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Dr Radhakrishnan was a great philosopher, professor, and eventually statesman. He was a scholar of comparative religion and philosophy. There was a time in the late past when the western world views & writings were all about criticizing Oriental philosophies and ideologies. Some philosophers also stated that many Eastern Ideologies were inferior. At the same time, Eastern philosophers had never allowed these to become barriers to expose the truth and the deep meaning of our beliefs. Swami Vivekananda’s 1893 speech upgraded the Eastern ideologies at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. This speech of Swami Vivekananda is one of those instances. Our spiritual scholars where have captured these criticisms into the reality of all of it. Swami Vivekananda’s works and Vedanta philosophy inspired Dr Radhakrishnan.

Teachers should be the best minds in the country.

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

A lot of people came forward and pushed in the same direction to let the world witness the true essence of Hinduism. Some historians considered Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan as a giant defensive wall against the Uninformed Western Critic. His life story is almost everything about understanding the true meaning of the strong pillars upon which Hinduism has held its head high since the dawn of time.


Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Dr Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888, in a Telugu speaking Niyogi Brahmin family. His philosophy mostly concentrated on the roots of Advaita Vedanta. Sarvepalli was born in the Chittoor district in Madras Presidency (now Andhra Pradesh). However, his family recognized the village of Sarvepalli in the Nellore district. He gained primary education at K.V. High school. He attended Voorhees College, Vellore as a secondary school student. After school education, Radhakrishnan took up admission to Madras Christian College at the age of 17. He completed his school of philosophy in 1906. Sarvepalli later graduated with a master’s degree from the same university. It was more luck than a choice that he chose philosophy that his cousin also studied the same one. His cousin gave him the books of philosophy that subsequently bore his interest.


In college, Dr Alfred George Hogg one of his professors used to criticize the Hindu Philosophical Culture. Radhakrishnan couldn’t digest the same and in reply to “Vedanta has no room for ethics”. Sarvepalli completed a thesis in M.A. on “Ethics of Vedanta & its mystical presuppositions”. Later on, the same professor commended his work & impressed Sarvepalli on the same note.  He told him that his criticism disturbed the faith on which he was given. The same criticism turned his direction to a detailed study of the Indian philosophical system & religion and continuous defence of Hinduism against the “Uninformed Western Criticism”.

Besides, Dr Radhakrishnan viewed Professor Hogg as “My Distinguished Teacher”. “He is one of the best men we had in recent years,” Professor William Skinner, the principal of the college said to Radhakrishnan. The same eminence got him the first job in his college only. In reciprocation, he dedicated one of his earliest books to Professor William Skinner.

Dr Radhakrishnan married at the age of 16. He had 5 daughters & 1 son, Sarvepalli Gopal, who later became a prominent historian. His wife died in 1956, after spending 51 years of happily married life.


Madras Presidency College’s Department of Philosophy appointed Dr Radhakrishnan in April 1909. Later in 1918, Sarvepalli was a professor at Maharaja’s college at the University of Mysore. His teaching techniques and humble & smart nature as a person gained him the unconditional love of his students. Dr Radhakrishnan wrote a number of articles like The Quest, Journal of Philosophy, International Journal of Moral Philosophy.  Sarvepalli also wrote his Ist book on the Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore, “Genuine Manifestation of Indian Life”.  Dr Sarvepalli wrote his IInd book in 1920, “The Reign of Religious Belief in Contemporary Philosophy”.  A true teacher proceeded to gain the love of his students always. In 1921, King George V Chair of Mental & Moral science at Calcutta University appointed Dr Radhakrishnan as a philosophy professor. Sarvepalli also represented at the Congress of Universities of the British Empire at Harvard in 1926.

Manchester College at Oxford University invited Dr Radhakrishnan once to deliver the Hibbert lecture (lecture on Theological matters) on the ideals of life in 1929.  ‘An Idealist View of Life‘ book subsequently published the same lecture. For his services to education, George V knighted Sarvepalli in June 1931 at Birthday honours. Although, later desisted to apply the title after Independence & used his academic title of “Doctor” only. From 1931 to 1936, Dr Sarvepalli remained the Vice-chancellor of Andhra University. In 1939, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya invited him to work as Vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). Dr Radhakrishnan remained in that office till January 1948.


After owning a successful & flourishing career in academics. Dr Radhakrishnan turned towards politics although Sarvepalli was never affiliated with any political party. In 1947, Dr Radhakrishnan represented India at UNESCO until 1952. Dr Radhakrishnan was the ambassador of India to the Soviet Union until 1952. The people of India elected Dr Radhakrishnan as a member of the constituent assembly of India.  Sarvepalli proceeded on to become the Ist Vice President of India in 1952 & IInd President of India in 1962 and served in office till 1967. Neither Dr Radhakrishnan had a background in congress nor Sarvepalli was much active in the struggle against the Britishers. Some scholars regarded Dr Radhakrishnan as a “Politician in the shadow” for the same reason.  Dr Sarvepalli is the only President who couldn’t attend the Republic day parade due to sick health.

A life of joy and happiness is possible only on basis of knowledge.

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan


As referred earlier, George V gave the knighthood to Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1931 which he later ceased to use. In 1954, The Indian government awarded the Bharat Ratna to Dr Radhakrishnan. He was the Ist Indian to be honoured with the title after its introduction. British Royal order of merit in 1963 also granted honorary membership to Sarvepalli. Dr Sarvepalli was also the founder of Helpage India, an NPO for the elderly underprivileged.


When Dr Radhakrishnan was President of the Union of India. Some of his students requested him to permit them to celebrate his birthday. The President responded that he would be happy and privileged if his birthday would be celebrated as Teachers’ day. From then on, his birthday is celebrated as Teachers’ Day in India on 5 September every year.

His students always praised & adored Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in all domains he served.  Aside from the teacher’s character, everyone adored his endeavour in person.  Throughout his life, Dr Sarvepalli worked as a defensive wall for the real Hinduism & bridged the gap between the eastern & western worlds.  Dr Radhakrishnan shaped the understanding of Hinduism in both India and westward.  For his contribution to literature, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was named for the Nobel prize 16 times. He was also nominated for the Nobel Peace prize 11 times.  Walking in the footprints of Swami Vivekananda, Dr Radhakrishnan always resisted as a firm believer in Hinduism and its positive impact on the minds of people all over the globe.

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan will forever be remembered as the beacon of real education and philosophy in India as well as abroad.

Thanks for Reading!!!

You can also read Shashi Tharoor’s book, ‘Why I am a Hindu?’ which draws inspiration from the philosophy of Dr Radhakrishnan, Swami Vivekananda and many others.

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Composed By: Ajay Bhanwala


  1. He was not just a Teacher but beyond that. This article inspired me more on Hinduism.

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