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Ancient India was a centre of knowledge all over the world. There were list of ancient universities which flourish in ancient India. These universities helped to spread Indian culture and traditions.Many foreign students came here to learn in these ancient universities and these things made India Vishvaguru. Vedas and Vedic philosophy inspire to establish ancient universities. 

Takshashila and Nalanda were two famous universities in ancient India and, the oldest university in the world and the oldest university of India respectively. List of major universities which were famous all over the world in ancient India. 

list ancient universities of India:

  • Nalanda University 
  • Vikramshila University 
  • Takshashila  
  • Vallabhi University 
  • Odantapuri University 
  • Somapura 
  • Pushpagiri University 
  • Bikrampur University
  •  Telhara university 
  • Jagaddala University 
  • Nadia University

Nalanda University 


  • Ancient Nalanda University was one of oldest university in ancient India. 
  • Nalanda word comes from Sanskrit words “Nalam” and “Da in which Nalam means Lotus and Da means the one who gives.  
  • Lotus signifies cognizance and wisdom in Hindu and Buddhist scriptures.  So that literally say that Nalanda means the place that imparts wisdom. 
  • Ancient university of Nalanda is situated at Nalanda district of Bihar, India. 
  • Nalanda was an ancient Buddhist monastery known as “Mahavihara” (Complex of monasteries) and associated to Buddhism culture.
  •  The Nalanda University was founded by king Kumargupta I, a ruler of Gupta dynasty in the 5th century at ancient Magadha (modern time Bihar). 
  • The university was centre of learning  since late 4thCE to 12th CE. 
  • In ancient time, Students and Scholars from India and foreign countries (China, Greece, Central Asia and Korea) came to university for studies. 
  • Nalanda University was centre for studies of Mahayana and Hinayana sects of Buddhism. 
  • In addition to other studies, Nalanda University was excellence centre for studies in ancient time such as astrology, astronomy, medicine, mathematics and literature etc. 
  • Dharmaganja was a library complex in Nalanda University and had the largest library in ancient world. 
  • The library complex consisted of three large buildings known as the Ratnadadhi(Sea of Jewels), the Ratnaranjaka( jewel-adorned) and the Ratnasagar ( Ocean of Jewels). 
  • The Ratnadadhi had kept most sacred manuscripts as “Prajnaparamita” sutra and the “Samajguhya”.
  •  Nalanda is a UNESCO world heritage site under cultural category. 
  • Muslim invaders destroyed and plundered the university, Bakhtiyar Khilji (ruler of Delhi Sultanate) ransacked  Nalanda University in 1200 CE. 
  • Patronage: The Gupta Empire, The Vardhana dynasty of Kannauj (Harshavardhan) and the Pala ruler
  • Archaeological evidence showed that the Shailendra dynasty of Indonesia had connected to Nalanda by study of archaeology evidence and built the one monastery in Nalanda.
  •  Nalanda was the centre for the development of the philosophy of Mahayana. 
  • Nalanda is also revered place for Jains because Jain tirthankara, Mahavira spent 14 rainy seasons of his life in Nalanda. 
  • Hiuen Tsang and I-tsing were famous Chinese travelers to visit in Nalanda during their travels and were greatly inspired by the learning system of the ancient university of Nalanda. 
  • Many famous persons of ancient India also associated with Nalanda such as Shariputra (disciple of Buddha), Aryabhata, Dharmapala, Nagarujna, Naropa, Dignaga (founder Buddhist logic) and many more. 
  • Nalanda University was first of its type to provide hostel accommodations for students and teachers. 
  • Approximately there were 10000 students and 3000 teachers in ancient Nalanda University. 
  • Main contribution of Nalanda was to spread Indian culture all over the world.
  • Nalanda is a famous tourist destination all over the world and a part of the “Buddhist tourism circuit”. 
  • Nalanda international university was established by the center government after passing a bill in parliament on 25 November 2010 and renowned economist Amartya sen was first vice-chancellor of the university.
  • See also Mahabodhi temple Gaya Bihar

