Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (5th September 1888 – 17th April 1975)

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a highly regarded Indian philosopher and statesman who had a profound influence on his country. During the five year period from 1962 through 1967, he had the important role of being the second president of India. For the span of a decade, from 1952 to 1962, he was the first vice president of India. From 1949 until 1952 he served as the second ambassador of India to the Soviet Union. In addition to being the fourth vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University from 1939 to 1948, he was also the second vice-chancellor of Andhra University from 1931 to 1936.

Radhakrishnan's philosophical views were based on Advaita Vedanta and he sought to reinterpret this tradition to make it more applicable to the modern era. He opposed what he referred to as "uninformed western criticism" of Hinduism, thus aiding in the formation of the modern Hindu identity. He has had a remarkable impact on the perception of Hinduism, both in India and in the West, and is widely known for his strong ability to build connections between India and the West.


Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (5th September 1888 – 17th April 1975)

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (5th September 1888 – 17th April 1975)

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Radhakrishnan was highly esteemed and recognised for his work and achievements, receiving a knighthood in 1931, being bestowed with the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in 1954, and was made an honorary member of the British Royal Order of Merit in 1963. Radhakrishnan strongly felt that the teachers of the nation should be the most knowledgeable and intelligent people available. Every year since 1962, his birthday has been remembered and celebrated as Teachers' Day on the 5th September in India.


Motivational Quotes by Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

  • "Tolerance is the homage which the finite mind pays to the inexhaustibility of the infinite."
  • "Knowledge gives us power, love gives us the fullness."
  • "When we think we know we cease to learn.”
  • "Books are the means by which we build bridges between cultures."
  • "The true teachers are those who help us think for ourselves."
  • "God lives, feels, and suffers in every one of us, and in course of time, His attributes, knowledge, beauty and love will be revealed in each of us."
  • "True religion is a revolutionary force: it is an inveterate enemy of oppression, privilege, and injustice."
  • "Religion is behavior and not mere belief."
  • "A life of joy and happiness is possible only on the basis of knowledge and science."
  • "The end-product of education should be a free creative man, who can battle against historical circumstances and adversities of nature."
  • “The main function of a university is not to grant degrees and diplomas but to develop the university spirit and advance learning. The former is impossible without corporate life, the latter without honours and post-graduate”
  • “anubhavāvasānameva vidyā phalam. The fruit of knowledge, the fruit of vidyā is anubhava.”
  • “Discontent with the actual is the necessary precondition of every moral change and spiritual rebirth.”
  • "It takes centuries to make a little history; it takes centuries of history to make a tradition."
  • “The word Atman (Soul) means the "breath of life". Atman is the principle of man's life, the Soul that pervades his being, his breath, his intellect, and transcends them. Atman is what remains when everything that is not the self is eliminated. It is the unborn and immortal element in man, which is not to be confused with body, mind, or intellect.”
  • "Teachers should be the best mind in the country."
  • "The ultimate self is free from sin, free from old age, free from death and grief, free from hunger and thirst, which desires nothing and imagines nothing."
  • "Love thy neighbours as thyself because you are your neighbour. It is an illusion that makes you think that your neighbour is someone other than yourself."
  • "It is not God that is worshipped but the authority that claims to speak in His name. Sin becomes disobedience to authority not a violation of integrity”.


Childhood and Education

Radhakrishnan was brought into the world as Sarvepalli Radhakrishnayya to parents, Sarvepalli Veeraswami and Sithamma, who spoke Telugu and lived in Tiruttani of North Arcot district in the former Madras Presidency, now known as Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu. His roots trace back to the small village of Sarvepalli in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh.

During his childhood, he spent a significant amount of time in the cities of Thiruttani and Tirupati. His father was an employee of a local landlord, held a position in the revenue office, and was responsible for collecting taxes. He began his educational journey at K. V. High School, located in Thiruttani. Radhakrishnan was granted numerous scholarships for the entirety of his time studying, making it possible for him to continue his education. He pursued his high school education at Voorhees College, located in Vellore.

After his studies of F.A., he joined the Madras Christian College at the young age of sixteen; the college being affiliated to the University of Madras. He was able to achieve success in completing both his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the same college in 1907. Radhakrishnan studied philosophy by accident and not because he had made a conscious decision to do so. With Radhakrishnan's limited financial resources, the donation of philosophy textbooks from a cousin who had graduated from the same college determined his academic course without question. Sarvepalli's bachelor's degree thesis was focused on exploring the ethical principles of the Vedanta and its metaphysical presuppositions.

His inspired dedication of defending Hinduism against what he believed to be uninformed Western criticism motivated him to undertake a critical study of Indian philosophy and religion, something he would be devoted to for his lifetime. Radhakrishnan gave Professor Hogg the highest of commendations, referring to him as 'My distinguished teacher,' and as "one of the greatest Christian thinkers we had in India."

