Here, we share with you 10 Ancient Indian Universities.
India is known to be one of the oldest civilizations in the world. In fact, India was a center for higher learning in ancient times.
India contributed immensely in the field of Mathematics, Astrology, Astronomy, and other sciences. Vedic science was so advanced that it could be compared with the present day’s scientific inventions.
Education held great prominence in Indian society since the Vedic period. Gurukuls and ashrams were the main centers of learning.
In fact, many universities flourished in ancient India, including the world-famous Takshashila and Nalanda universities.
Students from far off regions (including foreign lands) came to study in India’s old universities. These universities in ancient India are true examples of our glorious past.
This post takes you through old Indian universities. Let’s begin with the universities in ancient India:
10 Top Ancient Indian Universities
1. Taxila or Takshashila University
Takshashila or Taxila was a world-famous university in India. It was located in the ‘Gandhara’ region of ancient India, presently in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi district. It is believed that the Kuru prince Duryodhana founded the Takshashila University at the birthplace of his mother, Gandhari. In fact, this region finds mention in the great Indian epic of ‘Mahabharata.’
Many great Indian physicians, astronomers, grammarians, politicians, rulers, and authors studied at the Taxila University of ancient India. Worth mentioning includes names such as:
- Panini was a great Sanskrit linguist and grammarian
- Charaka who was a great physician
- Chanakya was a great philosopher and economist
- Jivaka Komarabhacca was a great surgeon
- Vishnu Sharma who was a great author
- Maurya emperor Chandragupta
- Moreover, many others as well
In fact, Takshashila University was home to over 10500 students. Who came from worldwide to attain specialization in Vedas, Philosophy, Grammar, Ayurveda, Surgery, Agriculture, Astronomy, Astrology, Commerce, Warfare, Music, and Dance.
Moreover, the Taxila University imparted specialization in over 64 different fields. The age eligibility criterion at Taxila University was put at 16 years.
A student enrolled at this ancient University in India was allowed to choose any subject of his choice. Taxila was a residential campus at which thousands of teachers taught. It was founded about 2700 years ago.
2. Nalanda University
Nalanda University is regarded as one of the oldest universities in ancient India. It was one of the leading centers for higher learning in ancient India. It was founded by Shakraditya of the Gupta dynasty during the early 5th century. So, Nalanda University is over 2000 years old.
Nalanda University was located in the ancient kingdom of Magadha. Its ruins can be found seven miles north of Rajgriha in Bihar. It attracted students from far off regions regarding Tibet, China, Persia, Greece, and beyond.
Nalanda University imparted education in various disciplines using highly formalized methods of Vedic learning. It even taught the principles of Buddhism. It attracted Buddhist monks from far and near. It mainly dealt with the Mahayana branch of Buddhism.
Many kings from foreign lands donated immense wealth for the construction of structures within the Nalanda University complex. For example, King Shailendra of Indonesia built a structure within the Nalanda University campus.
However, admission to Nalanda University was difficult. Students had to give an entrance exam to qualify for their seats at Nalanda University. According to Hieun-Tsang (a Chinese traveler), only 20 percent of the students who gave the entrance test succeeded in qualifying for Nalanda University.
The age criterion was put at 20 years. Education was given free of cost. Nalanda University followed three methods of teaching, namely:
- Verbal and explanatory
- Debates and discussions
Around 100 lectures were delivered every day. Students needed to attend the lectures.
Nalanda University was a residential seat of learning. It contained ten temples, many classrooms, meditation halls, monasteries, dormitories, lakes, and parks spread across eight compounds.
Over 10,000 students studied in this ancient University in India. About 2000 teachers imparted education to these students.
Subjects taught included Mahayana Buddhism, Vedas, Sanskrit, Logic, Grammar, Medicine, Samkhya, and other subjects in every learning field.
The Nalanda University housed an extensive library that was spread across three large multi-storeyed buildings. Many sacred manuscripts were stored in these libraries.
3. Vikramshila University
Vikramshila University was one of the old Indian Universities. It was founded by Pala king Dharmapala in the later 7th century BCE. It was located in the northern Magadha region that is 50 km east of Bhagalpur in Bihar.
Students from all across the country and even foreign lands came to study at this ancient University of India. More than 100 teachers taught over 1000 students in this ancient Indian University.
Vikramshila University housed several temples. About 108 scholars were appointed as the in-charge of these temples.
The Kulpati or Mahasthavir was generally elected. He was the highest authority in the University. There was a big building in the center and six huge colleges that were located around it.
The central building was known as Vigyan Bhawan. All the buildings were connected through six gates. A Dwar Pandit used to keep guard at the main gate. He used to examine candidates who came to seek admission to the University.
