The inquisitive mind does not accept to be ignorant and craves for knowledge as Leonardo da Vinci remarked “The natural desire of good men is knowledge”. To satiate this desire one has to imbibe knowledge and one of the best ways to gain it is by getting educated. “Education is the powerful weapon which can change the world” said former President of South Africa and in this changing world education is gathering more significance with every passing day. India has always been a pioneer in providing formal education and since ancient times has been home to some of the most prominent universities in the world like the Takshashila University, of which only the ruins remain. There are others which bear witness to the glorious history of this country and continue to be the pinnacles of higher education. These have been successful in nurturing the minds of thousands of students who have established a name for themselves. Every year we see long queue of students waiting for that opportunity to get through these universities which they consider a life changing moment.
1. Takshashila University
Takshashila, which is now pronounced as Taxila, was one of the greatest centres for learning in India and also one of the best in the world. This institute which was established about 2700 years ago has produced stalwarts such as Chanakya, Charaka, Vishnu Sharma, Panini and Jivaka. The university offered a wide range of courses and included more than 64 subjects such as music, vedas, philosophy, grammar, politics, Ayurveda, astronomy, dance, surgery, agriculture, commerce, and even cryptography along with hidden treasure hunting. The entry to this institution was merit based and pupils who had completed basic education were allowed in the university. The city where this university was based is in present day Pakistan.
2. Nalanda University
The city of Nalanda is in modern day Bihar where Sakraditya Gupta founded the Nalanda University in fifth century CE. This university was functional for around six centuries and after the Gupta Dynasty it came under the care of emperor Harshavardhana (Harsha) and then the Pala Empire. Later, in 12th century CE during the reign of the Mamluk Dynasty under the command of Khilji the university was demolished. This institute used to be of great importance and students from countries such as China, Korea, Japan, Turkey, Tibet, Indonesia and Persia joined to receive education. This was the first and foremost university in the world to have residential facilities for both teachers and students. The library of Nalanda University, named Dharmaganja was monumental in size and was subdivided into three sections— the Ratnasagara, the Ratnaranjaka and the Ratnadadhi. This university was revived into the Nalanda International University on September 1, 2014 in Rajgir situated near Nalanda, Bihar. The first batch of this new university consisted of fifteen students five among them being women. The campus is temporary as of now but the infrastructure is expected to be developed by 2020.
3. Senate of Serampore College
The renowned Serampore trio William Carey, Joshua Marshman and William Ward were instrumental in the establishment of the Senate of Serampore College in 1818. Their mission was to provide education to the masses irrespective of caste, race and region in the fields of Arts and Science. In 1829, this college was granted the status of a university making it the first institution in India to reach this level. This university continues to operate and administers the theological colleges which are affiliated to it and even has the right to confer degrees in Theology bestowed to them by the Charter and Act of Serampore College.
4. Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee
The first batch of this institution was enrolled in 1845, but the formal foundation of the University of Roorkee was laid in 1847, in Roorkee, Uttarakhand, by Sir James Thomason, the then lieutenant governor during British Raj. This institution originated to impart knowledge in engineering and foster the talent of the local students. It was made into a university in 1949, and was transformed into an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in year 2001, making it the seventh IIT. Some of the renowned alumni of this institution are Jaiprakash Gaur, Ganga Ram, Vinita Gupta, Amit Singhal, Naveen Jain and the list is unending.
5. University Of Calcutta
Established on January 24, 1857, by the then Governor General of India, Lord Canning, the University of Calcutta was at the time of its inception had the largest area among all universities of India. This was the first multidisciplinary institute in entire South Asia and offered higher education in Western style. The NAAC accredited it as a Five Star University and the UGC named it as a Centre with Potential for Excellence. The same year, the University of Madras and the University of Mumbai were also founded and all these three institution continue to impart quality education and nurture new talents every year.
6. Aligarh Muslim University
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan came up with the thought of establishing an institution for the Muslim students where they could be trained for bagging government jobs and pursue higher education at the European universities. With this purpose, the Madrasatul Uloom Musalmanan-e-Hind was established in 1875, which was later renamed as Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO College). In 1920, the name of this institution was changed again to Aligarh Muslim University as we know it today. As the name suggests, the university is based in Aligarh while it has two off-campus centers, one each in Murshidabad and Malappuram.
7. University Of Allahabad
On the suggestion of Sir William Muir, the Lt. Governor of North-Western Provinces, to establish a central university at Allahabad, the Muir Central College was founded on December 9, 1873. The building was designed by famous architect William Emerson, who also planned the Crawford Market, Mumbai and Victoria Memorial, Kolkata. Earlier it was affiliated to the University of Calcutta, but on September 23, 1887, it was given the status of a university and was named the University of Allahabad (informally known as Allahabad University). Some of the distinguished former students of this university are Motilal Nehru, Prem Chand Kumar and Nikhil Kumar. This institute was regarded as the ‘Oxford of the East’ for the quality of education it offered. The University Allahabad Act, 2005 of the Parliament of India revived its status to a central University on June 24, 2005.
8. Banaras Hindu University
Prominent politician and educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya laid the foundation of the Benares Hindu University (now known as Banaras Hindu University) in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The land for this noble cause was donated by the ruler of Banaras or Kashi Naresh. About 60km away from the main campus is the Rajiv Gandhi South Campus of the university where Krishi Vigyan Kendra is situated. This university is at present one of Asia’s largest residential universities with more than 20,000 students. BHU is considering the establishment of a campus in Bihar too.
9. Osmania University
This university too has been credited with the University with Potential for Excellence and is also placed in the Nation’s Premier Universities in Humanities, Sciences and Commerce list. Established in 1918, this is the first university in Indian in which Urdu was used as a medium of instruction. This university is based in Hyderabad and was named after Mir Osmania Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad. The count of international students in this institute in 2012 was 3,700 belonging to as many as 80 nations.
10. Jamia Millia Islamia
As quoted by the nightingale of India, Sarojini Naidu, they “built up the Jamia Millia stone by stone and sacrifice by sacrifice”, this university has a long story from its establishment to its development. Moulana Shaukat Ali, Moulana Mohammad Ali Jouhar and many other nationalist Muslim leaders joined hands to form this institution in 1920, and their dedication and perseverance paved the way for Jamia to become a Central university today. In 1988, this was granted the status of a central university and today this academy has more than 23,000 students engaged in undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral studies. Former President of India Zakir Hussain was an alumnus of this university and recent alumni include film star Shahrukh Khan and star cricketer Virender Sehwag.