Professor William Skinner, the then Acting Principal of the College, also gave him a glowing testimonial, noting that he was "one of the best men we have had in the recent years", resulting in Radhakrishnan being able to secure his first job at Presidency College. In return, Radhakrishnan devoted one of his initial books to William Skinner as a sign of gratitude.


The Spirit of Abheda

Radhakrishnan articulates his feelings of frustration directed at the British critics in The Ethics of the Vedanta. At this point he wrote that it has become popular among philosophers of the present era to consider the Vedanta system to be one that does not include ethics. Max Muller, a German-born philologist and Orientalist who dedicated most of his life to study in Britain, was quoted by him as saying, "The Vedanta philosophy has not overlooked the essential realm of ethics; it has included this area as part of its teachings.

According to Radhakrishnan, this philosophy requires us to regard all creations as a single entity. Here he unveils his perspective of "The Spirit of Abheda". He believes that in regards to moral conduct a person should strive to maintain a Spirit of Abheda, or impartiality. Therefore, he illustrates how this conclusion logically and naturally progresses to the ethical concepts of love and brotherhood. It is important to remember that all other people should be treated as your equals and not as objects to be used.


Academic Career

Radhakrishnan was appointed to the Department of Philosophy at the Madras Presidency College in the month of April 1909. Subsequently, in 1918, he was selected to be the Professor of Philosophy by the University of Mysore, where he worked as a professor at the Maharaja's College, Mysore. By then he had achieved a noteworthy feat of writing multiple articles for revered journals such as The Quest, Journal of Philosophy and International Journal of Ethics.

He was also able to complete his first book, which was titled The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore. He held a firm conviction that Tagore's philosophy truly expressed the nature of the Indian spirit. His book, The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy, was released to the public in 1920, which was his second book. He was given the esteemed opportunity to occupy the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta in 1921, and was appointed professor of philosophy.

In June 1926, he was chosen to be the representative of the University of Calcutta at the Congress of the Universities of the British Empire and in September of that same year he went to Harvard University to represent the University of Calcutta in the International Congress of Philosophy. During this time, he was also invited to give the Hibbert Lecture on the ideals of life at Manchester College, Oxford in 1929, and the lecture was published in book form, entitled An Idealist View of Life, making it a noteworthy academic event.

Radhakrishnan was asked in 1929 to take the place of Principal J. Estlin Carpenter that was available at Manchester College. This presented him with the opportunity to stand in front of the students at the University of Oxford and give a lecture on Comparative Religion. The King George V knighted him in June 1931 Birthday Honours in recognition of his contribution to the field of education, and the Earl of Willingdon, the Governor-General of India, gave him the formal investiture of his honour in April 1932.

Upon India's independence he stopped using his title of nobility, instead opting to go by his academic title of 'Doctor'. From 1931 to 1936 he had the esteemed position of being the vice-chancellor of Andhra University.  In 1936, Professor Radhakrishnan was appointed the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at the University of Oxford, and was also honoured with a Fellowship at All Souls College.

Back in the year 1939, Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya offered him the chance to be the Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University and asked him to succeed him in the role. He was appointed to the position of Vice-Chancellor and served in this position until the beginning of January 1948.


Political Career

Radhakrishnan's successful academic career provided the foundation for his political career, which he started later in life. His reputation for international authority was established before he embarked on his political career. He was a staunch advocate for the renaming of Ceded Districts division of Madras Presidency to Rayalaseema, and in 1928, he attended Andhra Mahasabha to second this idea.

In 1931, he was given the distinguished honor of being nominated to the League of Nations Committee for Intellectual Cooperation, where he was seen as a highly authoritative figure on Indian ideas by people in the Western world, and was considered a skillful communicator of the role of Eastern organizations in the modern world.

After India was declared independent in 1947, Radhakrishnan was appointed to represent India at UNESCO from 1946 to 1952 and then became the Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union from 1949 to 1952. In addition to his other roles, he was also elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. Radhakrishnan had the honor of being elected as the first Vice-President of India in 1952 and then later, in 1962, he was chosen to serve as the second President of India, a position he held for five years until 1967.

He was highly motivated by his strong sense of Hindu culture and the defence of it against Western criticism that was uninformed. Donald Mackenzie Brown, a renowned historian, wrote that Radhakrishnan had always been a staunch protector of the Hindu culture against Western criticism that was made without proper research, and had come to be a symbol of Indians' pride in their own intellectual practices.



  • The Chamber of the Rajya Sabha is adorned with a beautiful portrait of Radhakrishnan.
  • During the years of 1933 to 1937, he was nominated an impressive five times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
  • In the year of 1938, he was bestowed with the honor of being elected as a fellow of the British Academy.
  • In 1954, he was recognised with the highest civilian award in India, the Bharat Ratna.
  • In 1961, the German Book Trade gave an award of recognition in the form of the Peace Prize.
  • Every year on 5 September, Radhakrishnan's birthday, the institution of Teacher's Day, is celebrated throughout India in honor of Radhakrishnan's strong belief that the best minds in the country should be teachers.
  • In 1968, he became the first ever recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, which is the highest honor that a writer can receive from the Sahitya Akademi.
  • The Templeton Prize was bestowed upon him in 1975, a few months preceding his death, for his advocacy of non-aggression and communicating the idea of a universal God that encompassed love and wisdom for all people. He generously gave the total amount of money awarded by the Templeton Prize to Oxford University.
  • Oxford University remembered Radhakrishnan in 1989 by establishing the Radhakrishnan Scholarships. In the following years the scholarships were renamed to the "Radhakrishnan Chevening Scholarships" after they were initially given a different name.
  • His work was recognized with sixteen nominations for the Nobel prize in literature as well as eleven nominations for the Nobel Peace prize.


