Takshila- one of the oldest universities in the world, is located in the modern-day city of Taxila, about 32 km from Rawalpindi in Pakistan. Taxila (named so by the Greeks) literally means “City of Cut Stone” or “Rock of Taksha”. Taxila was an important city of ancient India situated by the eastern shore of the Indus river. It is a UNESCO world heritage site today. Founded in 1000 BC, this city has witnessed various civilizations’ growth and fall until when it finally got abandoned in the 5th century AD.
Glance At The History
The earliest traces of Takshila are found in The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. The Valmiki Ramayana states that Rama’s younger brother Bharata won the kingdom of Gandharva with the assistance of his maternal grandfather Kekairaj Ashwapati. The Gandharva kingdom was spread on both sides of the Indus River. Bharata’s two sons Taksha and Pushkal settled their respective capitals on two different sides namely ‘Taxila’ and ‘Pushkaravati’. This is how the city of Taxila was named. As per the Mahabharata, Shakuni’s ancestors were ruling the city of Takshashila. After the war, Parikshit’s descendants retained the kingdom for a few generations.
The early literary pieces mention that during the time of Gautam Buddha, King Pukkusati of Gandhara sent his troops to Magadharaj Bimbisara and it was followed by the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley around 515 BCE. The famous Buddhist Jataka Tales also mention tales about Takshila.
Cultural And Architectural Heritage
Taxila transformed from a Vedic kingdom and Buddhist center of learning to urban culture with a mixture of various religions and ethnicities. We find the cultural diversities of the Achaemenids, Greeks, Mauryans, Scythians, Kushans, and the Huns. Owing to so many various rulers and kingdoms, the area was particularly a rich hub of art and cultural growth. Different craftsmen brought in various styles and techniques resulting in the flourishing of the cultural heritage of Taxila. Since the region had a major Buddhist influence, there are many Stupas built around the city. To name a few – Dharmarajika Stupa, Kunala Stupa, Sirkap and Jaulian Stupa. All these speak of the rich culture of the kingdom.
Major Attraction: The Takshila University
The renowned University was a center of excellence in the field of Science, Art, Literature, and especially Medicine and also one of the oldest universities in the world. Nearly 20,000 students from all across the globe namely from countries like China, Greece, Babylon studied in this famous University. It is believed that it had one of the most difficult entrance tests with the ratio of selecting only 3 out of 10 students. It offered nearly 64 subjects and students could choose the subject as per their own interest. The University has gifted the world with huge personalities like Charaka(the father of medicine), Panini (the Indian Grammarian), Chanakya, and Chandragupta Maurya. With the passage of time, civilizations and rulers evolved and the university slowly started adapting to different cultures and became a very cosmopolitan center where all different cultures and religions were studied.
Decline Of Takshila
The city was a hub of rich cultural and historical importance as many different rulers were constantly at war to hold the reins of this kingdom. Takshila had a very favorable location with respect to trade and business and hence different empires were always fighting for its control for centuries. However, with the passage of time, the trade path lost its importance and hence the significance of Takshila started to decline. The invasion of the Huns marked the destruction of the city in the 5 th century AD. They caused irreparable damage to the monasteries and the University of Takshashila and so the city was totally abandoned by the inhabitants by the 7th century.
Present Day Takshila
After the widespread destruction of the town, it was left in ruins. A few excavations however brought to life the long-forgotten glory of Takshila through the leftover remains of architecture and ancient Mythological tales. In a 2010 report by the Global Heritage Fund, Taxila was identified as one of the 12 worldwide sites “On the Verge” of irreparable damage, and not recoverable loss. With constant efforts from the government, the city attracts thousands of tourists yearning to learn about this ‘Lost and Forgotten Gem’ that lies in ruins today. This small town now houses some skilled craftsmen who spend their days chiseling the stones and sculpting them in the hope to keep the dying culture alive.
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