ancient higher-learning institutionswere developed in many cultures to provide institutional frameworks for scholarly activities. These ancient centres were sponsored and overseen by courts; by religious institutions, which sponsoredcathedral schoolsmonastic schools, andmadrasas; by scientific institutions, such as museums, hospitals, and observatories; and by individual scholars. They are to be distinguished from theWestern-styleuniversity, an autonomous organization of scholars that originated inmedieval Europeand has been adopted in other regions inmodern times(seelist of oldest universities in continuous operation).
ThePlatonic Academy(sometimes referred to as the University of Athens),34founded ca. 387 BC inAthensGreece, by the philosopherPlato, lasted 916 years (until AD 529) with interruptions.5It was emulated during the Renaissance by theFlorentine Platonic Academy, whose members saw themselves as following Platos tradition.
Around 335 BC, Platos successorAristotlefounded thePeripatetic school, the students of which met at theLyceumgymnasium in Athens. The school ceased in 86 BC during the famine, siege and sacking of Athens bySulla.6
During theHellenistic period, theMuseioninAlexandria(which included theLibrary of Alexandria) became the leading research institute for science and technology from which many Greek innovations sprang. The engineerCtesibiusfl.285222 BC) may have been its first head. It was suppressed and burned between AD 216 and 272, and the library was destroyed between 272 and 391.
The reputation of these Greek institutions was such that at least four central modern educational terms derive from them: theacademy, thelyceum, thegymnasiumand themuseum.
ThePandidakterionofConstantinople, founded as an institution of higher learning in 425, educated graduates to take on posts of authority in the imperial service or within the Church.7It was reorganized as a corporation of students in 849 by the regentBardasof emperorMichael III, is considered by some to be the earliest institution of higher learning with some of the characteristics we associate today with a university (research and teaching, auto-administration, academic independence, et cetera). If a university is defined as an institution of higher learning then it is preceded by several others, including the Academy that it was founded to compete with and eventually replaced. If the original meaning of the word is considered a corporation of students then this could be the first example of such an institution. ThePreslav Literary SchoolandOhrid Literary Schoolwere the two major literary schools of theFirst Bulgarian Empire.
In Western Europe during theEarly Middle Agesbishopssponsoredcathedral schoolsandmonasteriessponsoredmonastic schools, chiefly dedicated to the education ofclergy. The earliest evidence of a European episcopal school is that established inVisigothicSpain at theSecond Council of Toledoin 527.8These early episcopal schools, with a focus on an apprenticeship in religious learning under a scholarly bishop, have been identified in Spain and in about twenty towns in Gaul during the 6th and 7th centuries.9
In addition to these episcopal schools, there were monastic schools which educated monks and nuns, as well as future bishops, at a more advanced level.10Around the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries, some of them developed into autonomous universities. A notable example is when theUniversity of Parisgrew out of the schools associated with theCathedral of Notre Dame, theMonastery of Ste. Genevive, and theAbbey of St. Victor.1112
Major Buddhist monasteries (mahaviharas), notably those atPushpagiriNalanda, andTaxila, included schools that were some of the primary institutions of higher learning inancient India.
The school inPushpagiriwas established in the 3rd century AD as presentOdisha, India. As of 2007, the ruins of this Mahavihara had not yet been fully excavated. Consequently, much of the Mahaviharas history remains unknown. Of the three Mahavihara campuses, Lalitgiri in the district of Cuttack is the oldest. Iconographic analysis indicates that Lalitgiri had already been established during theShungaperiod of the 2nd century BC, making it one of the oldest Buddhist establishments in the world. The Chinese travellerXuanzang(Hiuen Tsang), who visited it in AD 639, asPuphagiri Mahavihara,1314as well as in medieval Tibetan texts. However, unlike Takshila and Nalanda, the ruins of Pushpagiri were not discovered until 1995, when a lecturer from a local college first stumbled upon the site.1516The task of excavating Pushpagiris ruins, stretching over 58 hectares (143 acres) of land, was undertaken by the Odisha Institute of Maritime and South East Asian Studies between 1996 and 2006. It is now being carried out by theArchaeological Survey of India(ASI).17TheNagarjunakondainscriptions also mention about this learning center.1819
Nalandawas established in the fifth century AD inBiharIndia22and survived until circa 1200 AD. It was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.23
The center had eight separate compounds, ten temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. It had a nine-story library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections. It had dormitories for students, housing 10,000 students in the schools heyday and providing accommodation for 2,000 professors.24Nalanda attracted pupils and scholars from Sri Lanka, Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, who left accounts of the center.25
In 2014 a modernNalanda Universitywas launched in nearbyRajgir.
