Ancient Indian universities as center of learning

Ancient Indian universities as center of learning

Qusestion:-There arose many centers of learning in ancient India which gradually developed into universities. Elaborate.

With the rise of Buddhism in India, arose many centers of learning. Buddhist monks who could opt for meditation could also opt for teaching and propagating the Dharma which resulted seats of learning flourishing. Some of the important universities in ancient India other than Nalanda and Takshashila are Vikramashila, Vallabhi, Odantapuri, Pushpagiri and Somapura.

Nalanda University:

- Nalanda was an ancient center of higher learning in Bihar from 427 BCE to 1197 CE. The university was established in the 5th century CE in Bihar.

- It was dedicated to Buddhist studies, but it also taught fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war. Nalanda's importance comes from its Buddhist roots as a center of learning.

- The center had a nine-story library and dormitories for students, housing 10,000 students in the and providing accommodations for 2,000 professors.

- Hsuan Tsang, the famous pilgrim from China studied and taught for 5 years in the 7th century CE. For around 700 years, between the 5th and 12th centuries, Nalanda was a center of Buddhist studies in the ancient world. It is said that a great fire wiped out the library of over 9 million manuscripts and at the beginning of the 12th century, the Muslim invader Bakhtiyar Khalji sacked the university.

Takshashila University:

- Takshashila was established around 2700 years ago and had students from across the world to attain specialization in over various fields of study like vedas, grammar, philosophy, ayurveda, agriculture, surgery, politics, archery, warfare, astronomy, commerce, futurology, music, dance, etc.

- It was an early Buddhist centre of learning. Well known graduates of this university include Chanakya, Panini, Charaka, Vishnu Sharma, Jivaka etc. This is the world’s oldest university.

- The famous treatise Arthashastra by Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Takshashila itself.

Vikramashila University:

- Established by Dharmapala in the late 8th century, Vikramashila University flourished for a period of 400 years till 12th century. It competed with the Nalanda University and had over 100 teachers and over 1000 students.

- This university was well known for its specialized training in Tantrism. One of the most famous graduates was Atisa Dipankara, a founder of the Sharma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism who also revived the Buddhism in Tibet.

Valabhi University:

- This university was established in Saurashtra around 6th century and flourished till the 12th century.

- Chinese traveler Itsing visited this university during the 7th century and has described it as a great center of learning.

- This University was known for its training in secular subjects and had students from all over the. Owing to its high quality of education, graduates of this university were generally offered higher posts.

Pushpagiri University:

- Pushpagiri University was established in ancient Kalinga. It was established in 3rd century and flourished for the next 800 years.

- The university campus was spread across three adjoining hills, Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri. This was one of the most prominent centers for higher education in ancient India.

- The Chinese traveler Huien Tsang visited this university in 639 CE. Lalitgiri is by far the oldest Buddhist establishments in the world.

- Recently a few images of Emperor Ashoka have been discovered here and it has been suggested that the university was established by Emperor Ashoka himself.

Odantapuri University:

- This was established by Dharmapala of Pala dynasty during late 8th century in Magadha.

- According to the ancient Tibetan records there were about 12,000 students studying at this university.

Somapura University:

- This again was established by Dharmapala of Pala dynasty during late 8th century in Bengal. The University spread over 27 acres of land of
which the main complex was one of the largest of its kind.

- It was a major center of learning for Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. Ornamental terracotta on its outer walls depicts the influence of these three traditions.


Most of the universities are seen to have ended around 12th century. The universities like Nalanda, Vikramashila etc were destroyed around this period during the Muslim invaders. The library of Nalanda was destroyed and burnt by Khilji’s army. The destruction of these centres and other places across northern India was responsible for the loss of ancient Indian knowledge.
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