Famous Universities of Ancient India

Nalanda Mahavihara

1. Odantapuri: It is located in Bihar and was made under the patronage of Pala dynasty King Gopala I. It was a Buddhist mahavihara. It was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji.

2. Vikramshila: It is located in present-day Bhagalpur district of Bihar. It was established by King Dharampala of Pala dynasty, primarily as a Buddhist learning centre. The scholars were invited by kings outside India to spread Buddhist teachings. The Vajrayana sect flourished here and Tantric teachings were taught. Other subjects like logic, Vedas, astronomy, urban development, law, grammar, philosophy, etc were also taught.

3. Jaggadala: A centre of learning for the Vajrayana sect of Buddhism, in Bengal. Many scholars took shelter here after Nalanda and Vikramshila declined. It was probably established by King Ramapala of Pala dynasty.

4. Valabhi: It was situated in Saurashtra, Gujarat. It was an important centre of learning for the Hinayana Buddhism. Various disciplines like administration and statecraft, laws, philosophy etc were taught here. It was visited by the Chinese scholar, Hseun Tsang. It was supported by the grants of rulers of Maitraka Dynasty of Gujarat.

5. Nalanda: The most renowned university of South Asia. It is not clear as to who established it; it was in existence during Gupta period. It gained prominence under Harshavardhana’s reign and Pala kings. All three Buddhist doctrines were taught here, however, it was a major site for Mahayana Buddhist teachings. Subjects like Vedas, fine arts, grammar, philosophy, logic, medicine, etc were also taught here. It had eight separate compounds and even had dormitories for students. It attracted scholars from Central Asia, South-East Asia and other parts of the world. The teachings in the university deeply influenced Tibetan Buddhism. Famous scholars of Nalanda are Nagarjuna (Madhyamika Shunyavad) and Aryabhatta the astronomer. Hsuan Tsang spent two years at the university. Another Chinese scholar I-Tsing, spent ten years at Nalanda in late 7th century.

6. Takshashila: It was located in modern-day Pakistan. It is estimated to exist around 5th century BC. It is believed that Chanakya composed the Arthashastra at this place. Both Buddhist and Hindu theologies were taught here. Subjects like Political Science, Hunting, medicine, law, military tactics were taught here. Noted teachers and students from Takshashila include Chanakya, Charaka, Panini, Jivaka, Prasenajit, etc.

7. Kancheepuram: It was a centre of learning for Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism from 1st century AD and achieved great name under the rule of Pallavas.

8. Manyakheta: now called Malkhed (Karnataka). It rose to prominence under the Rashtrakuta rule. Scholars of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism studied here. It has a ‘matha’ of Dvaita school of thought.

9. Pushpagiri Vihara and Lalitagiri (Odisha): It was established by Kalinga kings around 3rd century AD near the Udayagiri hills. It was mainly a Buddhist learning centre.

10. Sharada Peeth: It is located in present-day Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. It was an important place for the Sanskrit scholars and many important texts were written here. It also has a Sharda Devi temple.

11. Nagarjunakonda: It is situated 160 km from Amaravathi in Andhra Pradesh and it was a major Buddhist centre with scholars from Sri Lanka, China, etc coming for higher-education. It had many Viharas, Stupas, etc. It was named after Nagarjuna, a south Indian scholar of Mahayana Buddhism.

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