Ancient Universities of India

Nalanda University

Nalanda University is one of the well-known ancient universities of India. Nalanda is located in the Indian state of Bihar, about 55 miles south-east of Patna, and was a Buddhist centre of learning from 427 to 1197 CE. It has also been called and one of the first great universities in recorded history. It a large Buddhist monastery in the ancient kingdom of Magadha (modern-day Bihar) in India. At its peak, the university attracted scholars and students from as far away as China, Greece, and Persia. Archaeological evidence also notes contact with the Shailendra dynasty of Indonesia, one of whose kings built a monastery in the complex. However, it was later sacked by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193, a milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. Nalanda University was established by Shakraditya of Gupta dynasty in modern Bihar during the early 5th century and flourished for 600 years till the 12th century. The library of this university was the largest library of the ancient world and had thousands of volumes of manuscripts on various subjects like grammar, logic, literature, astrology, astronomy, and medicine. In 2010, the parliament of India passed a bill approving the plans to restore the ancient Nalanda University as a modern Nalanda International University dedicated for post[1]graduate research. Many East Asian countries including China, Singapore, and Japan have come forward to fund the construction of this revived Nalanda University. According to the Kevatta Sutta, in the Buddhas time, Nalanda was already an influential and prosperous town, thickly populated, though it was not until later that it became the centre of learning for which it afterward became famous. Mahavira is several times mentioned as staying at Nalanda, which was evidently a center of activity of the Jains.

Takshashila/ Taxila University

Takshashila University is Ranked as the top tourist destination in Pakistan by The Guardian newspaper in 2006. Taxila or Takshashila was an ancient capital city of the Buddhist kingdom of Gandhara and a centre of learning, what is now North-Western Pakistan. It is one of the most known Ancient universities of India. Taxila was an early center of learning dating back to at least the 5th century BCE. 25 It is considered a place of religious and historical sanctity by Hindus and Buddhists and was the seat of Vedic learning where the emperor Chandragupta Maurya was taken there by Chanakya to learn in the institution. The institution is very significant in Buddhist tradition since it is believed that the Mahayana sect of Buddhism took shape there. 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. Chanakya (or) Kautilya the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta and the Ayurvedic healer Charaka studied at Taxila. Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. The Vedas and the Eighteen 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.

Vikramashila University

Vikramashila was one of the two most important centers of Buddhist learning in India during the Pala Empire. Vikramashila was established by King Dharmapala (783 to 820) in response to a supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nalanda and flourished for 400 years till 12th century until it was destroyed by the forces of Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji around 1200. Atisha, the renowned Pandita, is sometimes listed as a notable abbot. Vikramashila (village Antichak, district Bhagalpur, Bihar) is located at about 50 km east of Bhagalpur and about 13 km north-east of Kahalgaon, a railway station on Bhagalpur-Sahebganj section of Eastern Railway. It is approachable through 11 km long motorable road diverting from NH-80 at Anadipur about 2 km from Kahalgaon. Interestingly, it gave direct competition to Nalanda University with over 100 teachers and over 1000 students listed in this University. This university was well known for its specialized training on the subject of Tantra (Tantrism). One of the most popular graduates from this University was Atiśa Dipankara, a founder of the Sharma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism who also revived the Buddhism in Tibet. The remains of the ancient university have been partially excavated in Bhagalpur district, Bihar state, India, and the process are still underway.

Valabhi University

Valabhi University was established in Saurashtra of modern Gujarat at around 6th century and it flourished for 600 years till the 12th century. The University of Valabhi was an important center of Buddhist learning and championed the cause of Hinayana Buddhism between 600 CE and 1200 CE. Chinese traveler who visited this university during the 7th century describes 26 it as a great center of learning. For some time, the university was so good that it was even considered to be a rival to Nalanda, in Bihar, in the field of education. Gunamati and Sthiramati, the two famous Buddhist scholars are said to have graduated from this University. When Hiuen Tsiang (also known as Xuanzang) visited the university in the middle of the 7th century, there were more than 6000 monks studying in the place.

Somapura Mahavihara University

Somapura Mahavihara was established by Dharmapala of Pala dynasty during the late 8th century in Bengal and flourished for 400 years till the 12th century. The University spread over 27 acres of land of which the main complex was 21 acres was one of the largest of its kind. It was a major center of learning for Bauddha Dharma (Buddhism), Jina Dharma (Jainism) and Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). Even today one can find ornamental terracotta on its outer walls depicting the influence of these three traditions. It is one of the largest and best known Buddhist monasteries in the Indian subcontinent with the complex itself covering more than 20 acres, almost a million square feet (85,000 sq. meters). Excavations show that it was built by the second Pala king, Dharmapala, around 781-821 AD. This comes from clay seals with inscriptions that were discovered. It is one of the five great mahaviharas, or monasteries, which were established in ancient Bengal during the Pala period. The importance of Somapura Mahavihara has resulted in its being included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Today it is one of the prime tourist destinations in Bangladesh

Jagaddala Mahavihara University

Jagaddala Mahavihara was a Buddhist monastery and seat of learning in Varendra, a geographical unit in present north Bengal in Bangladesh. It was founded by the later kings of the Pāla dynasty, famously believed to be King Ramapala (c. 1077-1120), which was the largest construction works undertaken by the Pala Kings. Jagaddala specialized in Vajrayana Buddhism. A large number of texts that would later appear in the Kanjur and Tengjur were known to have been composed or copied at Jagadala. It is likely that the earliest dated anthology of Sanskrit verse, the Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa, was compiled by Vidyākara at Jaggadala toward the end of the 11th century or the beginning of the 12th.In 1999 Jaggadala was submitted as a tentative site for inclusion on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Odantapuri University

Ancient Odantapuri University is located on Hiranya Prabhat in Bihar sarif is also known as Odantpuri vihar or odantapuri Buddhist Mahavira. Founded in the 8th century by emperor Gopala of Pala Dynasty, it flourished for 400 years till the 12th century. It was basically one of the sixth universities in ancient India established primarily for the purpose of propagating Buddhist learning and teachings. Apart from this, It is also regarded as the second oldest university after Nalanda established in ancient times. It is comparatively a lesser known important tourist destination in Bihar as we still know little about this place. Ø Acharya Sri Ganga who used to be a student of Vikramshila university was a professor at the Vikramashila University was a graduate of this Odantapuri University as later on he joined Odantapuri and regarded as one of the famous alumni of this university. In 1193 AD when Notorious Muslim Turkish invader Bhakhtiyar Khilji found this university, he mistakenly believed it as a fortress due to its long walls and ordered his army to destroy it. Ancient Tibetan texts mention this as one among the five great Universities of its time, the other four being Vikramashila, Nalanda, Somapura and Jagaddala Universities – all located in ancient India.

Pushpagiri University

Pushpagiri University was a prominent seat of learning that flourished until the 11th century in India. Today, its ruins lie atop the Langudi hills, low hills about 90 km from the Mahanadi delta, in the districts of Jajpur and Cuttack in Orissa. The actual university campus, spread across three hilltops, contained several stupas, monasteries, temples, and sculptures in the architectural style of the Gupta period. The Kelua river, a tributary of the Brahmani river of Orissa flows to the northeast of Langudi hills and must have provided a picturesque background for the university. The entire university is distributed across three campuses on top of the three adjoining hills, Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri, and Udayagiri. Recently a few images of Emperor Ashoka have been discovered here, and it has been suggested that the Pushpagiri University was established by Emperor Ashoka himself.

All the above universities, are the most important ancient universities of India. In most of the exams, questions are raised  from these.

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