When someone asks you, Which was one of the earliest universities globally? Answers will probably be Oxford or Cambridge maybe? Probably some university in the European subcontinent? But what if someone tells you that the oldest educational institution in the world was established long before universities like Oxford or Cambridge came into place? In Ancient India. Takshashila or Taxila (Rendered by Greeks) was the oldest and the first university in the world with the kind of curriculum we see in the modern-day universities predominantly in the West. However, in today’s day and time, Takshashila is a non-functional university after the White Huns invaded and destroyed the prestigious institute
It is believed that Takshashila University was located in the city of Takshashila (meaning city of stone) and was also named after King Taksha (son of Bharat. Lord Ram’s nephew from Ramayan). In today’s day and time, the university falls in the state of Rawalpindi in Pakistan. This university was the first-ever university in the world that was built in 600 BCE (approximately 2500+ years ago). This university attracted the attention of several foreigners including the Babylonians, Persians, Turks, Chinese, Tibetans, Japanese, and the Greeks. In today’s day, most Indians fly abroad for education. But in Ancient India, foreigners migrated to India to learn and complete their formal education at Taxila because of its relevant, advanced, and interesting curriculum.
Speaking of curriculum, Taxila University was vastly diverse in its curriculum and its academics as well. Students were selected on merit and each class or each department had not more than 16 students. Students were also allowed to select their own subjects based on their talent. The subjects too were quite vast and interesting. Students could opt and learn subjects such as Dhanurveda(Military science), law, Vedas, Vedanta, Vyakaran (grammar), Crafts, Strategy, Economics, Administration, Surgery, Medicine, Sciences, Astronomy, Astrology, Archery, History, Art, Music, Dance, and even snakebite cure too. However, in those days, these subjects were all interdisciplinary subjects taught in the form of philosophy. It is us who have divided these subjects, however, all these subjects are interlinked. For example subjects like Economics and Administration were taught as one interdisciplinary subject.
Looking at these subjects, I too would have wanted to study them. All students from multiple backgrounds of ethnicity, religion, caste, etc. were allowed to study and select any subject they wanted to regardless of their background. From the young royals to children of peasants, this university accepted everyone as long as they wanted to learn. Students who wanted to enroll were admitted at the age of 16 after the basic education that they received from the local gurukuls.
The alumni of the Takshashila University consisted of brilliant intellectuals like Chanakya (or Kautilya or Vishnugupta), a strategist and Prime Minister of the Gupta empire was one of notable alumni of the university. Even Chandragupt Maurya and Ashoka who were rulers of the Gupta Dynasty were a part of that university as well. Chanakya had been a tutor at that university and as a mentor and a guide to Chandragupt Maurya teaching him about military strategy and administration to train him as the future king of Bharat. Even the father of Indian grammar/vyakaran Panini too was from Takshashila as a teacher who taught grammar and as a student who learned languages. The author of the Panchatantra Vishnu Sharma also happens to be an alumnus of this prestigious university.
Hope you liked this story of the University of Ancient Takshashila. Do let me know in your comments about this story.