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See also   Naalandaa

This is very well known that there were two learning centers in ancient India - Takshashilaa and  Naalandaa. Where they have gone? The theory that Hoon  destroyed Tashashilaa in the 5th century is a theory with no legs and a case without evidence. So then what could have happened to them? Takshashilaa was the world's forst universty. It was established in Takshashilaa, India in 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Naalandaa was built in the 4th century BC - it was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India.

Julian Monastery Takshashilaa - The Importance of Takshashilaa
As the oldest university in the world, Takshashilaa has a special place in the history of the world, and more so, in Indian history. It's destruction (purportedly) at the hands of the Hoon, as proposed by Western historians (and their followers) has been rather facile to say the least. There is an evidence that the truth may be otherwise. This post lays out an alternative scenario, but before that let us refresh ourselves with the history of Takshashilaa.

Takshashilaa in Classical Texts, History, Geography
The Vaayu Puraan traces the start of Takshashilaa, to Taksh, the son of Bharat (brother of Shree Raam). Takshashilaa also finds a mention in Mahaabhaarat citing Dhaumya Rishi as the Aachaarya of Takshashilaa. It was at Takshashilaa, that Vaishampaayan Jee made the first recorded narration of the Mahaabhaarat to Janamajeya.

It finds continued mentions in numerous Jaatak, too. For centuries, across many cultures, stories of Takshashilaa (and its environs) have swirled, like even later, according to a story contained in the Mujma-t-Tavaareekh, a 12th century Persian translation from the Arabic version of a lost Sanskrit work, 30,000 Braahman with their families and retinue had in ancient times been collected from all over India and had been settled in Sindh, under Duryodhan, the King of Hastinaapur.

The Buddhist anthology of stories, Avadana-shatak mentions that "3.510 millions of Stoop were erected at the request of the people of Takshashilaa".

Taskshashilaa was lying at the three major trade routes - one was at the crossroads of the Uttaraapath (West calls it The Silk Route or GT Road - which connected Gaandhaar in the West to Paataliputra, the capital of the Kingdom of Magadh) in the East from Tibbat, China, Central Asia, Iran and India, fell to this mindless savagery, goes the "modern" description. But specifically, there is no mention in Chinese, Persian, Indian texts that the Hoon destroyed Takshashilaa. So, how and where did this story spring from? Kanishk, a major Buddhist king, was a Yue Chi, known as Tusharas in India, related to the White Hoon. Why would his tribal cousins destroy Takshashilaa?

Its development and importance lay in the fact that, Takshashilaa and Purush Pur, habited on either side of the Sindhu river were connected with the Indian trade routes on the Indian side and Central Asian trade routes on the other. Strategically located, Takshashilaa, the capital of Gaandhaar state, was the terminus of several inland routes and the starting points of the great trade routes connecting India and Central Asia. Based on subsequent excavation and diggings, it is thought that Takshashilaa was the oldest city in South Asia when Alexander landed there. So Takshashilaa's historic and cultural importance is too high to become a victim of slip-shod colonial propaganda posing as history.

Some Teachers and Students at Takshashilaa
Its alumni included all the stars of the Indian firmament - Atreya, Pasenadi, Mahali, Patanajali, Jeevak, Paanini,
Chaanakya (Kautilya), an economist;
Charak, an Aayurvedik healer; and
Paanini, an ancient grammarian who codified the rules of Classical Sanskrit were all teachers there.
As Buddhist Mahaayaan also developed there,
Jeevak, the court physician of Magadh Emperor Bimbisaar, who once cured Buddha;
Prasenjit, the enlightened ruler of Kosal, are some of the personalities who studied at Takshashilaa.

Students paid up to 1000 coins in advance to receive education at Takshashilaa and there were thousands of such students. Students came from all over the world and paid large sums of money to Indian teachers for education. Kings, Braahman, commoners all kinds of people came to study at Takshashilaa.

Nature of Education at Takshashilaa
Takshashilaa is considered the erliest university of the world. There were lecture halls, residential houses in contrast to later Naalandaa University. No external authorities intervened in its system. Each teacher formed his own institution and enjoyed complete autonomy. Study was terminated when the teacher was satisfied with the student's level of achievement. In general a subject took 8 years to specialize in it. At times students were advised to quit also if they did not satisfy their teacher.

