Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The World's first university Takshasila

Takshasila (also known in its corrupted form as Taxila). Takshasila was the world's first center of learning of excellence that existed around 2700 years ago, as early as 700 BCE, located in the northwest region of India (35 km to west of Islamabad Capital territory and to the northwest of Rawalpindi in Punjab-just off the Grand Trunk Road).

It dates back to the Gandhara period and contains the ruins of the Gandharan city of Takshasila which was an important Hindu and Buddhist centre. Takshasila, is reputed to derive its name from "Taksha", who was the son of Bharata (the brother of Lord Rama) and Mandavi, the suffix "sila"means "stone" in Sanskrit.

In the Mahabharata, the Kuru heir Parikshit was enthroned at akshasila. According to tradition the Mahabharata was first recited at Takshasila by Vaishampayana, a disciple of Vyasa at the behest of the seer Vyasa himself, at the sarpa satra yajna, "Snake Sacrifice ceremony" of Parikshit's son Janamejaya.

Historically, Takshasila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes:

  1. The uttarapatha, "the northern road" - the later Grand Trunk or GT Road - the royal road which connected Gandhara in the west to the kingdom of Magadha and its capital Pataliputra in the valley of the Ganga in the east.
  2. The north-western route through Bactria, Kapisa, and Pushkalavati.
  3. The Sindu (English: Indus) route from Kashmir and Central Asia, via Sri nagara, Mansehra, and the Haripur valley across the Khunjerab pass to the Silk Road in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south. To fully understand the importance of Takshasila it must be noted that the Khunjerab pass between Kashmir and Xinjiang - the current Karakoram highway - was already traversed in antiquity.

Takshashila was an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning. Takshashila was in real sense an international seat of learning where students from as far as Babylonia (Iraq), Greece, Syria, Arabia and China came to study. Takshashila could accommodate 10,500 students and during its time this university was the Harvard and MIT of the world.

The University taught subjects using the best of practical knowledge acquired by the teachers.Takshashila offered as many as 64 different specialized courses like Vedas, grammar, philosophy, ayurveda, agriculture, surgery, politics, archery, accounts, warfare, astronomy, commerce, futurology, occult, music, dance, etc. There were even curious subjects like the art of treasure hunting, decrypting encrypted messages, etc. The students would opt for electives and then would do indepth study and research into their field of choice.

Admission seekers into this great seat of learning first had to complete their basic education in their local institutions and reach the age of 16 before they were eligible for admission. Admission was highly competitive and based purely on merit. Even the sons of Kings would have to prove their merit before they were considered for admission. The course of study at Takshashila extended to as many as seven years. The students were always spoken of as going to Takshasila to 'complete' their education and not begin it. Every single student who graduated from this university would become a well sought after scholar all across the Indian subcontinent. There are not much of evidence to suggest that Takshashila had any female students in its campus.

The students were usually admitted to instruction in Takshashila by their teachers on payment of advance of their entire tuition fees, which would normally include lodging and food. In lieu of paying the fees in cash, a student was allowed to pay them in the shape of services to his teachers. To this class apparently belonged the majority of the students who attended on their teachers by day and received instruction at night. They gathered firewood for their teachers or cleaned their houses and did the cooking. Some were allowed to pay after the completion of their study. Some would even have to beg to pay their cost of education at Takshashila. Payment would normally be in gold.

Some scholars date Takshashila's existence back to the 6th century BCE. It became a noted centre of learning at least several centuries before Christ, and continued to attract students from around the old world until the destruction of the city in the 5th century CE. 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.

Besides Chanakya other great scholars of their time like Panini (language and grammar), Jivak (medicine and surgery) and Charaka (Ayurvedic healer), the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta are also taught at Takshashila.

The city of Takshashila is mentioned by the Chinese monk Faxian (also called Fa-Hien), who visited ancient sites of Buddhism in India. He came to Takshashila in 405 CE. In his book "A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms. Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hien of his Travels in India and Ceylon in search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline" he mentions the kingdom of Takshasila (or Chu-cha-shi-lo) meaning "the severed Head" (Chapter 11). He says that this name was derived from an event in the life of Buddha because this is the place "where he gave his head to a man".

Xuanzang (also called Hieun Tsang), another Chinese monk, visited Takshashila in 630 CE. He mentions the city as Ta-Cha-Shi-Lo. The city appears to have already been ruins by his time.

There is some disagreement about whether Takshashila can be considered a university. While some consider Takshasila to be an early university or centre of higher education, others do not consider it a university in the modern sense, in contrast to the later Nalanda University. Takshashila is described in some detail in later Jataka tales, written in Sri Lanka around the 5th century.

Takshashila was destroyed by the invading Huns who came from across Hindukush into Punjab in the fifth century, and never recovered.

The British archaeologist Sir John Marshall conducted excavations over a period of twenty years in Takshasila.In 1980 Takshashila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple locations. Recently it has been ranked as the top Tourist Destination in Pakistan by The Guardian.


ajay said...

Whats about Takshasila house
we are organising an activity in choithram school Indore
please send some information.

custom writing essay said...

Now this is some information which was not known to me. Thank you for sharing it with us and keep posting such posts

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