Friday April 3, 2020

Found and lost: 10 Indian varsities of profound excellence


By Atul Mishra

A variety of ancient but higher learning institutions were developed as centres of profound excellence and hubs of unmatched learning in India. Many-a-scholar from across the globe and other parts of the world used to flock at these premier institutes. We found them but we lost them. So, now let’s have a look at the blast from the past.



Nalanda was an ancient seat of higher learning in Bihar, India, from 427 to 1197 AD. It was established in the 5th century AD. Founded in 427 AD in north-eastern India, it was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in Fine Arts, Medicine, Mathematics, Astronomy, Politics and the Art of War. Nalanda’s main importance comes from its Buddhist roots. Hsuan Tsang, the famous pilgrim from China came here and studied and taught for five years in the 7th Century A.D.


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Takshashila was an early Buddhist centre of learning. According to available references, it dates back to 5th century BC to say the least. It became a noted centre of learning at least several centuries before Christ, and continued to attract students until the destruction of the city in the 5th century AD. Takshashila is perhaps best-known because of its association with Chanakya. The famous treatise Arthashastra (Sanskrit for The knowledge of Economics) by Chanakya is believed to have been composed in Takshashila. The Vedas and the Eighteen Arts, which included skills such as archery, hunting, and elephant lore, were taught, in addition to its law school, medical school, and school of military science.


di-7598_0306_Bihar, Vikramshila University, Benoy Behl

Vikramashila was one of the most important seats of Buddhist learning in India during the Pala empire. Vikramashila was established by King Dharmapala (783 to 820 AD) in response to a supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nalanda. Atisha, the renowned pandit, is sometimes listed as a notable scholar.



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The school in Puspagiri was established in the 3rd century AD as present Odisha, India. The Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Huien Tsang) visited it in AD 639, as Puphagiri Mahavihara, as well as in medieval Tibetan texts. However, unlike Takshila and Nalanda, the ruins of Puspagiri were not discovered until 1995, when a lecturer from a local college first stumbled upon the site.


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Telhara was the site of a Buddhist monastery in ancient India. It has been mentioned as Teladhaka in the writings of the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang, who visited the place in the 7th century CE. It was a hub of Buddhist learning and attracted multitude of scholars from across the globe.


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Also called Odantapura or Uddandapura, this institute was a Buddhist Mahavihara in what is now Bihar, India. It was established by the Pala Emperor Gopala-I in the 8th century. It is considered to be the second oldest of India’s Mahaviharas and it was situated in Magadha. Acharya Sri Ganga of Vikramashila was a student at this Mahavihara. According to the Tibetan records, there were about 12,000 students at Odantapuri. It was situated at a mountain called Hiranya Prabhat Parvat and on the banks of river Panchanan.



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This Mahavihara in Paharpur, situated in Naogaon District, Bangladesh, is among the best-known Buddhist viharas in the Indian Subcontinent and is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. It was designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.


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Jagaddala was a Buddhist monastery and a seat of learning in Varendra, a geographical unit in present north Bengal. It was founded by the later kings of the Pāla dynasty, probably Ramapala (c. 1077-1120), and most likely at a site near the present village of Jagdal in Dhamoirhat Upazila in the north-west Bangladesh on the border with India, near Paharapur.




Sharada Peeth


The place was once a celebrated centre of learning in the subcontinent. It was a centre of great Sanskrit scholars and Kashmiri Pandits and was a famous centre of Hinduism and Buddhism. According to the Prabhāvakacarita, a Jain historical work dated 1277–78 AD, the Śvetāmbara scholar Hemachandra requested grammatical texts preserved here so he could compile his own grammar, namely, the Siddhahema.



It is is a historical Buddhist town which is now an island located near Nagarjuna Sagar in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh. During the first and second centuries AD, the site housed more than 30 Buddhist viharas. Excavations have yielded art works and inscriptions of great significance for the scholarly study of the history of this early period.

Next Story

Nalanda University to introduce Vedic Studies, may also start short-term programmes on subjects like Mindfulness and Yoga

Nalanda University. Source: Wikimedia

Patna, May 20, 2017: Nalanda University plans to introduce Vedic Studies and may also start short-term executive programmes on subjects like Mindfulness and Yoga.

“Within the existing schools, we will create new departments,” Vice Chancellor Sunaina Singh said in a statement.

“For instance, in the School of Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions we plan to introduce Vedic Studies, Indian Spiritual Tradition and Peace Studies,” Singh said.

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Envisioning Nalanda University as an intellectual bridge between India, Asia and the Asia-Pacific countries, she said the West looks to India as a solution centre.

“Indian knowledge systems have to be explored,” Singh said.

“The University may also start some short-term executive programmes on subjects like Mindfulness and Yoga.”

According to her, the university needs to build more schools and departments for academic excellence.

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“The School of Linguistics and Literature and The School of International Relations and Peace Studies will be the next schools that we will focus on.”

Located in the Buddhist pilgrim town of Rajgir in Bihar’s Nalanda district, the university began its first academic session in September 2014 on a makeshift campus. (IANS)

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