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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Bharat Ratna

2nd President of India

In office 13 May 1962 13 May 1967

Prime Minister

Jawaharlal Nehru Gulzarilal Nanda (Acting) Lal Bahadur Shastri Gulzarilal Nanda (Acting) Indira Gandhi

Vice President

Zakir Hussain

Preceded by

Rajendra Prasad

Succeeded by

Zakir Hussain

Vice President of India

In office 13 May 1952 12 May 1962


Rajendra Prasad

Preceded by

Position established

Succeeded by

Zakir Hussain

Personal details


5 September 1888 Thiruttani, Madras Presidency,British India (now in Tamil Nadu, India)


17 April 1975 (aged 86) Madras, Tamil Nadu, India (now Chennai)



Political party



Sivakamu, Lady Radhakrishnan


Five daughters One son

Alma mater

Voorhees College University of Madras


Philosopher Professor



Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (

listen (helpinfo); 5 September 1888 17 April 1975) was an

Indianphilosopher and statesman who was the first Vice President of India (19521962) and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967.[1] One of India's most influential scholars of comparative religion and philosophy, Radhakrishnan built a bridge between the East and the West by showing how the philosophical systems of each tradition are comprehensible within the terms of the other. He wrote authoritative exegeses of India's religious and philosophical literature for the English-speaking world. His academic appointments included the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta (19211932) and Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at University of Oxford (1936 1952). Radhakrishnan was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, in 1954. Among the many other honours he received were the British Knight Bachelor in 1931 and honorary membership of theOrder of Merit (1963), but ceased to use the title "Sir" after India attained independence.[2] Dr Radhakrishnan believed that "teachers should be the best minds in the country". Since 1962, his birthday is celebrated in India as Teachers' Day on 5 September.[3] He was also awarded the Templeton Prize in 1975 in recognition of the fact that "his accessible writings underscored his countrys religious heritage and sought to convey a universal reality of God that embraced love and wisdom for all people".[4]

Early life and education[edit source | editbeta]

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born in a Niyogi Telugu Brahmin family [5] at a village near Thiruttani India, 84 km to the northwest of Madras (now Chennai). His father's name was Sarvepalli Veeraswami[6] and his mother's was Sitamma.[6] His early years were spent in Tiruttani and Tirupati. His father was a subordinate revenue official in the service of a local zamindar (landlord). His primary education was at Primary Board High School at Tiruttani. In 1896 he moved to the Hermansburg Evangelical Lutheral Mission School inTirupati.[7] Radhakrishnan was awarded scholarships throughout his academic life.

He joined Voorhees College inVellore but switched to the Madras Christian College at the age of 17. He graduated from there in 1906 with a Master's degree in Philosophy, being one of its most distinguished alumni.[8] Radhakrishnan wrote his thesis for the M.A. degree on "The Ethics of the Vedanta and its Metaphysical Presuppositions".[9] He was afraid that this M.A. thesis would offend his philosophy professor, Dr. Alfred George Hogg. Instead, Hogg commended Radhakrishnan on having done most excellent work.[citation

Radhakrishnan's thesis was published when he was only 20.

Radhakrishnan studied philosophy by chance rather than choice. Being a financially constrained student, when a cousin who graduated from the same college passed on his philosophy textbooks in to Radhakrishnan, it automatically decided his academic course.[10][11] Later on he felt deep interest in his subject and wrote many acclaimed works on philosophy, both Eastern and Western.

Marriage[edit source | editbeta]

Radhakrishnan was married to Sivakamu,[12] a distant cousin, at the age of 16.[13] As per tradition the marriage was arranged by the family. The couple had five daughters and a son, Sarvepalli Gopal. Sarvepalli Gopal went on to a notable career as a historian. Sivakamu died in 1956. They were married for over 51 years.[14]

Career[edit source | editbeta]

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan drawn by Bujjai and signed by Radhakrishnan inTelugu as "Radhakrishnaiah".

