RAWALPINDI: The proposed revival of the University of Ancient Taxila, designated a Unesco’s World Heritage Site in 1980 and the greatest learning center of Gandhara Civilisation, can convert the region into an educational tourism hub from across the globe after proper publicity and provision of extended facilities to the tourists.

Taxila, one of the most important Buddhist archeological sites in the world, is located near the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. According to historians, the ancient university was set up around five to six century (BC) and had continued to attract students from around the world until its destruction in the 5th century. Taxila as a symbol of diversity should be given due attention for restoring its lost glory. Therefore, the Buddhist archaeological sites of Dharmarajika Complex and Stupa can once again be made the centre of excellence in higher education for setting up an international standard university in it.

According to experts, Taxila has great potential for religious and educational tourism and could be made an international education city for higher education.

Director Archives Department Punjab Maqsood Ahmed said Taxila formerly Takshashila was also described in the Buddhist Jataka tales written in Sri Lanka around 5th century. In this text, Taxila has been mentioned as the capital of the kingdom of Gandhara and a great learning centre. He said Chinese travellers like Fa Hian (Faxian) and Huien Tsang (XuanZang) also spoke of Takshashila in their writings. Many people visit Taxila today to experience the wonders of an ancient civilisation, he added.

Mr Ahmed said the Muslim world, once a hub of intellectual wonders, has lost its glory, particularly in science and technology but Taxila, if focused and uplifted with an aim to promote science and technology, can be made a centre of excellence to attract foreign students, particularly from the subcontinent, Central Asian and other countries.

He said the ancient university which was a centre for education and knowledge was established on the concept to create a space where bright philosophical and scientific minds could assemble for advance learning during the Achaemenid Empire.

He said the oldest institution hosted debates, housed several libraries on its main premises and gave birth to towering scholars and intellectuals such as Kotliya Chankia; the adviser to the founder of the Mauryan empire; Charaka, the Indian father of medicine, one of the leading authorities in Ayurveda and the greatest 5th BCE Indian grammarian Paini.Abdul Nasir Khan, the library curator at Taxila Museum, said students used to come here from all over the world, including China, Babylon, Syria and Greece and the Indian subcontinent.

He said subjects such as science, mathematics, medicine, politics, warfare, astrology, astronomy, music, religion, vedas, agriculture, surgery, commerce, futurology and philosophy had been taught on the campus.

Pakistan can benefit from this blessed rich cultural and historic diversity and turn it in to a regional economic hub, he concluded.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2021

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