The Gupta rulers encouraged higher learning by patronizing centers of higher education at Nalanda, Takshila, Ujjain, Vikramshila and Vallabhi. Each university specialized in a particular field of study. Takshila specialized in the study of medicine, while Ujjain laid emphasis on astronomy. Nalanda, being the biggest centre, handled all braitches of knowledge. During the Gupta period India became a centre for higher studies by attracting scholars from all parts of India and from several foreign countries.
These universities became popular in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. People flocked to the Sarnath university to study Buddhist religion and to Ajanta to specialize in art, architecture and painting. These educational institutions were financed by grants of land and liberal donations from kings as well as from other affluent people.
Nalanda University. Nalanda, situated near Rajgriha in Bihar, was probably the highest seat of Buddhist learning. It was established as a Buddhist monastery probably during the reign of Kumara Gupta I (414-445 A.D). A Buddhist tradition says that Sakraditya established this centre of learning. It was spread over an area of 1:6 km x 0.8 km. It had about 1500 professors and 10,000 students. Such eminent people as Panini, Jivaka and Chanakya are said to have studied there. It was supported by the revenue from many villages donated by the kings and also by donations from merchants. According to Hsuan Tsang's report, it was a six-storeyed building. It was a residential university where the staff and students had free board and lodging. No fees were charged and the students were admitted after a tough entrance test. The famous Shilbhadra, who was generally known as the 'Treasure of Right Law', had once been the head of this university.
Nalanda University offered a choice of many subjects for study, though it specialized in Mahayana Buddhism. Instructions were imparted in logic, grammar, philosophy, astronomy, literature, Buddhism and Hinduism. The method of discussion was used in the class rooms. This centre of learning was destroyed towards the end of the l2th century by Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, a general of Mohammad Ghori. The university had helped to spread Indian culture in foreign countries such as Tibet, China, and Central Asia and also in South East Asian countries.
Takshila University. This centre of learning was situated about 50 km west of Rawalpindi in Pakistan. It was not a well organized university like Nalanda. Panini, the famous Sanskrit grammarian, Kautilya who wrote Arthashastra and Charaka, the famous physician of ancient India, and Chandragupta Maurya were the products of this university. It gained its importance again during the reign of Kanishka. It was probably, the earliest of the ancient seats of higher education. The Taxila town was already famous in about 300 B.C. at the time when Alexander the Great had come to India.
Vikramshila University. It was established by the Pala king, Dharam Pala in Bihar (780-815 A.D.). It was situated in Magadha. Like Nalanda, it was a monastery and a Buddhist seat of learning. It imparted education in many subjects. All students were provided with free board and lodging. It was attacked by Bakhtiyar Khilji towards the end of the l2th century. This university was responsible for spreading Indian culture in Tibet and Nepal. Vallabi University. It was situated in modern Gujarat. It was a Buddhist monastery and served as a center of religious learning. The university specialized in many branches of learning such as Arthashastra, Law, Medicine etc.
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