Ancient Taxilaor Takshashila, in ancientGandhara(modern-dayPakistan), was an early Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning. According to scattered references that were only fixed a millennium later, it may have dated back to at least the fifth century BC.26Some scholars date Takshashilas existence back to the sixth century BC.27The school consisted of several monasteries without large dormitories or lecture halls where the religious instruction was most likely still provided on an individualistic basis.26
Takshashila is described in some detail in laterJtakatales, written inSri Lankaaround the fifth century AD.28
It became a noted centre of learning at least several centuries BC, and continued to attract students until the destruction of the city in the fifth century AD. Takshashila is perhaps best known because of its association withChanakya. The famousSanskritfor The knowledge ofEconomics) by Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Takshashila itself. Chanakya (or Kautilya),29theMauryaEmperorChandragupta30and theAyurvedichealerCharakastudied at Taxila.31
Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. TheVedasand the Eighteen Arts, which included skills such asarcheryhunting, andelephantlore, were taught, in addition to itslaw schoolmedical school, and school ofmilitary science.31
Vikramashilawas one of the two most important centres of learning in India during thePala Empire, along withNalanda. Vikramashila was established by KingDharmapala(783 to 820) in response to a supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nalanda.Atisha, the renownedpandita, is sometimes listed as a notableabbot. It was destroyed by the forces ofMuhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khiljiaround 1200.32
Vikramashila is known to us mainly through Tibetan sources, especially the writings ofTrantha, the Tibetan monk historian of the 16th17th centuries.33
Vikramashila was one of the largest Buddhist universities, with more than one hundred teachers and about one thousand students. It produced eminent scholars who were often invited by foreign countries to spread Buddhist learning, culture and religion. The most distinguished and eminent among all wasAtishaDipankara, a founder of theSarmatraditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Subjects like philosophy, grammar, metaphysics,Indian logicetc. were taught here, but the most important branch of learning wastantrism.
Further centers includeTelharain Bihar34(probably older than Nalanda35),Odantapuri, inBihar(circa 550 – 1040),Somapura, inBangladesh(from theGupta periodto theTurkic Muslim conquest),Sharada PeethPakistanJagaddala Mahavihara, inBengal(from thePala periodto theTurkic Muslim conquest),Nagarjunakonda, inAndhra PradeshVikramashila, inBihar(circa800-1040),Valabhi, inGujarat(from the Maitrak period to theArab raids),VaranasiinUttar Pradesh(eighth century to modern times),Kanchipuram, inTamil NaduManyakheta, inKarnatakaMahaviharaAbhayagiri Vihra, andJetavanaramaya, inSri Lanka.
InChina, the ancient imperial academy known asTaixuewas established by theHan Dynasty. It was intermittently inherited by succeeding Chinese dynasties up until the Qing dynasty, in some of which the name was changed toGuozixueorGuozijianPeking University(Imperial University of Peking) established in 1898 is regarded as the replacement of Taixue. By 725 AD,Shuyuanor Academies of Classical Learning were private learning institutions established during the medieval ChineseTang dynasty. InJapanDaigakuryowas founded in 671 andAshikaga Gakkowas founded in the 9th century and restored in 1432. InKoreaTaehakwas founded in 372 andGukhakwas established in 682.Seowonswere private institutions established during theJoseon dynastywhich combined functions of aConfucian shrineand a preparatory school. TheSeonggyungwanwas founded by in 1398 to offer prayers and memorials toConfuciusand his disciples, and to promote the study of theConfucian canon. It was the successor toGukjagamfrom theGoryeo Dynasty(992). It was reopened as a private Western-style university in 1946.
TheAcademy of Gondishapurwas established in the 3rd century AD under the rule ofSassanidkings and continued its scholarly activities up to four centuries after Islam came to Iran. It was an important medical centre of the 6th and 7th centuries and a prominent example of higher education model in pre-Islam Iran.36When thePlatonic Academyin Athens was closed in 529, some of its pagan scholars went to Gundishahpur, although they returned within a year to Byzantium.
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TELHARA (NALANDA) EXCAVATION A Brief Report
Telhara Universitys ruins older than Nalanda, Vikramshila. firstpost. 14 December 2014
Ancient Buddhist Monastic Establishments in Bangladesh
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