Talk:/Medical Institutions in ancient india/institutions and universities/Taxila

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Taxila situated about 20 miles west of Rawalpindi in the North-west provinces was undoubtedly the most important seat of learning in ancient India. It was the capital of the-then important province of Gandhara and its history goes back into hoary antiquity. But its fame rests not on its being a political capital of a province, but on its being the intellectual capital of Aryavarta In its halcyon days, the place resounded with the chautmgs of Vedic Mantras by a host of students attracted to it from the nooks and corners of the whole of India and even beyond. It was founded by Bharata and named after his son Taksa who was established there as a ruler. Janmejaya�s serpent sacrifice was performed at this very place. Not much is known of its early educational activities but by the 7th century B. C. it loomed large as a famous seat of learning.

Its fame had spread far and wide in foreign countries and we find many glorious tributes to it m the writings of foreigners, ancients and moderns. Pliny calls it a famous city. Strabo declares it to be a large city and adds that the neighbouring country was crowded with inhabitants and that it was very fertile Marnan described it as a large and wealthy city and the most populous between the Indus and Hydaspes. Vincent Smith, in his history, says, �It was the leading seat of Hindu learning where crowds of pupils from all quarters were taught the three Vedas and the eighteen accomplishments. It was the fashion to send princes and the sons of the well-to-do Brahmanas on attai�ning the age of sixteen to complete their education at Taxila which may be properly described as a University town. The medical school there enjoyed a special reputation but all arts and sciences could be studied under the most eminent professors "Dr Hoernle" says, �According to another non-medical line of Indian tradition preserved in the Buddhist Jatakas or Folk-lore, there existed in India in the age of Buddha two great universities or seats of learning in which all scie�nces including medicine were taught by profe�ssors of world-wide renown. These

two universities were Kasi or Benares in the east and still more famous Taksasila on the Jhelum river m the west In the latter university at the time of Buddha or shortly before it, the leading professor of medicine was Atreya. He accordingly should have flour�ished at some time in the sixth century B. C �


We find references to the origin of Taxila in the Ramayana as foliows:

�As they were all killed, Bharata, the son of Kaikeyi built up two prosperous cities and placed Taksa in Taksasila and Puskala in Puskalavata in the beautiful country of Gandharvas and in the province of Gandhara respectively.�


In Mahabharata also there is a similar reference.


�The brothers sent by him went out as desired. Having inst�ructed his brothers thus, he attacked Taksasila and subjugated it�.


This famous university not only attracted students from far off places m India like Rajgiha, Mithila, Benares, Ujjain, Kuru, Kosala etc., but from foreign countries also like Babylonia, Misra (Egypt), Phoenicia, Syria, Arabia, China and Greece. It was a university to which a number of Indian institutions were affiliated It furnished an ideal to foreign countries for moulding their universities on its lines. The Alexandrian school which was established in the 4th century B C and which could boast of 14000 students, was probably the result of inspiration derived from Taksasila during Alexanders invasion of India.


The presence of world-renowned teachers, who were authorities in their subjects, experts and specialists of the various branches of learning was its forte. It was a place where the finishing touch to education was given as graduation from it marked the completion of one�s studies.


The catholicity of the curriculum amazes the student of history. Medicine, surgery, allied military arts, astronomy, astrology, divination, accountancy, commerce, agriculture, conveyancing, magic, snake charming, finding hidden treasures and mines, dancing aud painting were the main subjects taught besides the Vedas and the eighteen accomplishments.


The subjects were taught under the supervision of expert teachers. Each teacher had his own institution having on its role about 500 students. We learn that one teacher of the military science a a t e princes of India studying under him numbering 103.


The brilliant teachers and the variety of subjects attracted and we can count among the luminaries of this intellectual alma mater of India such famous names as Canakya, Panini, Jivaka, Vyadi, Kumaralabdha, Asvaghosa, Deva, Nagarjuna, Atreya, Brahmadatta, Junaha and a host of

others. No doubt it won the popular epithet of the �Queen of learning.�


The enrolment of students from distant lands reflects very favourably on the soundness of its educational system. Travel in those days was more than an adventure, it was a hazard. It took months to reach a place where it would now take as many hours. It was usual for a person to distribute his property among his heirs and relatives an bid them adieu before starting on a pilgrimage because the hazards and the rigours of travel were such that if a person safely returned rom his travels, it was considered to be nothing short of a miracle. And yet parents unhesitatingly sent their sons to Taxila for the acquisition of knowledge at the tender age of 16, the same age limit as is found in modern universities. The course lasted from 5 to 7 years and the students could not return to their homes every four or six months as students of our age can, because the means of communication as we know them today were not existent then.