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Phase 2: 6th Century BC to 10th century BCE: The Viharas of Buddhist-led Period

July 31, 2022 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

During this period, we see the growth of Buddhism and Buddhist rule in India. As the
Buddhist political leadership grew so did their influence on Higher Education in India, usually
fuelled by patronage from Buddhist rulers. According to Basu, this led to an improvement in
institutions of higher learning, which built upon the Gurukula model from the previous era,
while also incorporating new Buddhist pedagogies and philosophies (1944). During this
period Gurukulas continued to exist, however the Buddhist Viharas thrived and “the whole
country was studded with them”. Each Vihara was an assembly of teachers and education
was provide to large cohorts of students. The curriculum included grammar, logic, rhetoric,
arithmetic, astronomy, geometry and music, which according to Samuel paralleled the
European trivium and quaddrivium (1983). These historic Buddhist educational models had a
democratic character and were perhaps more similar to modern universities than Gurukulas.
Additionally both Vedic and Buddhist texts were studied. Several of these historic Buddhist

universities were scattered across modern India including in the cities of Purushapura
(modern Peshawar), Takshasila (in modern Punjab), Jayendra Vihara and Tamralipati
(in Bengal), Nalanda (in Bihar), Kanchipura (in Madras) and other places. The medium of
instruction continued to be Sanskrit, Pali and Indian languages

10 th Century BCE to 5 th Century BC: Takshasila
Takshasila was a seat of higher learning during the Brahmanic period. It continued to flourish
as a place of learning during the Buddhist period, growing in significance and reach. It
attracted students from across India. Students paid fees (often in advance). Less privileged
students had access to scholarships (Yasuhara and Lowe 2016).

5 th Century CE to 12 th Century CE: Nalanda University
The institute for higher learning in ancient Nalanda was described as a maha-vihara or a
great vihara. Founded in 427 in north-eastern India, it survived until 1197. In addition to
Buddhist studies, students also studied fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics
and the art of war. Nalanda was more in the model of modern universities that Takshasila. It
had eight separate compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. It
had a large library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual
scholars could have their own collections. It had dormitories for students, perhaps a first for
an educational institution, housing up to 10,000 students. Nalanda University attracted
pupils and scholars from as far as Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey





July 31, 2022
8:00 am - 5:00 pm