If you thought history does not matter then ask the clutch of people who are trying to promote new universities taking inspiration from ancient seats of learning like Nalanda and Takshila. New institutions are coming up with both these names. Yet another one finds its inspiration from King Asoka who promoted learning. Hence, as we get into university admission season, it is a good idea to remember the ancient sears of learning in India.
Takshila: The world’s oldest seat of learning, Takshila, or Taxila as some spell it, was established some 2700 years ago. An excerpt from Political and Social movements in ancient Panjab (from the Vedic age up to the Maurya period), by Buddha Prakash as quoted on the modern day Takshila Institute’s website: “A significant result of the rise of Gandhara was the growth of her capital Takshashila as a seat of learning and education and a centre of culture and commerce. The age of the Buddha saw the spread of the fame of Takshashila throughout the whole Uttarapatha [Northern route]. Students from Magadha traversed the vast distances of northern India in order to join the schools and colleges of Takshashila. We learn from Pali texts that Brahmana youths, Khattiya princes and sons of setthis from Rajagriha, Kashi, Kosala and other places went to Takshashila for learning the Vedas and eighteen sciences and arts.”
Nalanda: Nalanda University was established by Shakraditya of Gupta dynasty in modern Bihar during early 5th century and flourished for 600 years till 12th century. Nalanda was the world’s first university to have residential quarters for both students and teachers. It also had large public lecture halls. Students from countries like Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey came to study in this university.
In 2010, there was an effort to revive the grandeur of this ancient university with a modern Nalanda International University dedicated for post-graduate research. Many countries who have links to this part of Indian history such as China, Japan and Singapore have come forward to fund this revival.
With good intentions and the funds all tied up, now we just have to hope for the students and teachers to excel the way they did so many centuries ago.
April 2, 2014