Ancient Universities of India apart from Takshashila and Nalanda

Most Indians today are well aware of the two famous ancient universities of India which also are one of the oldest universities in the world – Takshashila University (Taxila) and Nalanda. But are these the only knowledge centers that existed in ancient India? Education has always been given great prominence in Indian society since the times of the vedic civilization, with gurukul and ashrams being the centers of learning. And with evolving times, a large number of centers of learning were established across ancient India of which Takshashila and Nalanda are the most famous ones known today. Below is a list of major ancient universities that flourished across ancient India.

Takshashila University

Taxila as it is called today, Takshashila University established around 2700 years ago was home to over 10500 students where the students from all across the world used to come to attain specialization in over 64 different fields of study like vedas, grammar, philosophy, ayurveda, agriculture, surgery, politics, archery, warfare, astronomy, commerce, futurology, music, dance, etc. Famous graduates of this University include the ones like Chanakya, Panini, Charaka, Vishnu Sharma, Jivaka etc. This is the world’s oldest university. Read more about Takshashila University of Ancient India.

Nalanda University

Nalanda University was established by Shakraditya of Gupta dynasty in modern Bihar during early 5th century and flourished for 600 years till 12th century. Nalanda was the world’s first university to have residential quarters for both students and teachers. It also had large public lecture halls. Students from countries like Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey came to study in this university.

The library of this university was the largest library of the ancient world and had thousands of volumes of manuscripts on various subjects like grammar, logic, literature, astrology, astronomy, and medicine. The library complex was called Dharmaganja, and had three large buildings: the Ratnasagara, the Ratnadadhi, and the Ratnaranjaka. Ratnadadhi was nine stories tall and stored the most sacred manuscripts including the Prajnaparamita Sutra and the Samajguhya.

In 2010, the parliament of India passed a bill approving the plans to restore the ancient Nalanda University as a modern Nalanda International University dedicated for post-graduate research. Many east asian countries including China, Singapore and Japan have come forward to fund the construction of this revived Nalanda University.

Ruins of Nalanda University

Vikramashila University

Vikramashila University was established by Dharmapala of Pala dynasty during late 8th century and flourished for 400 years till 12th century. It was located in the Bhagalpur district of modern day Bihar. It gave direct competition to Nalanda University with over 100 teachers and over 1000 students listed in this University. This university was well known for its specialized training on the subject of Tantra (Tantrism). One of the most popular graduates from this University was Atiśa Dipankara, a founder of the Sharma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism who also revived the Buddhism in Tibet.

Ruins of Vikramashila University

Valabhi University

Valabhi University was established in Saurashtra of modern Gujarat at around 6th century and it flourished for 600 years till 12th century. Chinese traveler Itsing who visited this university during the 7th century describes it as a great center of learning. Gunamati and Sthiramati, the two famous Buddhist scholars are said to have graduated from this University. This University was popular for its training in secular subjects and students from all over the country came to study in this University. Because of its high quality of education, graduates of this University were given higher executive posts.

Pushpagiri University

Pushpagiri University was established in ancient Kalinga kingdom (modern day Odisha) and was spread across Cuttack and Jajpur districts. It was established in 3rd century and flourished for the next 800 years till 11th century. The university campus was spread across three adjoining hills – Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri. This was one of the most prominent centers of higher education in ancient India along with the universities of Takshashila, Nalanda and Vikramashila. The Chinese traveler Xuanzang (Huien Tsang) visited this university in 639 CE. Lalitgiri is said to have been commissioned by early 2nd century BCE itself and is the oldest Buddhist establishments in the world. Recently a few images of Emperor Ashoka have been discovered here, and it has been suggested that the Pushpagiri University was established by Emperor Ashoka himself.

Odantapuri University

Odantapuri University was established by Dharmapala of Pala dynasty during late 8th century in Magadha (which is in modern day Bihar) and flourished for 400 years till 12th century.  The famous Acharya Sri Ganga who was a professor at the Vikramashila University was a graduate of this Odantapuri University. According to the ancient Tibetan records there were about 12,000 students studying at this University. Ancient Tibetan texts mention this as one among the five great Universities of its time, the other four being Vikramashila, Nalanda, Somapura and Jagaddala Universities – all located in ancient India.

Somapura University

Somapura Mahavihara  was  established by Dharmapala of Pala dynasty during late 8th century in Bengal and flourished for 400 years till 12th century.  The University spread over 27 acres of land of which the main complex was 21 acres was one of the largest of its kind. It was a major center of learning for Bauddha Dharma (Buddhism), Jina Dharma (Jainism) and Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). Even today one can find ornamental terracotta on its outer walls depicting the influence of these three traditions.

Ruins of Somapura University

Other Ancient Universities

The above mentioned list is not a complete list of ancient Indian universities either. Dharmapala of Pala dynasty alone is said to have established 50 mega learning centers across his kingdom, and they have been as huge and as popular as the ones mentioned above. For instance, the Munshiganj Vihara discovered as recently as Marh 23, 2013 in Bengal is said to have been established in 9th century and was home to 8000 students who came from faraway places like China, Tibet, Nepal and Thailand.

Destruction of Ancient Indian Universities

As you can see, many of the universities mentioned above came to an end around 12th century. The universities like Nalanda, Vikramashila etc were destroyed around this period during the Muslim invasion of India by the fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji from Turkey in 1193 CE. The great library of Nalanda University was destroyed, ransacked and burnt by the soldiers of Khilji’s army and it is said that it was so vast that the manuscripts kept burning for three months. In-numerous number of ancient Indian manuscripts carefully preserved for thousands of years were destroyed in this fire. Thousands of monks in the University were burnt alive and beheaded by Khilji’s army. According to DC Ahir, the destruction of these centres of learning at Nalanda and other places across northern India was responsible for the demise of ancient Indian scientific thought in mathematics, astronomy, alchemy, and anatomy.


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  • Amith

    Hi, Amith here from Bangalore. I would suggest you to refer a book by Sahana Singh – Educational Heritage of Ancient India. Also a brief talk on the same subject by her on U-tube for better understanding of the Glorious past of Indian Education

  • Tarun Kanth

    I found this point in the above article “Education has always been given great prominence in Indian society since the times of the vedic civilization, with gurukul and ashrams being the centers of learning.”

    Is it. But lower caste people are not even allowed to enter gurukul at that time. Right. So how can this religion spread education. And most of the universities mentioned above are established by Buddhist monarchies. That is why countries like China and Japan came forward to fund those universities while India is rebuilding them.

    • Japesh

      Tarun Kanth has written in his comment, “But lower caste people are not even allowed to enter gurukul at that time. Right. So how can this religion spread education?” This is actually a common misconception that was spread by the British. All castes, including the shudras, had access to education in ancient India, right up to the British period. When the British were formulating their education policy for India during their initial days, they had conducted a large survey all over India to understand the then-prevalent education system. The official findings of the survey are still available in the archives of the British Government in London. They had found that the gurukulas in India used to admit students irrespective of gender or caste or economic status. In fact in some gurukulas, the shudra students far outnumbered Brahmin students. (Reference: “The Beautiful Tree” by Dharampal). Let us not forget that Nishad-raj was a class-mate of Sri Ram in the gurkul of sage Vashishtha. About a thousand years ago, king Bhoj was once humbled by a wood-cutter when the latter had pointed out a grammatical error that the king had made in his speech in Sanskrit.

      Later, as a part of their “Divide and Rule Policy”, the British had managed to systematically create animosity between the different castes, sects, communities and religions in India. Sadly, even today, people are of the opinion that such discrimination and bitterness used to prevail in ancient Indian society.

  • Dreamfree Diana

    Isn’t it important that all these universities were Buddhist institutions, established and supported by Buddhist Kings, it was they who opened this great treasure for all? Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t know any famous universities of Ancient Bharat which was built by any of the Major Hindu Kingdoms which was all across the sub-continent. Even though Takshila was a learning centre during Nanda-Maurya dynasty, it got its glory after King Ashoka started following Buddhism. It is true that by then our nation had already produced many advanced shastras, Vedas etc, but the treasure of knowledge was a privilege of select few. May be we should ask ourselves what was the element in our Hindu culture that was stopping the progress of learning/knowledge? What was stopping us from including all in this great learning process which could have given a greater boom to our culture? Is it the same issues that is still stopping us from exploring the greatness of knowledge and truth?

    • Prashant S.

      An impression has been sought to be created that ancient Hindus did not support education. As a matter of fact, Takshashila finds mention in the Mahabharata – and was the first place where there Mahabharata was recited; Varanasi, Madurai, Coimbatore, Udupi and many more centers have been centers of schools of Hindu learning that have had a continuous tradition of learning that was disrupted by various colonizing forces seeking to uproot the Indian tradition.

      There has been NO element of Hindu culture that stops learning and progress. Please quote any ONE SINGLE instruction from any of the Hindu Shrutis or Smritis that suggest blocking Knowledge. The Hindu tradition treats Knowledge as a River that should be allowed to flow unabated. Kindly do not read about Hinduism interpreted through Etic studies or by inadequately researched Emic sources.

  • Raj Warnakulasuriya

    It is high time that the Indian Government opens their eyes and change the
    National Curriculum. The average student still thinks that there was a race
    called Aryans, ( the Aryan invasion) and that they migrated from Europe. The
    White British created this myth basically there was a racist, a German born
    Oxford linguist Friederich Max Müller, he was the most influential proponent of
    this theory. For the British this was important at that time in order to rule
    and control the Indian masses they need to show the white supremacy.

    The west will never give credit to India for the knowledge that India gave
    to the world, for them it is the ancient Greeks. There were no GEEK
    Universities during Takshila and Nalanda period, in fact all those so called
    Greek Philosophers and the rest learned everything from India, it is not the
    other way around. It is high time Indian government make changes and teach the
    Indian kids about their great history from the time of ‘Rig Veda’ the earliest
    civilization of the world… not Sumerians… not the Egyptians… I am a Sri
    Lankan, but to me Indians are the greatest people on earth. I hope the modern
    day young Indians will not change their way of living, imitating low standard
    white culture. This is why it is important to teach the young kids at schools
    the History of the Great Indians in order to preserve the Indian culture and values. In USA or in Britain they never teach about the Indian History. Just think why???

