By Swami Harshananda
The Vikramaśila monastery is one of the three well-known centers of learning of ancient and medieval India, the other two being the Takṣaśilā and the Nālandā. This Buddhist monastery which developed into a great center of learning was established by the king Dharmapāla of the Pāla dynasty, ruling over Bihar and Bengal. The center was named as Vikramaśila monastery as the word ‘Vikramaśila’ was a title of the king Dharmapāla.
Location of Vikramaśila
It was located at the top of a hill, on the bank of the river Gaṅgā in the Magadha country. This has been identified with the hill Pātharghāṭa near Bhāgalpur in the Bihar State. The spiritual head of the monastery was called Vajrācārya. The very first Vajrācārya was Buddhajñānapāda, a disciple of Haribhadra, the guru of Dharmapāla. The campus had six dvāras or Main gates, each under the charge of a dvāra-paṇdita, responsible for the admission of students and also to face the scholars of other schools and systems. This wonderful institution was destroyed in A. D. 1205 by the Muslim invaders.
It grew into a mighty center of learning, not only of Buddhism but also of other branches of learning. There were 108 cells set apart for Buddhist monks. Some were meant for the practice of tāntrik disciplines and others for living. These monks called paṇditas, were in charge of the various departments of the monastery. Students would flock from all parts of the country and also from foreign countries, especially from Tibet. Diplomas would be awarded to the proficient students, including the monks. Many Sanskrit works were translated here into the Tibetan language. The institution which was devoted to Mahāyāna Buddhism had to face troubles created by Śrāvakas or bhikṣus from Siñhala who followed Hīnayāna.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore