A great philosopher and a statesman, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was India’s first Vice President and an influential teacher, who played a vital role in enhancing India’s educational system. He was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna in 1984 and the British Order of Merit in 1963. He passed away on April 17, 1975 and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, on his 63rd dead anniversary, let us acknowledge his contribution in nation building and in the field of education.
Born in 1882, in a town called Tirutani in Andhra Pradesh, his father wanted him to take on the role of a priest. But his talents brought him to join schools in Tirupati and Vellore and he eventually joined prestigious Christian College, Madras, in order to study philosophy. He believed that the study of Indian philosophy and its interpretation in western terms would cast off imperial inferiority complex and give countrymen a new sense of esteem. His popularity among students was at the peak at the Presidency College in Madras and the University of Calcutta, where he served as a professor.
He later served as the Vice Chancellor of both Andhra University and Banaras Hindu University and was recognised by Oxford University when he was called to fill the Chair of Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions. In 1939, he was elected Fellow of the British Academy.
Dr Radhakrishnan was ambassador to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1949 to 1952 and became Vice President of India from 1952 and in 1962, he choosen as the second President of India. Also, in order to celebrate his esteemed position, his students suggested that his birthday to be celebrated as ‘Radhakrishnan Day’. However, he declined this move and suggested that “Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud priviledge if September 5 is observed as Teachers’ Day.”
“He has served his country in many capacities. But above all, he is a great teacher from whom all of us have learnt much and will continue to learn. It is India’s peculiar privilege to have a great philosopher, a great educationist and a great humanist as her President,” Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once said on Radhakrishnan.