Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (5 September 1888 – 17 April 1975) was an Indian philosopher and statesman who was the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967.
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
One of India’s most distinguished twentieth-century scholars of comparative religion and philosophy, 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).
Advaita Vedanta was the grounding of his philosophy, as this tradition was reinterpreted by him for a contemporary understanding.
He defended Hinduism against “uninformed Western criticism” contributing to the formation of contemporary Hindu identity. He has been influential in shaping the understanding of Hinduism, in both India and the west, and earned a reputation as a bridge-builder between India and the West.
Several high awards were bestowed upon Radhakrishnan during his life, including a knighthood in 1931, the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, in 1954, and honorary membership of the British Royal Order of Merit in 1963.
Radhakrishnan believed that “teachers should be the best minds in the country”. Since 1962, his birthday is celebrated in India as Teacher’s Day on 5 September.
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born to a Telugu-speaking Niyogi Brahmin family in Tiruttani, Madras Presidency, British India (now Tamil Nadu) on 5th September 1888.
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His father Sarvepalli Veeraswami was a subordinate revenue official and his mother, Sarvepalli Sita looked after his family. He was married to Sivakamu and became a father to five daughters and one son.
At the age, of 17, he attended Madras Christian College and in the year 1906. He completed his master’s degree in Philosophy and became a professor.
In 1931, he was knighted and came to be known as Sire Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan until 1947. Post-independence his title was renamed, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
He was appointed Spalding Professor of Eastern religions and Ethics at Oxford University in the year 1936.
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The Political Career of Radha Krishnan
In this section, we will discuss the political view and career of Radha Krishnan. His tenure as Vice president and finally how he became Radhakrishnan president.
After a promising academic career, Radhakrishnan began his political career later in life. His political career came after his foreign impact.
He was one of the stalwarts who attended the Andhra Mahasabha in 1928, where he advocated the idea of renaming the Ceded Districts division of the Madras Presidency Rayalaseema.
In 1931, he was appointed to the League of Nations Committee for Intellectual Cooperation, where he became known as a Hindu expert on Indian ideas and a convincing translator of the role of Eastern institutions in contemporary society in Western eyes.
Radhakrishnan’s involvement in Indian politics, as well as foreign affairs, grew in the years following India’s independence.
From 1946 to 1951, Radhakrishnan was a member of the newly formed UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), sitting on its Executive Board and heading the Indian delegation.
Radhakrishnan was also a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly for the two years following India’s independence.
The demands of the University Commission and his continuing responsibilities as Spalding Professor at Oxford had to be balanced against Radhakrishnan’s commitments to UNESCO and the Constituent Assembly.
When the Universities Commission’s report was completed in 1949, Radhakrishnan was appointed Indian Ambassador to Moscow by then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a position he held until 1952. With his election to the Rajya Sabha, Radhakrishnan was able to bring his philosophical and political beliefs into motion.
In 1952, Radhakrishnan was elected as India’s first Vice-President, and in 1962, he was elected as the country’s second President.
During his time in office, Radhakrishnan saw a growing need for world peace and universal fellowship.
The importance of this need was driven home to Radhakrishnan by what he saw as global crises unfolding. The Korean War was already in full swing when he assumed the role of Vice-President.
Radhakrishnan’s presidency was dominated by political conflicts with China in the early 1960s, followed by hostilities between India and Pakistan.
Furthermore, the Cold War split East and West, leaving each on the defensive and wary of the other.
Radhakrishnan questioned what he saw as self-proclaimed international organisations like the League of Nations’ divisive ability and dominant character.
Instead, he advocated for the promotion of an innovative internationalism focused on integral experience’s metaphysical foundations. Only then will mutual understanding and tolerance be encouraged between cultures and nations.
Dr Radhakrishnan’s path ranged from a small village in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, to becoming the second President of India. His contribution as a teacher and as the second President will live on forever. His philosophy and thoughts on education and teachers are reflected through his quotes:
|“When we think we know we cease to learn.”|
|anubhavavasanameva vidya phalam: “The fruit of knowledge, the fruit of vidya is anubhava.”|
|“Books are the means by which we build bridges between cultures.”|
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