A Note on Ancient History

Taksha (the shortened moniker for TakshaShila) Institute was named after “Taksha’s Cut-Rock (or ‘Stele’) City” in ancient northern India, the site of the ancient world’s supposed first international university (c. 800 BCE – 550 CE). It was described as the wealthiest city of that time, in India. The designation “Taksha” symbolizes the abiding ideals of solid and deep-rooted respect for teachers, unfettered freedom of thought, learning of different streams of knowledge, excellence in education, and extraordinary discipline, that prevailed at the ancient University.

Some scholars date Takshashila’s existence back to the 8th century BCE. It was known as a center of learning at least several centuries before Christ, and continued to attract students from around the ancient world until its destruction in the 5th century CE. At ancient Takshashila University, 10,500 students (two out of three applicants rejected) came from within India and outside (Babylonia-now Iraq, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor-now Turkey, Arabia, and China), to be taught by nearly 2000 master-teachers. The curriculum consisted of some 68 elective courses, including philosophy, law, state-craft, defense, warfare strategies, grammar (several languages), the 18 arts (music, dance, fine arts, etc.), mathematics, astronomy, astrology, plants & herbs, medicine (Ayurveda, Ayurvedic acupuncture, etc.), and surgery. Some of these, such as medicine, were taught for up to seven years before graduation.

Takshashila’s famous researchers and teachers include: Panini (the great grammarian of Sanskrit, to whom Prof. Noam Chomsky of MIT attributes the origin of linguistics); Kautilya, also known as Chanakya (king-maker, astute political advisor, and author of ArthaShastra, c. 300 BCE, deemed by social and economic historian Max Weber as one of the greatest political state-craft books of the ancient world); Charaka (the distinguished physician, whose research on the region’s flora and fauna described in his CharakaSamhita strengthened the development of Ayurveda); and Jivaka (the great physician to Gautama Buddha and his followers).

The archaeological site of Takshashila was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.