Top 5 Ancient Universities of India for learning in Ancient India and Their Astonishing History

Ancient India was the knowledge hub of the entire world. It was known as The Land of Seekers. During the Vedic Civilization time, Ashrams and Gurukuls used to be the centres of Learning.

Sanatana Dharma firmly believes that peaceful coexistence can only be achieved with debate and logic, that’s why with evolving times different centres of learning were established across India for gaining and sharing the gift of knowledge.

Ancient Universities of India

In the Ancient Universities of India, Students from Tibet, China, Korea, and Central Asia have enrolled in the quest for knowledge and wisdom. Students don’t have to pay any fees at that time because education was completely free in the Ancient Universities of India. The kings used to take care of all the expenses of the Universities.

In this article, we will know about the top 5 Ancient Universities of India that were way ahead of their time.

Takshashila University

The University of Takshashila was the first and oldest university in the world, said to be around 3500 years old. The students came from countries like Egypt, Iraq, Greece, Syria, Turkey, and China to get educated at Takshashila University.

Takshashila University is currently located in the Taxila Tehsil of Rawalpindi District of modern-day Pakistan, which was part of Akhand Bharat in ancient times. The city of Takshashila was founded by the son of Bharata, the younger brother of Prabhu Shri Ram. It was the capital of Bharata’s son Taksha.

Takshashila University was greatly influenced by Vedic and Buddhist culture and its philosophy. It was the Vedic Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning in ancient India. The students had to go through an entrance exam to get admission to Takshashila University. The entrance test was so difficult that only 3 out of 10 students can pass the entrance test.

The University of Takshashila was famous for the study of medicine (Ayurveda) and surgery and used to take 7 years to graduate. The minimum age for admission to Takshashila University was 16 years. Around 10,500 students have studied at Takshashila University and there were nearly 2,000 teachers to teach.

Chandragupta Maurya (The first king of the Mauryan Empire), Acharya Chanakya also known as Kautilya (Minister of Chandragupta Maurya), Charaka (Father of Surgery), Panini (a well-known grammatical), and Jivaka (Physician) are some famous students who graduated from Takshashila University.

Takshashila University was destroyed by Toraman Shahi Jauvla, the king of Alchon Huns in the 5th century CE. Taxila, now located in the Rawalpindi district of modern-day Pakistan is a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO in the year 1980.

Nalanda University

Nalanda University was founded by Gupta emperor Kumargupta I, the ruler of the Gupta Empire in 427 CE. Kumargupta I is also known as Sakraditya. Ancient Nalanda University was situated in the Kingdom of Magadh (modern-day Bihar) in India. In today’s time, Nalanda University is located in Bihar’s Nalanda district.

The campus of Nalanda Unversity was spread over 12 hectares of land and had 8 large halls with 300 compartments. Nalanda University had the biggest libraries, it has 4 libraries namely Dharmakunj, Ratnasagar, Ratnodadhi, and Ratnajaka. The library of Nalanda University had more than 90 lakh books and all of them were handwritten and only copies available.

Students came from countries like  Japan, China, Korea, Turkey, Tibet, Mongolia, Persia, etc. to gain knowledge in Asia’s biggest and most prestigious Nalanda University. Students don’t have to pay any fees at that time because education was completely free.

According to Hiuen Tsang, a Chinese scholar who studied at Nalanda University, the university had more than 1,510 teachers and 10,000 monks to teach various subjects like Mathematics, Science, Ayurveda, Architecture, Medicine, Religion (especially Buddhism), Vedas, Philosophy, Warfare, History, Literature, and many others.

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In 1202 AD, a Turkic invader Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed and ransacked the Nalanda University. He burnt thousand of monks alive and thousands were beheaded. When Islamic fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji set the Library of Nalanda University on fire it kept on burning for more than 3 months, Lakhs of books and Manuscripts were burnt.

Vallabhi University

The Maitrak King, Bhattarka founded the Vallabhi University in the 6th century. The Vallabhi University was located in the ancient city Vallabhi, the capital of the Maitraka Empire. In today’s time, Vallabhi University is located in Vallabhipur city of Bhavnagar district in the Gujarat state of India.

The University was an important centre of Buddhist learning in ancient India and was famous for teaching religious thoughts and the philosophy of Buddhism. Vallabhi University was also known for teaching how one can attain Nirvana (Salvation) through self-discipline and meditation.

As per the accounts of Hiuen Tsang, a Chinese scholar who studied at Nalanda University, when he visited Vallabhi University in the mid of 7th century, it had more than 6000 monks studying there. The University used to teach subjects like Political Science, Business, Agriculture, Administration, Law, Economics, and Accountancy.

The expenses of the University were taken care of by the patronage of the Maitrak kings but in the year 775 CE, the patron king of the Maitraka dynasty was killed in an attack by the Islamic invaders. This gave the university a setback, although the university continued to function. The defeat of the patron kings led to the closure of all educational activities of the university in the 12th century.

Vikramshila University

Pala King Dharmapala founded Vikramshila University in the 8th century. The ancient Vikramshila University was located in the ancient kingdom of Magadh (modern-day Bihar) in India. In today’s time, Vikramshila University is located in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district.

The Vikramshila University campus was spread over more than 100 acres of land. The University campus had 6 different colleges, each one having a different specialization. Vikramshila University was famous for Vajrayana, the tantric tradition of Buddhism.

Subjects that the University of Vikramshila used to teach were Metaphysics, Philosophy, Sanskrit grammar, and Logic and the most important and famous one was Buddhist Tantra.

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In 1203 AD, an Islamic fanatic and Turkic invader Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed and ransacked the Vikramshila University. The University of Vikramshila met the same fate as Nalanda in 1203 AD, both the Ancient Universities Nalanda and Vikramshila were burnt to the ground by the same Islamic fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji.

Somapura Mahavihara University

Pala King Dharmapala founded Somapura University in the late 8th century AD. King Dharmapala was the second ruler of the mighty Pala dynasty, he was the one who built Vikramshila University as well. Somapura Mahavihara, a centre for learning in ancient India is located in Paharpur, Naogaon District, Bangladesh.

Somapura Mahavihara University was a major centre for learning the Dharmic traditions of Sanatana Dharm, Jain Dharma, and Buddha Dharma in ancient India. The campus of Somapura Mahavihara was spread over more than 27 acres of land.

Somapura University was largely destroyed by fire in the 11th century during a conquest by the Vanga army. Later lack of maintenance and Islamic invasions led to the decline of this ancient university. In the year 1985, UNESCO listed Somapura Mahavihara as a World Heritage Site.


Our ancestors knew the importance of education and knowledge that’s why education in ancient universities of India was completely free. Students don’t have to pay any fees because the kings used to take care of all the expenses of the Universities.

The invaders not only plundered the wealth of Indian temples but also destroyed the knowledge hub of the entire world. They destroyed the ocean of knowledge with just one regressive act of burning the libraries of the ancient universities of India.

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