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Takkasilā

The capital of Gandhāra. It is frequently mentioned as a centre of education, especially in the Jātaka stories. It is significant that it is never mentioned in the suttas, though, according to numerous Jātaka stories, it was a great centre of learning from pre-Buddhistic times. The Commentaries mention that in the Buddha’s day, also, princes and other eminent men received their training at Takkasilā. Pasenadi, king of Kosala, Mahāli, chief of the Licchavī, and Bandhula, prince of the Mallā, were classmates in the university of Takkasilā (DhA.i.337). Among others described as being students of Takkasilā are Jīvaka, Aṅgulimāla, Dhammapāla of Avanti, Kaṇhadinna, Bhāradvāja, and Yasadatta (q.v.)

From Bārāṇasī to Takkasilā was a distance of two thousand leagues (J.i.395), though we are told that sometimes the journey was accomplished in one day (J.ii.47). The road passed through thick jungle infested by robbers (DhA.iv.66). Takkasilā was, however, a great centre of trade; people flocked to it from various parts of the country (MNid.i.154), not only from Bārāṇasī, but also from Sāvatthi, from which city the road lay through Soreyya (DhA.i.326). In ancient times students came to the university from Lāla (J.i.447), from the Kuru country (DhA.iv.88), from Magadha (J.v.161), and from the Sivi country (J.v.210).

The students in the university studied the three Vedas and the eighteen sciences (vijjā) (J.i.159), which evidently included the science of archery (J.i.356; DhA.iv.66; also medicine and surgery, Vin.i.269 f), the art of swordsmanship (J.v.128), and elephant-craft (hatthisutta) (J.ii.47). Mention is also made of the study of magic, such as the Ālambanamanta for charming snakes (J.iv.457), and the Nidhi-uddharanamanta for recovering buried treasure (J.iii.116). The students were also taught the science of ritual (manta) (J.ii.200); but in this branch of learning Bārāṇasī seems to have had a greater reputation, for we find students being sent there from Takkasilā in order to learn the mantas (DhA.iii.445).

The students generally paid a fee to the teacher on admission, the usual amount being one thousand gold pieces. They waited on the teacher by day and were taught by him at night. The paying students were entitled to various privileges, and lived with the teacher as members of his family, enjoying his constant company. The students seem mostly to have done their own domestic work, leading a co-operate life, gathering their own firewood and cooking their meals, though mention is made of servants, both male and female, helping in the various tasks (J.i.319).

Only those of the brāhmaṇa or khattiya caste appear to have been eligible for admission to Takkasilā (J.iv.391).

Discipline was evidently very rigorous, a breach of the rules being severely punished, irrespective of the status of the pupil, who was sometimes flogged on the back with a bamboo stick (J.ii.277 f). Often the most promising students were given the daughters of the teachers in marriage as a mark of very special favour. (e.g., DhA.iv.66. Elsewhere (J.vi.347) it is stated that the teacher’s daughter was given to the eldest pupil).

Sometimes the teacher and his pupils were invited to a meal at the house of a chief man of the city (J.iv.391). The principal teacher was called Disāpāmokkhācariya; under him were assistants, usually chosen from among his students, who were called Piṭṭhi-ācariyā (e.g., J.ii.100).

Takkasilā, being the capital of Gandhāra, was probably also the seat of government. Bimbisāra’s contemporary in Gandhāra was Pukkusāti (J.i.399; ii.218). Mention is made in the Jātaka stories of a Takkasilā-rājā (AA.i.153; MA.i.335; ii.979, 987 f). According to the Kumbhakāra Jātaka (q.v.), Takkasilā was the capital of Naggaji. The Dīpavaṃsa (iii.31) records that twelve kings, descendants of Dīpaṅkara, ruled in succession at Takkasilā.

It is said in the Divyāvadāna (p.371) that Bindusāra’s empire included Takkasilā. There was once a rebellion there and Asoka was sent to quell it. From the minor Rock Edict II of Asoka it would appear that Takkasilā was the headquarters of a provincial government at Gandhāra, placed under a Kumāra or Viceroy. A rebellion broke out there again in the time of Asoka, who sent his son Kunāla to settle it.

Takkasilā is identified with the Greek Taxila, in Rawalpindi in the Punjab.

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