Knowledge was considered to be too sacred to be bartered with the money and thus money paid for it was condemned. Financial support used to come from the society at large, rich parents and merchants. A teacher could have hundreds of students. Poor students were supported by free boarding and lodging. Students had to manual work in teachers' houses. The students who paid were educated in day time and who studied there free were educated in the night. Guru Dakshinaa was an usual payment after the completion of studies, but it was completely a token out of gratitude - many times only a turban or a pair of sandals, or an umbrella. Poor students could take help of kings.

Examinations were considered superfluous and were not the part of completing the education. There was no convocation, no written degree. The students who came to Takshashilaa, had completed their primary education at home (till 8 years of age), their secondary education at Aashram (between the age of 8 and 12 years of age), and then they came here to study specific subject. Improper practices could result in disaster.

Faxian, Fa Hian, Fa Hien Chinese Travelers to India
An important source for "modern' history, much used by Western historians are the travels of Chinese travelers (like Fa Hian/ Faxain, Huien Tsang /XuanZang). Supposedly 1000 years after death of Gautam Buddha, overlooking some gaping holes in Fa Hian's travelog. How could Fa Hien miss meeting /mentioning Kaalidaas supposedly a contemporary of Fa Hien? In fact, Kaali Daas is not mentioned at all in Fa Hian's account, which supports the hypotheses that Kaali Daas preceded Fa Hian. It may be pointed out that since, Kaali Daas' works are artistic rather than religious or philosophical, the lack of Fa Hain's interest in his works is obvious. But to ignore a man like Kaali Daas' stature and learning does not seem to be possible.

Then Fa Hian misses the name of the supposed ruling Gupt king also a dynasty which ruled over most of South Asia! And it is Fa Hian who is supposedly a significant authority on the Gupta period. Western history labels the Gupta period as the "golden age" of Indian history which Fa Hian seems to have completely missed. Similarly when Fa-Hien visited Takshashilaa in the 5th century AD (traveled in India during 399-414 AD), he found nothing. His travelogue makes only some cursory mentions of Takshashilaa. And that leaves Indian history with some rather big "dating" holes. Is it that Fa Hian visited India much after Kaali Daas, the Gupta dynasty, the death of Buddha? Maybe a few centuries later, relative to the period in Indian history. Otherwise Fa Hian's date of travel is well indexed, that is why those dates cannot possibly be moved much. It is the the corresponding Indic dates which come into question.

Another Chinese traveler, Sung Yun, who had a rather exalted view of his country and its ruler, is largely responsible for overly negative image of the Hoon in the "modern" history. Sung Yun's peeve the Hoon king did not read the letter from the Wei Tartar king standing, but in a seated position. A modern historian writing on the spread of Buddhism and Buddhist traveler's tales thinks that.

Like many other things in India, Buddhism also suffered somewhat from the invasions of the Hoon, who dominated many parts of the Northwest from 480 to 530 AD; but the immediate effect of their depredations does not seem to have been very striking. At any rate, the Chinese pilgrim Sung Yun, who traveled through this region in 518-521 AD, gives us a picture in which Buddhism is quite as thriving as it was in Fa-Hien's time.

Subsequent Chinese travelers to India, like I Ching (I Ching or Yi Jing, Yijing, Yiqing, I-Tsing or YiChing), were more about Buddhism religion that it had become, instead of a school of learning and thought. I Ching also recorded details of the works and life of Bhartrihari, the (probably) 5th century BC grammarian and poet. His take away from India, from Naalandaa "in ten years (675-685 AD), during which he collected there some 400 Sanskrit texts amounting to 500,000 Shlok."

The End of Takshashilaa
The colonial narrative traces the destruction of Takshashilaa in 499 AD, by the Hoon (Western history calls them White Hoon, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal; The Chinese called them "Ye Tha") - a Central Asian, nomadic tribe, roaming between Tibbat to Taashkent, practicing polyandry.

