Another centre of learning that acquired fame equal to Nalanda was Takshashila (a name that got corrupted later into Taxila). This seat of learning was much more comprehensive than the celebrated Lyceum of Aristotle and older than it by more than half a millennium. It could be called a university but for the fact that it was a cluster of a number of autonomous ‘lyceums’ managed, maintained and presided over by emanate teachers who partly drew upon the contributions of the local people and partly depended on the fees and presents of their rich pupils. Students from as far off as Magadha (the modern-day Bihar) flocked to learn at the feet of gurus and rishis of Takshashila. Jivika learnt the art of medicine there and became the famous physician of Bimbisara, the ruler of Magadha, and of the Buddha himself. Prasenajita, the enlightened king of Kosala, was intimately associated with the events of the time of Buddha, who was yet another illustrious alumnus of Takshashila. But the most eminent of them was Panini, a native of modern-day Lahore, who became a renowned grammarian.
Among the most popular subjects taught here was military science called dhanush vidya (science of the bow) for these were the chief weapons used at the time. The greatest exponent of this science was Vishnugupta, better known as Chanakya and nicknamed Kautilya. He was one of the most celebrated savants of Takshashila—a place known to honour scholars and provide shelter to those who were intellectual giants in different branches of knowledge. Chanakya, who possessed extraordinary scholarship and acquired fame as King Chandragupta’s advisor, had his education at this famous school of learning. He was versatile genius, well versed in military science, art of diplomacy, political economy, metallurgy, chemistry, medicine and the Vedas.
A very interesting story is told about the king who ruled here. He belonged to the clan of Nandas and was named Dhanananda. He was very avaricious and acquired wealth by way of taxes imposed upon the people. People began to complain against tax on hides, tax on wood and tax even on stone.
By the time Chanakya came here, there had come upon a change in Dhanananda. He had begun to give gifts and had constituted trust or a sangha to administer gifts and charities that he gave. A great scholar was invariably appointed the president of the trust. The work of the sangha was to administer the king’s grants and charities and that meant he had to interact with the king often. Chanakya, because of his extraordinary scholarship, was recognised and honoured by the scholars of Takshashila. But when King Dhanananda met him for the first time, he was disgusted at the physical ugliness as also the crass conduct of Chanakya, who was forthright in his speech and filled with intense egotism. The king disapproved of the ways of the new president and removed him from the presidentship of the sangha. Chanakya became incenced as he had not committed any mistake. In anger, he told the king, “Your position has made you arrogant. You think there is none to question you, whatever injustice you commit and however you behave. You have removed me from my rightful place, and I shall dethrone you.”
The king ordered his arrest, but Chanakya disguised himself as a monk and fled from the capital. Later Chanakya met Chandra-gupta and helped him to take over the throne of the Mauryan empire.