Intellectual Growth of India

Oh India! The land which was spread through many rivers, forests, snow-capped mountain ranges, deserts, and also one of the most fertile lands in the ancient World.
  • Well, where do I start?
  • I believe we had a short discussion on Mahajanapadas, how the mighty Sindhu civilization which majorly constituted of Aryans now moved east and founded vast empires ranging from Bengal and Gangariday(Bangladesh) and Bihar(Magadha) in the east to the arid Rajasthan, Sind and straight to the khyber pass leading to Persia.
  • Mahajanapadas is a combination of three words
  1. Maha-Great
  2. Jana-People
  3. Padas-Foothold
  • So Mahajanapadas wer Great footholds of people of various tribes.
  • This was also the time when the name BHARAT-VARSH was coined for the whole indian subcontinent.
  • This vast land of roughly 3000 kms was split into 16 major mahajanapadas around the 6th century B.C.E and, they were divided into two categories as follows:

Monarchy:

  • 11 of theese majanapadas were ruled by kings or monarchs. The kings in these states had the supreme authority.
    1. Anga (Kolkata and Bangladesh)
    2. Kashi (Varanasi/Benaras)
    3. Kosala, (East Uttar Pradesh)
    4. Chedi, (Central Madhya Pradesh)
    5. Vatsa, (southern Uttar Pradesh)
    6. Matsya, (Eastern Rajasthan and Western Madhya Pradesh)
    7. Shursen, (Indian Punjab)
    8. Ashmak, (Central India-Eastern Maharashtra)
    9. Avanti, (Western and southern Madhya Pradesh)
    10. Gandhar (Peshawar and northern Pakistan Punjab )
    11. Magadha (Bihar and Bengal)

    Republics:

    • The remaining 5 were Republic countries.
    • These republican states had a ‘Gana-parishad‘ or an Assembly of senior and responsible citizens. This, Gana-parishad had the supreme authority in the state. 
    • All the administrative decisions were taken by this Parishad.were taken by this Parishad.
    1. Vrijji (North Eastern Uttar Pradesh)
    2. Malla,( Northern West Bengal and Western Assam)
    3. Kuru(Haryana and Delhi)
    4. Panchal (Uttarakhand and Western Uttar Pradesh)
    5. Kamboj (Nothern Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province of Pakistan)

    Of all these, Avanti,Kosala,Gandhar,Vatsa and Magadha were the biggest and their role was very important all the forth comings.

      India divided into various small fragmented empires 

      Kosala:

      • Shravasti,Kushavati, Saket, and Ayodhya were the famous cities of Kosala. 
      • Ayodhya was the State capital. 
      • The Kosala king Prasenajit was – a contemporary of Gautama Buddha. Kosala and Magadha went to war during his reign. 
      • The independent state of Kosala did not last -long after Prasenajit.

      Vatsa

      • Kaushambi of the present day Bihar, was the capital of Vatsa. 
      • Vatsa was famous for its fine cotton cloth.
      •  The Vatsa king Udayana was very brave. 
      • He was the follower of Gautama Buddha. 
      • The independent status of- Vatsa was soon lost after king Udayana.

      Avanti:

      • The kingdom of Avanti comprised the area around the present day Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. 
      • Pradyota, the king of Avanti, was a very ambitloys ruler.
      •  He was constantly engaged in conflicts with Kosala, Vatsa and Magadha. 
      • In this constant warfare, the Magadha state ultimately proved superior.

      Magadha:

      •  Expansion of the Magadha kingdom started during the reign of King Bimbisara.
      •  He annexed the kingdoms of Kashi, Madra and Anga to Magadha. 
      • There is a reference in the Buddhist works to 80,000 village in Bimbisara’s kingdom. 
      • The capital of his kingdom was Rajagriha, the present day Rajgir in Bihar. The city of Rajagriha and King Bimbisara’s palace were built by an architect named Mahagovinda.

