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5 Astonishing Facts About the Ancient Cosmopolitan City of Takshila.

The charioteer Sanjay Gavalgana narrated the events of Kurushetra war of Mahabharata to the blind king of Dhristarastra. Sage Vyasa had gifted Sanjay with the Divya Drishti or the divine power to hear and see anything happening far away. Gandhari was the princess of Kandhara that is the modern day Taxila which is in Pakistan near Rawalpindi. She was married to Dhritarastra. Takshala was the maternal grandparent home of hundred Kauravas. Taxila is an UNESCO world heritage site and has been a cosmopolitan city for more than 200 years in this millennium.

1. Rich Historic and Cultural past

About 10,000 BC the city of Taxila was founded by the ruler Taksha who belonged to the Suryavanshi or Ikshvaku dynasty. He was the son of Bharat, the younger brother of Lord Rama. Besides this connection with Hinduism, this place has a great significance to Buddhists and Jains.

The jatakas tales of Buddhists have mentioned Taxila as the center of higher learning. The ashes of Gautam Buddha according to some buddhist texts, were put in the stupa at Taakshila. The Jain scriptures also have described about this cosmopolitan city which was visited by people of various nationalities. During the excavation of this city about 4000 artefacts related to these three religions were unearthed revealing that it was a secular city tolerant towards all religions.

Ruins of the Takshala University which was  the place of higher education for all.

Ruins of the Takshala University which was the place of higher education for all.

2. Takshila University for Higher Education

The cosmopolitan nature of this city was mainly due it being the location of the world-famous university of Takshila.

1.International students from far away lands came here to study.

2.The minimum age of admission was 16 years with primary education at the local level.

3.Only 3 out 10 students were able to make it through the entrance exam and secure a place in the university.

4.The education was open to all sections of society. Meritorious poor students could pursue education without worrying for fees are it was exempted.

5.More than 64 subjects were taught, and students had a choice to study the subjects of their choices. Mathematics, science, languages, philosophy, astronomy, warfare were some of the popular streams.

6.It was the braining center for the future kings of the neighboring kingdoms.

7.It had infrastructure to live up to its reputation. It had 300 lecture halls with stone benches for seating. It also had an astronomy observatory known as Ambudhan Vedhahi which used by astronomers.

8.The Dharma Gunj or the mountain of knowledge was the massive library that this university boasted about. It spanned across three buildings called as Ratna Sagar, Ratno Devi and Ratna Yahjak.

9.It was the breeding ground of knowledge. Many important works were compiled here which are still relevant in the modern era.

10.Chanakya penned Artha Shahstra when he was a professor at the university.

11.Babylonian,Greek ,Syrian and many foreign scholars having passion for the advanced studies to knowledge came here to study.

3. International Fabric of the Society

Situated on the strategic junction of three great trade routes, Taxila was easily approachable from all directions. Many scholars from China, Mesopotamia, Sri Lanka, Babylonia and various parts of India. These students enrolled in the university travelling from distant places brought along their cultures, languages, and dynamics with them. When people of different cultures came together, they assimilated their thoughts and enriched the knowledge of each other.

On the streets of this city, walked a scholar of Chinese descent with his acquaintances from Greece enjoying the local delicacies and rituals. This was the place of cultural exchange which was reflected in the art and tradition of that era.

The Gandhari school of sculpture made life like statues of Buddha which was the fusion of local and Greek craftmanship.

4. Famous Alumni of the Taxila university

The university had gifted many erudite scholars whose works are still relevant in the modern time.

1.Chanakya or Kautilya was the student and later a professor at Taxila. He has authored various books like Artha Shashtra and Chanakyaniti.

He laid down the foundation of the Mauryan Dynasty.

2.Charaka known as the father of medicine and had immensely contributed to Ayurveda

3.Panini wrote the first linguistic of the world known as Astadhyayi which is the book of grammar.

4.Vishnu Sharma was the writer of the famous book Panchatantra having stories with some moral teachings

5.Jivak was the personal doctor of Gautama Buddha and treated his Nadi Vran. He had written 15,000 manuscripts which are still referred by Ayurveda professionals.

6.Chandra Gupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Dynasty and the student of Chanakya. He too was an alumnus of this university. He was a benevolent ruler under whom the kingdom prospered.

5. Integral part of Great Dynasties.

Takshila was ruled by various dynasties. The city grew in the 6th century BCE under the rule of Archimedes empire. Alexander, the great, was so impressed by the city that he took 200 scholars along with him when he returned. It was ruled by the Mauryan rulers followed by the Indus – Greek rulers, kings of Kushan and Gupta dynasties. Kushans were the first to issue gold coins which reflected the economic prosperity of the region in that era.

The people of Takshila were culturally and economically prosperous with diverse cross section of various ethnicities. This cosmopolitan qualities of Taxila lasted for about 200 years until it was brutally invaded by Huns.

Today this place is called Taxila.It has still kept the tradition of sculpture. Seeing the present day modest population, it is difficult to imagine that this place was once the center of higher education. Most of its gold and other artifacts are missing and are on display in foreign lands. Only witness of the richness of this city is the eternal time. May be further excavations by advance technology will further tell us more about the prosperity of Takshala/Taxila.


Rahul Gautam on November 26, 2020:

Excellent insight on the great ancient city. Comparative chart with other such contemporary cities would have added more flavour to the additives.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 26, 2020:

Thanks for showcasing the UNESCO site of Taxila and what it was like centuries ago. I enjoyed learning about it.