Friday, October 22, 2021
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Ancient Indian Universities


Here’s a map, I have tried to map out the universities in the ancient times until the eleventh or twelfth century and you know it was, there are so many universities you can see that it’s completely, it’s every part of India is covered so far. The oldest one we have found is in Takshasila, which is today in Pakistan, which seems to be at least 6thcentury BC, but must be definitely older than that. Then we have Sharada Peeth, we have Purushapura, Varanasi. In the Bengal-Bihar side,you see, a cluster of universities Nalanda, Odantapura, Bikrampur, Jagaddala. Then you come to the South, so many Mathas, so many agraharas, there’s Kanchipuram, there’s Kanthalloor sala in Kerala, which was called the Nalanda of the south and actually – it had even more subjects than Nalanda because it even had martial arts, and such subjects as well.

The interesting thing is that the people did not stay confined to their regions. So, the professors and students traveled to the institution of their choice, just like today we have students going to Manipal, going to IIT Kharagpur, wherever they want to study. In those days, they did the same. So, in Nalanda, for example there were two professors Sthiramati and Gunamati, they were the ones who set up Valabhi university in Gujarat and then they went to Nalanda to teach. Then we also had gurus who came from Kanchipuram who moved to Nalanda, we had from Kashmir, there was a professor who taught in Vikramsila. So, we can see that everybody is travelling; and there’s an interesting story from Kathasaritsagara where a Brahman person says that I am going to send my son to study in far off Valabhi, even though I am in Gangetic plain. I think Valabhi is a better place to study and we conjecture that’s because Valabhi was specialized in political science, business and whoever graduated from Valabhi would get into government services very easily. So, he was sending his son to Valabhi. That was more than 1500 years ago and also it was important once the students finished their education in any of these universities they needed to travel, their gurus would tell them to travel: go and experience different parts of India, go and experience discomfort different kinds of weather, different people and that was the way practical learning and traveling was very important for the students.

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