5, 000 years of Civilization & Culture
The great city of Takshashila (modern Taxila) was a capital of ancient Gandhara and home to one of the oldest, if not the oldest, university in the world. Takshasila University flourished between c. 600 BCE and 500 CE, a renowned center of Vedic and Buddhist learning where students from every corner of the Indian subcontinent as well as from foreign lands came to study. The subjects taught at Takshashila included grammar, philosophy, medicine, surgery, archery, political science, astronomy, commerce, music, dance, divination and mathematics. The faculty of the university included legendary scholars like Kautilya, author of the political treatise “Arthashastra”, Panini, author of the world’s first formal work on grammar, and Jivaka, the celebrated physician of Gautama Buddha.
Most of the information we have about Takshashila University comes from the Jatakas, a collection of Buddhist folklore about previous incarnations of the Buddha, dating to around the 4th century BCE (click here for the full text of a characteristic Jataka tale). Below are excerpts from the book “Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist” by Radha Kumud Mookerji, describing the administration, structure and methods of teaching employed at Takshashila University, as gleaned from Jataka tales.