      Nation Building:

      What is it that builds a nation?
      Definitely its people who work for themselves and the nation ultimately benefiting both through trade, politics, commerce and agriculture in those times.
      • Scholars were always revered and placed in the highest regard in all the states across India
      • Intellect and Arts were appreciated beyond praises and accolades as they(artisans and intellectuals ) were always kept closer to the King who helped him in crisis as well as decision taking moments by being advisors and sometimes also acting as the judge to deliver judgements.
      • I always ask the question to myself what is common among all the people who are in power? What are the factors that make them stand out amongst all the others? What knowledge and what strengths do they possess to have acquired such a position in the ruling of an empire?
      • MOST IMPORTANTLY where have they acquired this knowledge?
      • The answer to all the above questions have a common link- THE UNIVERSITIES!
      • Take any Prime Minister or any PRESIDENT and you shall observe that all of them have graduated from the best universities and colleges in the world at their time and that the contacts that they develop at such places also occupy places of power more often than not.
      INDIA-The land of the golden sparrow
      • They say that India was the leader of the World in the early years in knowledge, wealth and prosperity.
      • There were many scholars who made stupendous advancements in the fields of Maths, Science, Medicine, Politics, Language, Arts(Sculpting and Painting) with such finesse and foresight that most of their works have stood the test of time even after millenniums have passed by.
      • India too built its name in the world through centres of knowledge in the latter half of the Aryan Civilization.
      • There were two major unviersities at that time known as Nalanda(Presently in Bihar) and Takshila (Rawalpindi/Punjab Province, Pakistan).
      • Great thinkers and Analysts like Chanakya also known as Kautilya was a student as well as a techer in these universities along with the other students,nobles and kings.
      • People even today look to Chanakya for political advice through the book he wrote known as “ArthaShastra(The treatise on Economics,Politics and Military Strategy).”
      • Chanakya was the brain behind the resistance to Alexander the Great’s advent of India.
      I shall talk  more about the Universities and then shall proceed towards the conquests of Alexander the Great!

      Takshila University:

      The supposed 800-700 B.C.E period Top View of Takshashila University

      • Takshila (Pronounced as Takshashila in Sanskrit) is located in the Rawalpindi District of the Punjab province in Pakistan. 
      • Legend has it that Taksha, an ancient king who ruled a kingdom called Taksha Khanda the
      • modern (Tashkent) founded the city of Takṣaśilā.However Sanskrit Takshashila, appears to contain the suffix shila (“stone”) with the prefix Taksha, referring to Taksha, the son of Bharata and Mandavi, as related in the Ramayana.
      • Takshila is situated about 30-32 km  northwest of Islamabad Capital Territory and Rawalpindi in the Punjab state which is just off the Grand Trunk Road. 
      • Takshila was a part of India before the partition, After which it went into Pakistan’s Territory.
      • Takshashila University was established sometime around the 8th Century B.C.E in the Gandhar Mahajanapada.
      Sir Alexander Cunningham-Ancient Geography of India
      • The city dates back to the Gandhara period and contains the ruins of the Gandharan city of Takshashila which was an important Hindu and Buddhist centre, and is still considered a place of religious and historical sanctity in those traditions.
      •  In 1980, Takshila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple locations.
      • By some accounts, Takshila was considered to be amongst the earliest universities in the world and some Historians even suggest that it was the first University in the world making it the oldest university in the world.
      I shall be resorting to the works of D.G.Apte’s book- Universities in Ancient India for further details as well.
      Dharmarajika Stupa at Takshashila University

      COURSE AND CURRICULUM:

      • At ancient Takshashila University,more than 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.
      • Students from Magadha traveled the vast distances of northern India in order to join the schools and colleges of Takshashila.
      • We learn from Pali(Language in Buddha’s time) texts that Brahmana youths, Khattiya(A member of one of the clans or tribes recognized as of Aryan descent) princes and sons of setthis(Merchant Bosses and Traders) from Rajagriha, Kashi, Kosala and other places went to Takshashila for learning the Vedas and eighteen sciences and arts.