  • Sunil Wadhwa

    Good to know the glorious past of Indian Universities. I hope the modern Indian Universities will learn from past and have research programs for the defense of the country including technical, cultural and military invasion and secretive attacks.

  • Chandra Ravikumar

    King Dharampala of the Pala dynasty has been one of the greatest supporter of higher learning and established so many Shalas. Why were we not taught about him in school and college? I learned about Oxford and Cambridge, but not our own Shalas. You have left out Kanchi puram as one of the greatest centre of learning. In the Bhagavad Geetha Sri Krishna personifies in his own image the best of many aspects of the world, and says “Nagareshu Kaanchi”.

    And a thought on the word “shila”. It means stone in Samskritham, and appears to be unsuitable to describe a place of learning. I think that the original word could have been
    “shaala” which got corrupted to “shila” in colloquial Prakrit or Pali.

  • anish

    muslims are monkey butts

  • Sambit

    Islamists has perfected this modus operandi where they destroy every aspect of an indigenous culture-its books,its temples,its intellectuals,its artifacts,its overall way of life entirely so that the victim population has no history to relate to and no memory of their ancestors…then they can be told that there is one god and they were always muslims to begin with..this pathetic and violent modus operandi is clearly exhibited in the contemporary conquests of the islamic state.

  • ajay

    as you sow ,so you reap.mongols destroyed house of wisdom in baghdad in a similar way

  • pushpa talwar

    I am happy I have come to know the richness in education …our ancestors wer soooo intelligent they use to welcome all …see we welcomed people they destroyed our wealth which was in form of knowledge …. Muslims remain dogs tail …. not alll muslims … only few who has such cunning mind …. I m very disappointed after reading this ….:(

    • vinsin

      All have cunning mind.

  • mahavir singh

    its time of awaking

  • Dr. Kallol Guha

    India, once the center of learning of the world, what happened to its inner national fabric that allowed few thousand wretched uncultured, illiterate British to rule over 300 million Indians? What happened to its national fabric that even to this day Indian intellectuals slavishly copy and dutifully submit to the West and become its pathetic appendage?

    • Gauri Bhat

      The knowledge did not percolate to the grass roots and the muslim impact was so huge , as they exploited and applied extreme tactics like kill or convert which was not the character of Indian fabric. life became full of terror and survival was a challenge . There is a famous Indian proverb prevalent in all languages , which summaries to ” if ones stomach is empty they can not understand god nor knowledge” That’s exactly what muslims and British targeted . Timeand again muslims world over have proved they are destroyers, killers abolishers , so to say BLACK SPIDERMAN i.e a parasite to Humanity!!

    • Manish

      I think British Saved India and specially Hindus……Otherwise moslem would had finished everything

      • ajay

        no, marathas and sikhs were dominant in india at that time,if british had not interfered,india would have definitely been a developed nation.

        • vinsin

          But they lost Third Battle of Panipat.

          • D$

            yes, bcoz rajputs and sikhs didnt support marathas!

      • Biswa Jit Hazarika

        It’s true. .even as it’s not their intension to save anything. ..They were also looters and Invaders only. ..Meaning is Lord saved it through them

  • Jeetender Thakur

    we are proud of our Priceless Heritage

  • Shakti Singh

    See Muslim’s nature of mind…….they destroyed such great temples of education……..
    they dont respect even education……….thats why people say Islam means terrorism not peace……..
    If India would defeat them then today…..Howards University,Oxford University were not International home of Education…but it would be ‘Takshashila’ n ‘Nalanda’ of Bharat not India n i would be writing all this in Sanskrit(international language)

    • omkar

      See what we are doing right now rather than what somebody has already done which no one can change

    • Indian

      Yes Shakthi Singh you are right.
      We need to remove all those kind of peoples from our country.

    • Dr. Kallol Guha

      In this context Indians must recall the ancient Indian Philosopher DANDEMI of TAXILA who in response to a question from ALEXANDER the Greek Invader- Who is the greatest ? He replied- “one who is immensely powerful yet harmless”. This is the legacy of India, created by the personalities like Emperor Chandragupta, Ashok and Kharbel who turned sanyasi at the peak of their power. It does not befit a nation like India- where people of all religion sought shelter and protection- to mistreat a given religious group. It is enough if others realize that India and Indians are immensely powerful yet harmless.

    • ajay

      as you sow so you reap,that is why house of wisdom was destroyed by mongols in the same way.

      • vinsin

        Mongols are not Indians. House of wisdom was not a university but a library which had translated books into Arabic.

  • rakeshkapila

    Kilji was a real Turkey Turk!

  • Zed

    ” Muslim invasion of India by the fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji from Turkey in 1193 CE”

    FYI there was no Turkey in 1193 CE. Maybe you meant Turk instead of Turkey?
    Otherwise a very informative article.
    How come no universities south of Vindhyas find any mention in your list?


    • mahir

      you cant change the fact… there is no other side of bad deed so keep ur mouth shut.