Vikramshila University

  •  Vikramshila University was one of the famous universities in ancient India. 
  • The ancient university was founded by Dharmapala (783 to 820), a ruler of the Pala dynasty who was follower of Buddhism. 
  • The Dharmapala founded the university mainly in response to decline in the quality of scholarship in Nalanda. 
  • Vikramshila University situated in Antichak village at Bhagalpur district of Bihar, India.
  •  Vikramshila University was mainly known through writings of Taranatha, a Tibetan monk historian in 16th to 17th century.
  •  Vikramshila University became famous mainly during the reign of King Chanaka (955-983). 
  • It was one of two prominent university Buddhist learning and another was Nalanda.
  • The ancient university was a centre of Buddhist’s learning, a large Buddhist monastery and Mahavihara. 
  • The university flourished from the 8th century to 12th century. 
  • There were approximately 100 teachers and 1000 students in university. 
  • The university was famous for learning on the subject of Tantra.
  • Other subjects in Vikramshila University were philosophy, metaphysics, Indian logic and grammar
  • The subject of Necromancy that means black magic was also taught here. 
  • Dipankara was a student in Vikramshila University who spread Buddhism in Tibet and founded the “Sharma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism” in Tibet. 
  • Bakhtiyar Khilji (ruler of Delhi Sultanate) destroyed Nalanda University in 1193 CE.

Takshashila  

  • Takshashila was a world famous and recognizable university in the world. 
  • The ancient university was the first international university (400 to 550 BC). 
  • Takshashila means “Cut-Rock-city” in Sanskrit. 
  • The university flourished in 500 BC in Gandhar region, present time situated at Rawalpindi in Pakistan. 
  • Takshashila was the capital of ancient Gandhar, a Buddhist kingdom. 
  • It was greatly influenced by the Vedic culture and their philosophy. 
  • There are many sources for explanation about Takshashila such as Jatakas (Buddhist texts), Mahabharata and Ramayana (the epic) etc.
  •  It flourished under the Maurya Empire, Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian and Kushan empire periods. 
  • Takshashila was founded in 1000 BCE and destroyed by the Huns (nomadic tribe of Central Asia) in 5th century and later by Muslim invaders in 12th century. 
  • The Mahayana sect of Buddhism took shape in Takshashila. 
  • The ancient university was famous for mainly teaching of Vedic and Buddhism. 
  • The Vedas, the eighteen arts including archery, music, dance and hunting etc. with other subjects Philosophy, Grammar, Medicine (Ayurveda) and Astronomy were studied in Takshashila. 
  • In 1980, Takshashila was declared a UNESCO world heritage site under cultural category.
  • Approximately 10500 students were studied in Takshashila and taught by nearly 2000 teachers.
  • The students came from within India and outside (Egypt, Iraq, Greece, Syria, Turkey and China).
  • Students were admitted to university after passing the examination which was taken by teachers. 
  • The entry age of university was sixteen years. 
  • Students were free to have a choice for selecting any subjects. 
  • Takshashila was specialized in the study of medicine (Ayurveda) and surgery, and had taken seven years to complete graduation. 
  • Kautilya (minister of Chandragupta Maurya), Charaka (Father of Surgery) and Panini (a well-known grammatical) were also students of Takshashila.

Vallabhi University

  •  Vallabhi University was a famous ancient university in western part of India. 
  • The ancient university is located at Vallabhipur at Bhavnagar district of Gujarat in India. 
  • It was founded by Bhattarka, king of Maitraka Empire. 
  • Valabhi was the capital of the Maitraka Empire during 480-775 CE. 
  • It flourished between from 600 to 1200 CE but after decline due to less interest by the successor of the Maitraka Empire and continued to be attacked by Arabs invaders. 
  • In nearly 700 CE, Vallabhi University was considered the competitor of Nalanda. 
  • Vallabhi University was primarily the centre of the Hinayana form of Buddhism. 
  • University was not only the centre of religious studies but also other subjects such as Varta (Business, Agriculture), Theology, Arthasastri, Nithya Shastra (law) and Medical science.
  • Ancient university was famous for its secular studies. 
  • There are many references that show that many students of the Brahmanical family did not go to study in Benaras and Nalanda but choose Vallabhi University for study. 
  • Gunamati and Sthiramati were two famous students of Vallabhi University.  
  • Chinese traveller: Xuanzang and Yijing. 
  • Yijing described that Vallabhi University was on par with Buddhist University Nalanda.