In April 1909, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was appointed to the Department of Philosophy at the Madras Presidency College. Thereafter, in 1918, he was selected as Professor of Philosophy by the University of Mysore, where he taught at its Maharaja's College, Mysore. [15][16] By that time he had written many articles for journals of repute like The Quest, Journal of Philosophy and the International Journal of Ethics. He also completed his first book, The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore. He believed Tagore's philosophy to be the

"genuine manifestation of the Indian spirit". His second book, The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy was published in 1920. In 1921 he was appointed as a professor in philosophy to occupy the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta. He represented the University of Calcutta at the Congress of the Universities of the British Empire in June 1926 and the International Congress of Philosophy at Harvard University in September 1926. Another important academic event during this period was the invitation to deliver the Hibbert Lecture on the ideals of life which he delivered at Harris Manchester College, Oxford in 1929 and which was subsequently published in book form as An Idealist View of Life. In 1929 Radhakrishnan was invited to take the post vacated by Principal J. Estlin Carpenter at Harris Manchester College. This gave him the opportunity to lecture to the students of the University of Oxford on Comparative Religion. For his services to education he was knighted by George V in the June 1931 Birthday Honours,[17] and formally invested with his honour by the Governor-General of India, the Earl of Willingdon, in April 1932.[18] However, he ceased to use the title after Indian independence,[19]:9 preferring instead his academic title of 'Doctor'. He was the Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University from 1931 to 1936. In 1936 Radhakrishnan was named Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at the University of Oxford, and was elected a Fellow of All Souls College. In 1939 Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya invited him to succeed him as the Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU).[20] He served as its Vice-Chancellor till January 1948. When India became independent in 1947, Radhakrishnan represented India at UNESCO (194652) and was later Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union, from 1949 to 1952. He was also elected to the Constituent Assembly of India. Radhakrishnan was elected as the first Vice President of India in 1952.[14] He was elected as the second President of India (19621967). When he became President, some of his students and friends requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday, 5 September. He replied, "Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if 5 September is observed as Teachers' Day." His birthday has since been celebrated as Teachers' Day in India.[21] Along with Ghanshyam Das Birla and some other social workers in the pre-independence era, Radhakrishnan formed the Krishnarpan Charity Trust.

As President of India, Radhakrishnan made 11 state visits including visits to both the USA and the USSR.[22]

Philosophy[edit source | editbeta]

Radhakrishnan stated that Western philosophers, despite all claims to objectivity, were influenced bytheological influences of their own culture.[23] He wrote books on Indian philosophy according to Western academic standards, and made all efforts for the West to give serious consideration to Indian philosophy. In his book An Idealist View of Life, he made a powerful case for the importance of intuitive thinking as opposed to purely intellectual forms of thought. He is well known for his commentaries on the Prasthana Trayi namely, the Bhagavadgita, the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutra.

Quotes[edit source | editbeta]

It is not God that is worshipped but the authority that claims to speak in His name. Sin becomes disobedience to authority not violation of integrity.

"Reading a book gives us the habit of solitary reflection and true enjoyment."

"When we think we know we cease to learn."

"A literary genius, it is said, resembles all, though no one resembles him."

"There is nothing wonderful in my saying that Jainism was in existence long before the Vedas were composed."

Awards and honours[edit source | editbeta]

The Bharat Ratna in 1954[3] Radhakrishnan was appointed a Knight Bachelor in 1931.[17] Elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1938. He was awarded Order of Merit in 1963. He received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1961. Awarded the Templeton Prize in 1975, a few months before his death. He donated the entire amount of the Templeton Prize to Oxford University. In 1989, the university instituted the Radhakrishnan Scholarships in his memory. The scholarships were later renamed the "Radhakrishnan Chevening Scholarships".[citation needed]

Criticism[edit source | editbeta]

Radhakrishnan is considered one of India's nationalist leaders, a group of individuals characterised by some scholars as having made extravagant claims on behalf of Oriental civilization.[24]

Works[edit source | editbeta]

Indian Philosophy (1923) Vol.1, 738 pages. Vol 2, 807 pages. Oxford University Press. The Hindu View of Life (1926), 92 pages An Idealist View of Life (1929), 351 pages

Review: E.A. Burtt (Cornell University), The Philosophical Review, Vol. 44, No. 2, (Mar., 1935), pp. 205207 "Those who have read the author's previous volumes or have heard him speak are accustomed to associate with him warmth and vigor of style, penetrating flashes of keen analysis, and detailed familiarity with past and present philosophies in both east and west. In these respects none will find the book disappointing."

Eastern Religions and Western Thought (1939), Oxford University Press, 396 pages Religion and Society (1947), George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, 242 pages The Bhagavadgt: with an introductory essay, Sanskrit text, English translation and notes (1948), 388 pages

The Dhammapada (1950), 194 pages, Oxford University Press The Principal Upanishads (1953), 958 pages, HarperCollins Publishers Limited Recovery of Faith (1956), 205 pages A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (1957), 683 pages, Princeton University Press Review: E.A. Burtt (Cornell University), The Philosophical Review, Vol. 67, No. 3, (July 1958), pp. 411412 "I believe this is the first time I have written a review when no negative criticism of any kind seemed to me warranted. ... No one interested in Indian thought who does not expect to master the original materials can dispense with this book."

