative traces the destruction of Takshashila in 499 AD, by theWestern history calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha). Western ‘historians’ have ascribed the demise of Taxila to the White Huns, a Central Asian, nomadic tribe, roaming between Tibet to Tashkent, practicing polyandry.

The colonial narrative traces the destruction of Takshashila in 499 AD, by the Hunas (Western history calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha). Western ‘historians’ have ascribed the demise of Taxila to the White Huns, a Central Asian, nomadic tribe, roaming between Tibet to Tashkent, practicing polyandry.

Takshashila lying at the cross roads of the Uttarapatha (West calls it The Silk Route) – from Tibet, China, Central Asia, Iran – and India, fell to this mindless savagery, goes the ‘modern’ narrative. But specifically, there is no mention in Chinese, Persian, Indian texts of the Hunas who destroyed Takshashila.

The decline of Taksashila marked the destruction, persecution and decline in Indian education, thought, and structure. The destruction of Takshashila (Taxila) meant that students and scholars would need to travel for an extra 60 days to reach the other Indian Universities of the time. This was a traumatic event in the status of the Indian ethos – even the Asiatic ethos.

Takshila was considered to be amongst the earliest universities in the world and some Historians even suggest that it was the first University in the world making it the oldest university in the world.

In 1980, Taxila has been listed by the UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites.

After the fall of Takshashila, in 499 AD – by the Huna Buddhism soon became a religion.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Sir,
    Your valuable information on taxila university is really useful however, I don’t agree with your statement that taxila was a ” full-fledged university with foreign students and multi disciplinary courses being taught there to 10000 students”. In fact, last year’s IAS mains paper asked a students to distinguish between Nalanda and Taxila university and also wanted students to highlight points as to why Taxila can’t be regarded as university in true sense.
    Hope, you will respond and clear my confusion.

  2. The knowledge given here is comprehensive with incorrect base.
    Taxila wasnt a university in fact it was an educaton hub or a center of learning.

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