Books written by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

  • The Hindu View of Life- This book breaks down the concept of Hinduism in an easy to understand way. This article offers readers an insight into the various elements that make up the Hindu way of life. Although India's religion may seem like a chaotic array of myths, gods, and goddesses to some, Radhakrishnan acknowledges that the Hindu way of life is a unique and impressive feature to everyone around the world.
  • A Source Book in Indian Philosophy- Dr Radhakrishan has taken the time to edit this book, which contains a wealth of teachings and philosophical insights from a great many ancient thinkers. 'A Source Book in Indian Philosophy' provides readers with an insight into the Indian cultural heritage, encompassing the ancient Vedas, Upanisads, epics and treatises of old systems, as well as the more modern writings.
  • An Idealist View of Life- This book presents the idea that modern intellectual attempts to find a replacement for religion are ultimately fruitless. Dr Radhakrishnan has undertaken the task of examining the nature and validity of religious experience by looking at various occasions and customs from both the East and West.
  • Eastern Religions and Western Thought- This book, written in an articulate and clear way, looks at the key believes that are the basis of Indian philosophy and religion. The author investigates the ways in which Indian mysticism has had an influence on the growth of Greek thought, Alexandrian Judaism, Christian Gnosticism, and Neo-Platonism. He spoke about the possibility of a renewal of Christianity, which has its beginnings in the East and has been shaped by Graeco-Latin culture.
  • The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore- This book is an attempt to understand the thoughts and ideas that Rabindranath Tagore put forth and ultimately to discover his vision of a cosmopolitan citizen. Radhakrishnan details how Tagore's truth had a connection to the beliefs of Indian philosophy and religion and the profound, unified ideas they contained.
  • The Pursuit of Truth- The opening section of the book is a biography of India's first Vice President, which was written by B.K Alhuwalia. Dr. Radhakrishnan's fantastic series of essays makes up the other half of this collection. His essays are filled with anecdotes that show his insight, a compassionate understanding of the world, and his own personal beliefs about the world.
  • Religion, Science and Culture- This book provides an insightful and comprehensive exploration of the changing dynamics between religion, science, and culture. Dr Radhakrishnan drew attention to the necessity for the development of a spiritual unity that is capable of surpassing and preserving the material unity of the world order.
  • The Heart of Hindustan- This book is an accumulation of Professor Radhakrishnan's insightful and uplifting discourses which were published in multiple magazines and newspapers during his lifetime. The book delves into the intricacies of Hinduism, discussing its main points and its philosophical foundations. He additionally examines the effects and sway of Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism on Hinduism.
  • Living with a Purpose- Dr Radhakrishnan has compiled a detailed account that follows the lives of fourteen men who had an immense influence on India's culture and politics, reshaping its history. Noteworthy personalities like Swami Dayanand, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sardar Patel, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Jagadish Chandra Bose, and many more have greatly impacted the world. All of these men shared a common dream of creating a better India, and they took action in order to make a meaningful impact.
  • Faith Renewed- This spiritual book encourages readers to go on an inward journey and seek out the answers they have been asking of the universe. This book, written by Dr Radhakrishnan, is an incredibly powerful piece of literature that encourages its readers to truly listen to their soul and discover the hidden meanings of life through their own means of understanding.



To sum up, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was an inspiring and multi-talented individual, whose remarkable works and ideas had a major influence on Indian philosophy, education, and politics. He was a remarkable individual who was highly esteemed as a prolific writer, renowned scholar, and a gifted teacher, and he dedicated a great deal of his time to the advancement of Indian philosophy and culture.

His tireless work to build a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophy and his support for the unification of all religions continues to be of great importance in our current day and age. Radhakrishnan was a beloved and respected figure both in India and abroad due to his statesman qualities such as humility, simplicity, and wisdom.

During his tenure as President of India, he made meaningful contributions to promoting peace and non-violence and establishing strong ties with other countries. Radhakrishnan's teachings and accomplishments as a philosopher, scholar, and statesman are still remembered and admired by people all over the globe.

His teachings, which stress the importance of education, the pursuit of knowledge, and the spiritual unity of all religions, have had a lasting impact on Indians and people from many backgrounds. The life and work of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan serve as a remarkable example of the strength of knowledge, commitment, and altruism. His extraordinary successes and his devotion to preserving India's cultural inheritance will be a lasting source of encouragement for many generations.

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