The first reference to Takshashila University comes from Valmiki Ramayana, where Prabhu Ramachandra of Ayodhya becomes victorious in Gandhara. Prabhu Ramchandra's younger brother Bharata won the country named Gandhara of Gandharva with the help of his maternal grandfather Kekairaj Ashwapati and appointed his two sons as the rulers. The Gandharva country was situated on both banks of the Sindhu (Indus) River[ref] and on its sides, two sons named Taksha and Pushkal of Bharata settled their capitals named Takshashila and Pushkaravati.[ref]
The city of Takshashila was one of the major cities in the Mauryan Empire. The main reasons were the location of city and the existence of the great University of Takshashila. The viceroy of the North-western provinces had his headquarters at Taxila, from where he seemed to have controlled Afghanistan and Sindh.[ref]
The University of Takshashila was greatly influenced by the Vedic culture and its philosophy. Approximately 10500 students were studied in Takshashila and taught by nearly 2000 teachers. The students came from within India and outside (Egypt, Iraq, Greece, Syria, Turkey, and China). Students were admitted to University after passing the examination which was taken by teachers.
There were day scholars along with resident pupils in the schools of those days. Mention has been made of prince Junha of Banaras keeping house for himself as a student of Takshashila. Some of these day-scholars might be married and regular householders.[ref]
The entry age for University was sixteen years. Students were free to have a choice in selecting any subjects. Takshashila specialized in the study of medicine (Ayurveda) and surgery and had taken seven years to complete graduation. Kautilya (minister of Chandragupt Maurya), Charaka (Father of Surgery), and Panini (a well-known grammatical) were also students of Takshashila.
The Buddhist texts mention many stories about the university. Few are given as follows.
Story of Jivika
The story centers around the early education of Jivaka, who was the physician in ordinary to the Magadhan emperor Bindusara (aka. Bimbisara), and was also deputed by the emperor as physician-in-attendance on Buddha, as the best medical expert of the times. He was of obscure origin and the son of a courtesan of Raja griha, a foundling thrown on a dust heap from which he was rescued by Bindusara's son, prince Abhaya. The latter brought him up till he repaired to Takshashila to learn the art as a source of livelihood without depending upon the uncertainties of royal patronage. He studied medicine at Takshashila under a world-renowned physician for the prescribed period of 7 years. But before he was given the license to practice medicine, he had to undergo a sort of practical examination prescribed by his teacher, who directed: Take this spade and seek round about Takshashila a yojana on every side, and whatever plant you see which is not medicinal, bring it to me. After a good deal of botanical investigation, Jivaka could not discover any plant that was devoid of medicinal properties. The teacher was satisfied and gave him a little money with leave to go home and practice as a physician.
The excavations at Taxila also have yielded essential hoards of gold and silver jewelry of every sort, utensils of silver and lesser metals, and ornaments of inferior metals, all indicating a high level of culture. The ornaments (all sorts of ear-ornament, neck-wear, head ornaments, bracelets, anklets, girdles, etc.) were manufactured indigenously with great skill and minuteness of detail.[ref]