Odantapuri University

  • Odantapuri University was an ancient university situated in a mountain “Hiranya Prabhat Parvat” at Nalanda district of Bihar, India.
  •  It was also known as “Odantapura” or “Uddandapura”. 
  • It was the centre of learning, a large Buddhist Mahavihara which was founded by king Gopala I, ruler of the Pala Empire in the 7th century. 
  • It flourished till 1200 CE from its foundation. 
  • Ancient university was the second oldest university in India after Nalanda University. 
  • Tibetan sources explained that there were approximately 12000 students in this ancient university. 
  • The subjects taught in university vary from Vedic to Buddhists.
  •  Odantapuri acted as an inspirational model for Tibetan Buddhists and built the “Sam-Ye” monastery in Tibet. 
  •  Acharya Sri Ganga who was a teacher in Vikramshila University was a graduate in Odantapuri University. 
  • Bakhtiyar Khilji (ruler of Delhi Sultanate) destroyed Odantapuri University.

Somapura

  • Somapura was a famous and the largest Mahavihara, centre of learning and situated in Paharpur, Naogaon district, Bangladesh
  • University built by king Dharmapala (781-825 AD), a ruler of Pala Empire. 
  • Somapura Mahavihara means “Great Monastery” in Sanskrit. 
  •  It was also known as “Paharpur Buddhist Vihara”. 
  • Somapura Mahavihara was a major centre of learning of “Dharma traditions” such as Buddhism (Buddha Dharma), Jainism (Jain Dharma) and Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma).
  • Somapura wall terracotta paintings showed that it was major centre of learning of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. 
  • Somapura covers 27 acres of land and is built on Buddhist architecture style of Cambodia. 
  • This ancient university was destroyed by the Vanga army. 
  • It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site under cultural category in 1985.

Pushpagiri University

List Ancient Universities of India
Source

  • Pushpagiri University was a centre of learning, located in ancient Kalinga (Cuttack and Jajpur district of Odisha).
  •  Its campus was spread into three adjoining hills: Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udayagiri. 
  • Pushpagiri University was a prominent Buddhist seat of higher learning in ancient India and flourished from the 2nd century to the 10th century. 
  • It was older than Nalanda University.
  •  This ancient university was discovered in 1995 and their evidence showed that it may be originally commissioned by Ashoka himself. 
  • The temples, monasteries and stupas were built in Gupta period architectural style.
  • See also Konark Sun Temple Odisha 

Bikrampur University

  •  Bikrampur University was also a centre of Buddhist learning. 
  • It was built by king Dharamapala, a ruler of the Pala Empire in the 7th century. 
  • Bikrampur University located at Munshiganj in Bangladesh and excavated in 2013 led to discovery of this learning centre. 
  • This ancient university was mainly the centre of Buddhist education.

Telhara University 

  • Ancient centre of learning was located at Telhara, at distances of 40 km from Nalanda Mahavihara in Bihar. 
  • Archaeologists started excavation in 2009 and its ruins were discovered in 2014. 
  • Telhara university’s ruins are older than Nalanda and Vikramshila.
  •  It was a centre of tantric Buddhism
  • Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang and Itsing have mentioned in their travel accounts about Telhara University as a seat of higher research.
  •  A three storeyed structure, a prayer hall and a platform to seat over 1000 monks and students of Mahayana Buddhism was found during excavations.
  •  Telhara University was destroyed and burnt which was explained in excavations work because a 1.5 foot thick ash layer was found.

Jagaddala 

  • Jagaddala University was an ancient Buddhist learning centre, mainly Hinayana sect of Buddhism. 
  • This university was set up by king Rampala, a ruler of the Pala Empire in the 11th century. 
  • It is located at Varendra in Bangladesh. 
  • Jagaddla taught a wide range of subjects including Sanskrit, Vajrayana Buddhism.
  •  It flourished for a little more than hundred years until Muslim plunders destroyed it in around 1207.

Nadia University

  •  Nadia University located at the confluence of Ganga and Jalangi rivers in Bengal. It was formerly known as Navadweep. 
  • There were three centres for studying Navadweep, Shantipur and Gopaalpura at university. 
  • Main subjects were Vyakaran, Politics and Law. 
  • Raghunatha siromani was an Indian Philosopher and logician who set up a school of logic at Nadia University in the 15th century. 
  • Jaideva who was writer of Gita govinda, a graduate student of university.

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  1. Ancient universities in India is center of excellence.Their study method developed scientific as well as religious vision of students.

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