4. Pushpagiri University
Pushpagiri University was located in ancient Kalinga, covering districts such as Cuttack and Jajpur of present Odisha. It was established in the last years of BCE; it is as old as the Nalanda University. It is claimed that Emperor Ashoka established this ancient University of India.
The Pushpagiri University Campus was spread across three adjoining hills known as Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri, and Udayagiri. Many different subjects were taught at this center of learning. The University attracted students from all across the world.
Chinese traveler Xuanzang has given a vivid account of the Pushpagiri University. This University earned patronage from not only local rulers but also rulers from far off places. A famous Buddhist monk Prajna from Gandhara came to study at this ancient University.
However, this ancient University in India perished during the Muslim rule due to a lack of patronage.
5. Vallabhi University
Vallabhi University is one of the old universities of ancient India. It was founded by the kings of the Maitraka dynasty about 2000 years ago. It was set up in line with the Nalanda University.
It was located at Vallabhi in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. This ancient University of India flourished until the 12th century CE.
Many different subjects were taught at Vallabhi University, including Law, Economics, Literature, Medical Science, Book-keeping, Grammar, and Hinayana Buddhism.
The Vallabhi University accommodated a huge library. It imparted high-quality education, attracted students from all across the country, including neighboring countries.
Students who got a degree from this University were honored high posts in kings’ courts’ administrative departments. According to Chinese traveler Itsing (who visited the Vallabhi University during the 7th century), it was a great learning center.
It was widely known for religious tolerance and mental freedom. This center of learning earned huge patronage by the rulers and rich alike. However, the Arabs destroyed this University in the 8th century CE. It continued to impart education for the next few hundred years.
6. Mithila University
Although Mithila University is not mentioned in India’s mainstream history records, it was an important center of learning in India since King Janak, the father of Sita.
Mithila University was a center of the Brahmanical system of education. It is claimed that King Janak used to held religious conferences where Sages and the learned took part.
It has been recorded that this University taught various different subjects, including literature, and fine arts, Vedas, science subjects, Nyaya Shastra, and more. Nyaya and Tarka Shastra gained the main prominence at this University.
A famous Indian mathematician and scholar, Gangesha Upadhaya of the 12th century, founded a New Logic school at this place where he scripted down Tattva Chintamani.
The examination system at this University was tough. Students attained their degrees only when they cleared tests once they completed their education.
7. Odantapuri University
Odantapuri University was one of the main centers of learning in ancient India. It was founded by Pala king Gopala during the 7th century CE. It was located in the Magadha region of Bihar.
Students from all across the country came to study at this University. However, this University failed to attain fame like Nalanda or Vikramshila Universities.
It has been claimed that this University accommodated around 12,000 students. Various subjects were taught at this University that included Vedic scriptures and even Buddhism.
8. Sharada Peeth Temple University
This temple university was one of the main centers of learning in ancient India. It was located in Kashmir and fell under the Kashmir jurisdiction of Pakistan. It is one of the 51 Shaktipeethas where Sati’s right hand fell at this place.
Many famous scholars were part of this temple university. Some of the names who studied at this University include:
- Kalhana – historian and author of Rajtarangini
- Adi Shankara – philosopher of Advaita Vedanta
- Kumarajiva – Buddhist scholar
- Vairotsana – Tibetan translator
- Thonmi Sambhota – Tibetan scholar
However, the exact date of the foundation of this temple university is still unknown. It is claimed that this University dated back to at least 2500 plus years. Some scholars say that this learning center must have been several thousand years old.
9. Somapura University
Somapura University was almost as big as Nalanda University. It was established by the Pala king Dharmapala in the later 7th century. Students came from far off regions to study in this ancient University.
Here students learned subjects pertaining to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The buildings here exhibit the influence of these three traditions. It flourished until the 12th century. It remained an important center of learning for more than 400 years. However, Muslim invaders destroyed this University.
10. Jagaddala University
Jagaddala University was established by Pala king Rampala in the early 11th century CE. It was located in the Varendra region in North Bengal (now in Bangladesh).
Jagaddala University is regarded among five great ancient Indian universities, the other being Nalanda, Vikramshila, Sompura, and Odantapuri.
It taught a wide range of subjects, including Sanskrit. Moreover, students came from far and wide to study the special subject of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Buddhist scholar Vidyakara compiled anthologies of Sanskrit verses known as “Subhasitaratnakosa” at this University. Many sacred Tibetan texts were also composed at this University.
Well, that’s all we have covered for you in this post on old Indian universities. We hope that the post has enlightened you on ancient Indian universities. Thanks for visiting.