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Category: Buddhism

Ancient Buddhist Universities

The six Buddhist universities of ancient India-
1. Nalanda (500 CE to c. 1200 CE)

Nalanda flourished under the patronage of the Gupta Empire as well as emperors like Harshavardhan and later, the rulers of the Pala Empire. At its peak, the school attracted scholars and students from as far away as Tibet, China, Korea, and Central Asia. It was very likely ransacked and destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji in c. 1200 CE.

We get a comprehensive account of Nalanda university from Hieun Tsang, the brilliant Chinese scholar, who came there for his studies during the reign of King Harsha-Siladitya. I – Tsing (675-685) was another Chinese monk who came to India and studied at Nalanda

At the time of Fa-Hian visit it was an ordinary Buddhist monastery.  Lama Taranata the Tibetan historian also gives an account of Nalanda in his works. It appears that King Kumara Gupta (AC 415-455) built the first monastery at Nalanda. It was a seminary for training Buddhist monks. Admission to Nalanda was by oral examination. This was done by a professor at the entrance hall. He was called Dvara Pandita. Proficiency in Sanskrit was necessary, as it was the medium of instruction. Casts, creed and nationality were no barriers in keeping with the Buddhist spirit. Nalanda was maintained by the revenue from seven villages which were granted by the king. The study of Mahayana was compulsory for Buddhists. One could also study secular subjects like science, medicine, astrology, fine-arts, literature etc. The six systems of Hindu philosophy were also taught. One could study Hinayana forms of Buddhism.
Nalanda university occupied an area of 30 acres. There were three large libraries bearing the names Ratna-Sagara, Ratna-Nidi and Ratna-Ranjana.

2. Vikramashila 

A sister institution of Nalanda and was said to have been founded by a monk called Kamapala, under the patronage of King Dharmapala. (AC 770-810). Here preference was given to the Tantric form of Buddhism.
Dipankara Sri Gnana who is also known as Atisha (AC 960-1055) was the famous scholar of Vikramashila .

3. Odantapuri

Odantapuri was considered the second oldest of India’s universities. This was situated in Maghada, about 6 miles away from Nalanda. Odantapuri King Gopala (660-705) was the patron who found this university.

4. Somapura

Somapura was situated in East Pakistan. King Devapala (AC 810-850) is said to have erected the Dharmapala-Vihara at Somapura.

5. Jagaddala

King Ramapala (1077-1129) is said to be the founder of this University. Jagaddala University was the largest construction works undertaken by the Pala Kings. This was a centre for the study and dissemination of Tantric Buddhism.

6. Vallabhi

Vallabhi University achieved as much fame as Nalanda. While Nalanda was the centre for Mahayana Buddhism, Vallabhi achieved fame as the centre for Hinayana Buddhism.


Theravada is a branch of Buddhism that uses the teaching of the Pali Canon, a collection of the oldest recorded Buddhist texts, as its doctrinal core, but also includes a rich diversity of traditions and practices that have developed over its long history of interactions with various cultures and communities. It is the dominant form of religion in Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Burma.

The name Theravada comes from the ancestral Sthaviriya, one of the early Buddhist schools, from which the Theravadins claim descent. After unsuccessfully trying to modify the Vinaya, a small group of “elderly members,” i.e. Sthaviras, broke away from the majority Mahasamghika during the Second Buddhist council, giving rise to the Sthavira sect.
Theravadin accounts of its own origins mention that it received the teachings that were agreed upon during the putative Third Buddhist council under the patronage of the Indian Emperor Ashoka around 250 BCE.


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