The world's first university was established at Takshasila or Taxila (northwest region of India) in approximately 700 B.C. The Universities in ancient India were entirely residential. It was considered that a University should contain at least 21 Professors well versed in Philosophy, Theology and Law; pupils were given free tuition, free boarding, and students who went to an educational institution - be the king or a peasant - lived and boarded together. Ashramas, Viharas and Parishads were great centers of culture and attracted large numbers. Students went there to learn the purest Sanskrit. Kautilya, whose Arthashashtra is the classic Indian treatise on statecraft, is said to have been born there in the third century BC. It was also in Taxila that, in the previous century, Panini compiled a grammar more comprehensive and scientific than any dreamed of by Greek grammarians. The campus accommodated 10,500 students and offered over sixty different courses in various fields, such as science, mathematics, medicine, politics, warfare, astrology, astronomy, music, religion, and philosophy. The minimum age for admission was 16 years and students from as far as Babylonia, Greece, Syria, Arabia, and China came to study at the university. Taxila, stood on the banks of the river Vitasa in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. A wide range of subjects were taught by experienced masters: Vedas, Language, Grammar, Philosophy, Medicine, Surgery, Archery, Politics, Warfare, Astronomy, Astrology, Accounts, Commerce, Futurology, Documentation, Occult, Music, Dance, etc. Panini, the great Sanskrit grammarian, Charaka, the author of famous treatise on medicine, and Chanakya, writer of Artha Shastra -- these august names are associated with Taxila. Promising minds from far flung regions converged there to study the Vedas and all branches of secular knowledge. Takshasila or Taxila, as the Greeks called it over 2,000 years ago, was at one of the entrances to the splendor that was India. Its antiquity is rooted both in epic texts like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the other Puranas. The Jakatas are full of references to Taxila - over 100 in fact. Mention is made of world-renowned professors who taught the Vedas, the Kalas, Shilpa, Archery and so on. King Kosala and Jivaka, the famous physician were students of the University, the latter learning medicine under Rishi Atreya. Great stress was laid on the study of Sanskrit and Pali literature. When the Chinese traveller Huen T’sang (A.D. 603-64) visited Takshashila, the town had lost all its former grandeur and international character. (6260)
The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century BCE was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education. Buddha visited Nalanda several times during his lifetime. The Chinese scholar and traveler Hiuen Tsang stayed here in the 7th century, and has left an elaborate description of the excellence, and purity of monastic life practiced here. About 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over the Buddhist world, lived and studied in this international university. It had ten thousand students, one hundred lecture-rroms, great libraries, and six immense blocks of dormitories four stories high; its observatories, said Yuan Chwang, "were lost in the vapors of the morning, and the upper rooms towered above the clouds." The old Chinese pilgrim loved the learned monks and shady groves of Nalanda so well he stayed there for five years. The Nalanda university counted on its staff such great thinkers as Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Vasubhandu, Asanga, Sthiramati, Dharmapala, Silaphadra, Santideva and Padmasambhava. The ancient universities were the sanctuaries of the inner life of the nation. Another large university was established at Nalanda around 500 B.C. Approximately one mile long and half-mile wide, this campus housed a large library, called Dharam gunj (Treasure of Knowledge), that spread over three buildings, known as Ratna Sagar, Ratnadevi, and Ratnayanjak. Among other facilities, the university included 300 lecture halls, several laboratories, and an astronomical research observatory called Ambudharavlehi. The university used handwritten manuscripts for teaching and attracted students and staff from many countries, including China, Korea and Japan. According to the Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang, the campus housed 10,000 students, 2,000 professors, and a large administrative staff. The Nalanda library was in three sections housed in three buildings. The one called Ratnodadhi (ocean of pearls) was, reportedly, nine storeys high. The other two, called Ratnasagar (sea of pearls) and Ratnaranjak (pearls of recreation), were six storeys each. The libraries published new works while providing storage for old manuscripts. This description only provides glimpses into what Huien T’sang wrote in detail. The university was sacked, plundered, looted by the Islamic onslaught. Nalanda was burned to the ground in 1197 and all its monks were slaughtered.