Alexander in Colonial Historical Narrative
For more on the decline of Takshashilaa, it is Alexander that we must turn to. The "Alexander mosaic", discovered in Pompeii, Italy, Alexander has long been a vital cog in Western colonial narrative of history. Amongst Alexander's first actions in India were his attempts to cobble up alliances. His most famous one was with Aambhi the ruler of Takshashilaa. In India, Alexander had to pay the King of Takshashilaa, Omphis, (Aambhi) 1000 talents of gold (more than 25 tons of gold) to secure an alliance. To cement this alliance, Alexander gifted Aambhi with a wardrobe of Persian robes, gold and silver ornaments, and 30 horses, 1000 talents in cash. 1000 talents is anywhere between 25,000-60,000 kg of gold. Does this look like Aambhi accepted Alexander as the conqueror of the world or Alexander persuaded Aambhi to seal an alliance?

The payment of 1000 talents in gold to Aambhi aroused much envy and outrage in Alexander's camp. It prompted Meleager, to sarcastically congratulate Alexander for having at least found in India a man worth 1000 talents. What seals this incident is Alexander's retort to Meleager, that envious men only torment themselves.

During the three years anterior to the passage of the Indus, Balk (Bactria) was usually Alexander's headquarters. It was in these countries that he experienced his only serious reverses in the field. The tribes and Kshatrap (Satraps) of Indian North West swath, delayed Alexander for nearly three years before he could step into India. In India, Alexander had to pay the King of Takashashilaa, Aambhi, 1000 talents of gold to secure an alliance. He had to return the kingdom of Panjaab to Poras purportedly, after winning the battle. His loot and pickings from India were negligible.

To these lean pickings, Alexander's reaction "the Macedonians frequently massacred the defenders of the city, especially in India." What was Alexander's response to a sub-continent occupied by a complex network of peoples and states, who viewed Alexander as a new piece to be played in their complex political chess game. Another modern historian, writes that "the tale of slaughter told in the ancient sources is unparalleled elsewhere in the campaign.'

Alexander Was Also Responsible for Takshashilaa's Fall
Alexander finally realized that it was the Indian Braahman were influencing the Indian princes to organize and support the Indian war against Alexander. After this realization, at The City of Braahman, Alexander massacred an estimated 8000-10,000 of these non-combatant Braahman. His question-answer sessions with the 10 Indian prisoner Braahman related by Plutarch, show Alexander asking inane questions at sea, completely lost. And arising from this frustration, came Alexander's wanton massacres at Takshashilaa which thereafter limped along for the next 1000 years, but never to fully recover.

More Questions on the Destruction of Takshashilaa
At the time of Takshashilaa's decline in the 5th century AD, a significant Gupt king was Puru Gupt successor of Skand Gupt. Written records from Puru Gupt's reign are few and far in between, he has been variously named as Vikramaaditya, Prakaashaaditya and of course as Puru or Pura Gupt. The most authentic link to his reign is the Bhitari seal inscription, (near Ghazipur, in modern UP). The Bhitari seal provided proof of an elongated Gupt reign than the Skand Gupt - was the end of Gupt Dynasty dating. Currently dated between 467 AD, Puru Gupt's reign saw many border wars. Puru Gupt's reign saw Vasubandhu, a known teacher of logic and debate, become famous and Huien Tsang reported on the debates based on Vasubandhu's texts. Today Vasubandhu's texts exist in Chinese and Tibetan languages the original Sanskrit volumes remain untraceable. Puru Gupt also restored the gold grammage in the Swarn (gold) coins, probably debased in Skand Gupt's time.

The Rise of Bauddh Religion in India
Without access to the `Indian thought factory', after the fall of Takshashilaa, in 499 AD by the Hoon Buddhism soon became a religion. Buddha in India, was another, in a long line of teachers, but in the rest of world, Buddhism soon became a religion. The destruction of Takshashilaa meant that students and scholars would need to travel for an extra 60 days to reach the other Indian Universities of the time. This was a traumatic event in the status of the Indian ethos even the Asiatic ethos. The decline of Takshashilaa marked the destruction, persecution and decline in Indian education, thought and structure. Fewer believers in Indian faith systems made the trip to India. Buddhism soon became a religion outside India. A few centuries after decline of Takshashilaa, Naalandaa, etc. were also destroyed.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 03/20/13