      Various areas of Takshashila University including the temple wall and the area around Dharmarajika Stupa 

      • Courses included philosophy, law, state-craft, defense, warfare strategies, grammar (several languages).
      • The Vedas and the Eighteen Arts (music, dance, fine arts,  archery, hunting, and elephant lore, Divination, Magic, Snake Charming, Painting 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.
      • Takshila was specialized in the study of medicine.
      • Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. 
      • Students would come to Takshila and take up education in their chosen subject with their teacher directly.
      • They were supposed to pay for their expenses. However, if a student was unable to pay then he could work for his teacher.
      Stupa base at Sirkap, decorated with Hindu, Buddhist and Greek temple fronts in Takshashila-courtesy takshila.org.pk
      AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY!
      • No external authorities like kings or local leaders subjected the scholastic activities at Takshashila to their control. 
      • Each teacher formed his own institution, enjoying complete autonomy in work, teaching as many students as he liked and teaching subjects he liked without confirming to any specific centralized syllabus.
      •  Study terminated when the teacher was satisfied with the student’s level of achievement. 
      • In most cases the “schools” were located within the teachers’ private houses, and at times students were advised to quit their studies if they were unable to fit into the social, intellectual and moral atmosphere there.
      • The teachers were exempted from the payment of taxes and they were given ample amounts of money on the the occasion of various sacrifices and rituals as well.

       

      A pool for ritual washings at Jaulian…Part of Takshashila

                                 

      • Knowledge was considered too sacred to be bartered for money, and hence any stipulation that fees ought to be paid was vigorously condemned. 
      • Financial support came from the society at large, as well as from rich merchants and wealthy parents. 
      • Though the number of students studying under a single Guru sometimes numbered in the hundreds, teachers did not deny education even if the student was poor; free boarding and lodging was provided, and students had to do manual work in the household.
      •  Paying students like princes were taught during the day; non-paying ones, at night.
      • Guru Dakshina was usually expected at the completion of a student’s studies, but it was essentially a mere token of respect and gratitude – many times being nothing more than a turban, a pair of sandals, or an umbrella. 
      • In cases of poor students being unable to afford even that, they could approach the king, who would then step in and provide something. 
      • Not providing a poor student a means to supply his Guru’s Dakshina was considered the greatest slur on a King’s reputation.
      Votive Stupa at Takshashila showing the Budhhist influence. Votive Stupas are the Indian Version of Wishing Wells.

      EXAMS NO CONSTRAINT! 

      • Examinations were treated as superficial, not considered part of the requirements to complete one’s studies. 
      • The process of teaching was thorough- unless one unit was mastered completely, the student was not allowed to proceed to the next.
      •  No convocations were held upon completion, and no written degrees were awarded, since it was believed that knowledge was its own reward. 
      • Using knowledge for earning a living or for any selfish end was considered the ultimate Disaster.

      PREVIOUS EDUCATION CRITERIA:

      • Students arriving at Takshashila usually had completed their primary education at home (until the age of eight), and their secondary education in the Ashrams (between the ages of eight and twelve), and therefore came to Takshashila chiefly to attain Specialization!
      • A Part of the School
      • There was a special academy for the princes, which had on its rolls 101 scholars. Another centre of royal scions was the institute of military science, whose strength was 103 princes and at one time rose to 500.

                                       

      MEET THE ALUMNI OF TAKSHASHILA UNIVERSITY!

      • Takshashila’s famous researchers and teachers include:
      1. Panini the great grammarian of Sanskrit, to whom Prof. Noam Chomsky of MIT attributes the origin of linguistics.
      2. Kautilya, also known as Chanakya (King-maker, Superb political advisor, and Author of ArthaShastra 300 BCE), deemed by social and economic historian Max Weber as one of the greatest political state-craft books of the ancient world.
      3. Charaka the distinguished physician, whose research on the region’s flora and fauna described in his Charaka-Samhita strengthened the development of Ayurveda.
      4. Jivaka the great physician of Bimbisara who cured the Buddha, learnt the science of medicine under a far-famed teacher at Takshashila and on his return was appointed court-physician at Magadha.
      5. Jotipala, son of the Purohita of the king of Banaras, returned from Takshashila with great proficiency in archery or military science and was later appointed commander-in-chief of Banaras.
      6. Prasenajit,the enlightened ruler of Kosala, who is intimately associated with the events of the time of the Buddha.
      View from the Takshashila University

      • If You want to read more of D.G.Apte’s works on Takshashila University please click here

      SUMMARY:

      • This vast land of Ancient India of roughly 3000 kms was split into 16 major mahajanapadas around the 6th century B.C.E.
      • Mahajanapadas is a combination of three words
      1. Maha-Great
      2. Jana-People
      3. Padas-Foothold
    •  The Mahajanapadas were divided into two categories as follows:
    • Monarchy:
    • 11 of theese majanapadas were ruled by kings or monarchs. The kings in these states had the supreme authority.
      1. Anga (Kolkata and Bangladesh)
      2. Kashi (Varanasi/Benaras)
      3. Kosala, (East Uttar Pradesh)
      4. Chedi, (Central Madhya Pradesh)
      5. Vatsa, (southern Uttar Pradesh)
      6. Matsya, (Eastern Rajasthan and Western Madhya Pradesh)
      7. Shursen, (Indian Punjab)
      8. Ashmak, (Central India-Eastern Maharashtra)
      9. Avanti, (Western and southern Madhya Pradesh)
      10. Gandhar (Peshawar and northern Pakistan Punjab )
      11. Magadha (Bihar and Bengal)

      Republics:

      • The remaining 5 were Republic countries.
      • These republican states had a ‘Gana-parishad‘ or an Assembly of senior and responsible citizens. This Gana-parishad had the supreme authority in the state. 
      • All the administrative decisions were taken by this Parishad.
      1. Vrijji (North Eastern Uttar Pradesh)
      2. Malla,( Northern West Bengal and Western Assam)
      3. Kuru(Haryana and Delhi)
      4. Panchal (Uttarakhand and Western Uttar Pradesh)
      5. Kamboj (Nothern Baluchistan and North West Frontier Province of Pakistan)
      • Of all these, Avanti,Kosala,Gandhar,Vatsa and Magadha were the biggest and their role was very important all the forth comings.

      Takshila University:

      • Takshila (Pronounced as Takshashila in Sanskrit) is located in the Rawalpindi District of the Punjab province in Pakistan. 
      • Legend has it that Taksha, an ancient king who ruled a kingdom called Taksha Khanda the modern (Tashkent) founded the city of Takshashila. However in Sanskrit Takshashila, appears to contain the suffix shila (“stone”) with the prefix Taksha, referring to Taksha, the son of Bharata and Mandavi, as related in the Ramayana.
      • Takshila is situated about 30-32 km  northwest of Islamabad Capital Territory and Rawalpindi in the Punjab state of Pakistan.
      • The curriculum consisted of some 68 elective courses where more than 10,500 students came and studied under the guidance of more than 2000 teachers.
      • Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. 
      • Students would come to Takshila and take up education in their chosen subject with their teacher directly.
      • There was a special academy for the princes, which had on its rolls 101 scholars. Another centre of royal scions was the institute of military science, whose strength was 103 princes and at one time rose to 500.
      • Knowledge was considered too sacred to be bartered for money, and hence any stipulation that fees ought to be paid was vigorously condemned. 
      • Financial support came from the society at large, as well as from rich merchants and wealthy parents. 
      • Takshashila’s famous researchers and teachers include:
        1. Panini the great grammarian of Sanskrit, to whom Prof. Noam Chomsky of MIT attributes the origin of linguistics.
        2. Kautilya, also known as Chanakya (King-maker, Superb political advisor, and Author of ArthaShastra 300 BCE), deemed by social and economic historian Max Weber as one of the greatest political state-craft books of the ancient world.
        3. Charaka the distinguished physician, whose research on the region’s flora and fauna described in his Charaka-Samhita strengthened the development of Ayurveda.
        4. Jivaka the great physician of Bimbisara who cured the Buddha, learnt the science of medicine under a far-famed teacher at Takshashila and on his return was appointed court-physician at Magadha.
        5. Jotipala, son of the Purohita of the king of Banaras, returned from Takshashila with great proficiency in archery or military science and was later appointed commander-in-chief of Banaras.
        6. Prasenajit,the enlightened ruler of Kosala, who is intimately associated with the events of the time of the Buddha.

    • I wont end the topic here, I won’t say how the university was ruined as it has a particular significance in the oncoming chapters. 
      I will say that at the end of the 5th Century as this university was a great centre of knowledge till then.
      I shall write more on Nalanda University next time and will also write on Alexander’s Advances of which I’m sure everyone is very curious to know about.
      Till then Knowledge shouldn’t be refused to anyone, Knowledge increases with sharing.