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Nalanda University, the first one to allow residential learning, hosted an array of scholarly training


By Prakhar Patidar

In its golden age, the Indian subcontinent is known to have enjoyed heights of socio-economic prosperity. Not only in terms of wealth but culture and arts as well. It is said the subcontinent harbored great thinkers and scholars, proof of which is the rich history of ancient universities. Researchers say that currently, university education is in its fifth generation. Nalanda and Taxila of India along with Plato's Academy in Greece and the University of Alexandria in Egypt, believed to have laid the foundation of university education, the first generation of universities, are not unheard of names. These are often recalled when we speak of our academic excellence in the past.


Held in high regard and predicted to have the potential to be at par with the best universities of today, these universities continue to grace our history books. Had the passage of time and the turn of Indian civilization been different, we wouldn't have lost these bejewelled institutions. Taxila, the world's first university and Nalanda, the first one to allow residential learning, hosted an array of scholarly training in philosophy, medicine, arts, science, commerce, war arts, etc.


Ruins of Vikramshila University was established by the Pal Empire (783-820 AD). wikimedia


Many people believe that these are the only two ancient universities active in the olden times. Contrary to popular belief, the Indian Subcontinent was home to many more universities delivering equally potent education. The western region of the subcontinent is an area worth talking about when speaking of universities. 40 km away from Nalanda, Telhara was another eminent university of the day. The ruins of the place were recently discovered in 2014.

Around the same time, Sharda Peeth university was also amongst the leading temple universities that hosted many scholars from surrounding countries. Vallabhi University, believed to be at least 2000 years old, was set up by the Maitraka dynasty to promote academic research in economics, law, politics, medicine, science and arts. Further east in Bengal, Bikrampur vihara was another Buddhist university in the 7th century.

These are handful of examples of the richness of academic progression seen in India's ancient times. These universities have been a popular topic of interest in historical research that has resulted in significant work available across archives, journals and libraries.


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