History of Taxila University
Taxila university is Situated twenty miles northwest of the modern city of Rawalpindi, It was a famous educational centre in ancient India. Excavations conducted by John Marshall have shown that owing to continuous urban life in Taxila from the 5th century B.C. to the 5th century AD., urbanism reached its peak here between the 2nd century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. It is clear from Buddhist Jatakas stories that intending students came from different parts of India, i.e. Shivi, Kuru Kingdom in Uttarapatha, Mithila and Rajagriha in the east and Ujjayini in south India, to Taxila, capital of the Gandhara Kingdom so that they might complete their education under renowned scholars.
The Jatakas also mention Banaras as a great centre of learning. It was established mostly by students trained at Taxila. The admission was open to pupils of all castes, with the sole exception of the chandalas (Lower Castes). The pupils lived with their teachers or attended courses as day scholars; the latter class included even married students. The pupils paid their fees in advance, or else served their teachers in lieu there of. The course of studies comprised the three Vedas, as also a series of unspecified courses. The teacher admitted his pupils by a conventional list of 18 crafts (shilpas). Reference is made in particular, to the study of elephant lore, of charms and spells of different kinds, of divination, and of archery and medicine. The number of students residing with a single teacher is frequently given as five hundred. Strict discipline was enforced by teachers among their pupils.
Along with the types of education mentioned above, there arose in this period, a system of vocational and technical training. The condition of medical education at the time of the rise of Buddhism is illustrated by the narrative of the career of Jivaka, which is told in a Pali canonical work. Born as the son of a courtesan at Rajagriha, and brought up by Prince Abhaya of Magadha, he was sent to study medicine under a world-renowned teacher at Taxila. There he stayed for seven years, and completed his training by passing a difficult practical test on the knowledge of medicinal plants. His subsequent career is said to have been exceptionally brilliant, as he rose to the position of court physician of Bimbisara, king of Magadha, and established a countrywide practice in medicine and surgery.
From the third century A.D. onwards, Brahmanical temples, Buddhist monasteries, Vaishnava and Shaiva mathas etc., played a significant role in the cultural and educational life of the Indian people. These institutions performed socio-economic and religious functions. The education of the village was looked after by the temples. Formal education was available both in Brahmanical institutions and in Buddhist monasteries. Theoretically, the period of studentship at the former was thirty to thirty seven years. It is unlikely that this was so in practice and few, even amongst the brahmins, spent so many years as students. Buddhist monasteries took students for only ten years, but those wishing to be ordained as monks had to remain for a longer period.
Formal education reflected their respective interests with considerable emphasis on grammar and study of the Vedic texts. The varna structure was closely linked to the Brahmanical educational system of the society. Education imparted in Brahmanical centres and described in Sanskrit works, was becoming increasingly theological in spirit. Gradually, the educational system split into theoretical knowledge confined to the brahmins, and those whom they wished to teach practical and technical knowledge remained the preserve of the professionals. Theoretically, such schools and centre, which were now receiving, considerable royal patronage, were open to the three upper varnas, but in fact, they were used almost exclusively by brahmins, who had converted them into theological seminaries. Buddhist monasteries managed to steer a middle course, their definition of formal education comprised both grammar and medicine, and their approach being generally less orthodox that that of the brahmins.