Religion, Science & Culture (1968), 121 pages

Works on Radhakrishnan[edit source | editbeta]

Several books have been published on Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan:

Schilpp, Paul Arthur (1992) [1952, Tudor]. The Philosophy of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-0792-8.

Murty, K. Satchidananda; Ashok Vohra (1990). Radhakrishnan: his life and ideas. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-7914-0343-2.

Minor, Robert Neil (1987). Radhakrishnan: a religious biography. SUNY Press. ISBN 088706-554-6.

Gopal, Sarvepalli (1989). Radhakrishnan: a biography. Unwin Hyman. ISBN 0-04-440449-2.

Pappu, S.S. Rama Rao (1995). New Essays in the Philosophy of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Delhi: South Asia Books. ISBN 978-81-7030-461-6.

References[edit source | editbeta]

1. ^ Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan: The Philosopher President, Press Information Bureau, Government of India [1] 2. 3. ^ The Great Philosophers of India, By Kuttan, Published by Authorhouse ^
a b

"Padma Awards Directory (19542007)". Ministry of Home Affairs. Retrieved 26

November 2010. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. ^ ^ ^

a b

"TeluguOne". TeluguOne. Retrieved 2011-08-31.

^ Sarvepalli Gopal: Radhakrishnan; a Biography (1989) p. 11 ^ Sarvepalli Gopal: Radhakrishnan; a Biography (1989) p.15 ^ Sarvepalli Gopal: Radhakrishnan; a Biography (1989) p.17

10. ^ The Philosophy of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1952) p.6 11. ^ Sarvepalli Gopal: Radhakrishnan; a Biography (1989) p.14 12. ^ Radhakrishnan's wife's name is spelled differently in different sources. It is spelled Sivakamu by Sarvepalli Gopal (1989); Sivakamuamma by Mamta Anand (2006); and still differently by others.
[citation needed]

13. ^ Sarvepalli Gopal: Radhakrishnan; a Biography (1989) p.12 14. ^

a b


15. ^ "Maharaja's royal gift to Mysore". The Times of India. Jul 25, 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2013.

16. ^ Kotta Satchidananda Murty; Ashok Vohra (1990). "3. Professor at Mysore". Radhakrishnan: His Life and Ideas. SUNY Press. pp. 1726.ISBN 978-1-43841401-0. 17. ^
a b

"Viewing Page 3624 of Issue 33722". 1931-06-02. Retrieved

2011-08-31. 18. ^ "Viewing Page 2398 of Issue 33816". 1932-04-12. Retrieved 2011-08-31. 19. ^ Banerji, Anjan Kumar (1991). Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a centenary tribute . Varanasi, India: Banaras Hindu University. OCLC 28967355. Page 9 states: "In 1931.... He was knighted that year, but ceased to use the title after Independence." 20. ^ Murty, K. Satchidananda; Ashok Vohra (1990). Radhakrishnan: his life and ideas. SUNY Press. p. 90. ISBN 0-7914-0343-2. 21. ^ "Teachers' Day". Retrieved 2012-10-02. 22. ^ "DETAILS OF MEDIA PERSONS ACCOMPANYING THE PRESIDENT IN HIS/HER VISITS ABROAD SINCE 1947 TO 2012". The President's Secretariat. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 23. ^ Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Charles Moore (eds.), A Source Book in Indian Philosophy, Princeton: Princeton University Press 1989, 610639 24. ^ Mazumdar, Sucheta. Kaiwar, Vasant. From Orientalism to Postcolonialism. Routledge 2009, page 36. "....Indian nationalist leaders continued to operate within the categorical field generated by politicized religion.....Extravagant claims were made on behalf of Oriental civilization. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's statement - "[t]he Vedanta is not a religion but religion itself in its "most universal and deepest significance" - is fairly typical."

External links[edit source | editbeta]

Wikisource has original works written by or about: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

"The Legend of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan" "Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan- The philosopher president", Press Information Bureau, Government of India

"Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (18881975)" by Michael Hawley, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

S. Radhakrishnan materials in the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA)

Political offices Vice President of India 19521962 Succeeded by Zakir Hussain President of India 19621967

New office

Preceded by Rajendra Prasad

Awards Bharat Ratna 1954 Templeton Prize 1975 Succeeded by Rajaji Succeeded by Leo Joseph Suenens

New award

Preceded by Frre Roger


Heads of State of India (List)


Vice Presidents of India


Bharat Ratna laureates


Templeton Prize laureates


Modern Hindu writers (1848 to date)