Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was an Indian philosopher and statesman who served as the first Vice President of India and the second President of India.

Updated: June 16, 2022


Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was an Indian philosopher and statesman who served as the first Vice President of India and the second President of India. He embarked on an academic career and with time established himself as one of India's most distinguished 20th century scholars of comparative religion and philosophy. He was influential in shaping the understanding of Hinduism, in both India and the West. He became involved in politics only after India's independence in 1947. 


He was made the country's first vice president and later the president after representing India at UNESCO. His birthday, 5th September, is celebrated in India as Teachers' Day. He was born on September 5th, 1888 and died on April 17th, 1975.


Childhood of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan:

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on 5 September 1888, in Thiruttani, Madras Presidency, British India, into a Telugu Brahmin family. His father's name was Sarvepalli Veeraswami and his mother's name was Sitamma.


His father worked as a subordinate revenue official in the service of a local zamindar (landlord) and the family was a modest one. He did not want his son to receive an English education and wanted him to become a priest. 


Education of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan:

Radhakrishnan received his education from K.V High School at Thiruttani before moving to the Hermansburg Evangelical Lutheran Mission School in Tirupati in 1896. A good student, he earned many scholarships. He attended Voorhees College in Vellore for some time before moving on to the Madras Christian College at the age of 17. He studied philosophy and earned his master's degree in 1906. His thesis for the M.A. degree was on 'The Ethics of the Vedanta and its Metaphysical Presuppositions'.


Family of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan:

When he was 16, he entered into an arranged marriage with Sivakamu, a distant cousin. The couple had five daughters and a son. His wife died in 1956, after over 51 years of marriage.


Some facts about Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan:

  • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan embarked on an academic career and joined the Department of Philosophy at the Madras Presidency College in 1909. He moved to the University of Mysore in 1918 where he taught at its Maharaja's College.
  • He was offered the professorship at the University of Calcutta in 1921 where he assumed the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science.
  • He represented the university at the Congress of the Universities of the British Empire in June 1926 and the International Congress of Philosophyat Harvard University in September 1926.
  • He was invited to deliver the Hibbert Lecture on the ideals of life which he delivered at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, in 1929.
  • His defense of Hinduism against 'uninformed Western criticism' has been highly influential, both in India and the Western world. He is credited to have made Hinduism more readily accessible for the Western audience.
  • He was a renowned author and penned books such as 'Indian Philosophy' (two volumes, 1923-27), 'The Philosophy of the Upanishads' (1924), 'An Idealist View of Life' (1932), 'Eastern Religions and Western Thought' (1939), and 'East and West: Some Reflections' (1955).
  • In 1954, he was honored with the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India.
  • In 1968 he became the first person to get Sahitya Akademi fellowship, the highest honor conferred by the Sahitya Akademi on a writer.
  • In 1975, he was bestowed with the Templeton Prize for advocating non-aggression and conveying 'a universal reality of God that embraced love and wisdom for all people.'
  • Since 1962 the year he became the president, in honor of his belief that 'teachers should be the best minds in the country', his birthday, 5th September, has been celebrated as Teachers' Day in India.
  • He died on 17th April 1975, at the age of 86.



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