Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a distinguished 20th-century scholar, was the first Vice President of India, and the second President. He was awarded a knighthood in 1931, and the Bharat Ratna. His birthday is being celebrated as Teachers’ Day (September 5) in India since 1962. He defended Hinduism against “uninformed Western criticism”, contributing to the formation of contemporary Hindu identity.
Here are 10 facts about Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan you must know:
1. His academic appointments included the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta (1921–1932) and Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at University of Oxford (1936–1952).
1. One of India’s most illustrious 20th-century scholars of comparative religion and philosophy, Dr. Radhakrishnan’s academic appointments included the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta (1921–1932) and Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at University of Oxford (1936–1952).
2. Dr. Radhakrishnan illustrated how western philosophers were prejudiced. He even claimed that Indian philosophy merits the term ‘philosophy’ in the western world. He is the one who placed Indian Philosophy on the world map.
3. Dr. Radhakrishnan was quite popular among his students. His students arranged and drove him in a flower-decked carriage when he was leaving Mysore University.
4. He belonged to a humble family with a weak economic background. He came from a small village on the border of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and his father wished for him to become a priest at a temple. However, he finished his MA in Philosophy and his first book titled Indian Philosophy was a classic and a literary masterpiece.
5. As the Vice-President, Radhakrishnan presided over the Rajya Sabha sessions. Whenever there were infuriated members, he would start quoting slokas from Sanskrit classics or the Bible, to calm the heated audience.
6. Bertrand Russell, one of the world’s greatest philosophers, welcomed Dr. Radhakrishnan as the newly appointed President of India. He said, “It is an honour to the philosophy that Dr. Radhakrishnan should be President of India and me, as a philosopher, take special pleasure in this. Plato aspired for philosophers to become kings and it is a tribute to India that she should make a philosopher her President.”
7. During the course of his academic career, he received many awards. He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in 1931, was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1938 and was awarded the prestigious Bharat Ratna in 1954. He also received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1961.
8. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a few months before his death, received the Templeton Prize in 1975.
9. He was also appointed as ambassador to UNESCO in 1946 and later on as ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1949. As Chair of the Union Education Commission in 1948, he persevered and brought about reforms in India’s education system.
10. When he became the President of India, some of his students wished to celebrate his birthday. He replied, “Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if 5 September is observed as Teachers’ Day.”