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Mainstream, VOL L, No 39, September 15, 2012

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan: A Teacher Par Excellence

Monday 17 September 2012, by Sunny Jacob


On September 5 last week fell Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s 124th birth anniversary. This day (September 5) is observed as Teacher’s Day every year. We are carrying the following piece and reproducing the relevent article by N.C. on the facing page to mark the occasion.

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday is celebrated every year as Teacher’s Day. It has an interesting story behind it. Some of his admirers approached him and requested him to allow the celebration of September 5 as his birthday. In reply Dr Radhakrishnan said: “Ïnstead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my profound privilege if September 5th is observed as Teacher’s Day.” Thus from then on the whole of India started celebrating his birthday as Teacher’s Day.

Dr Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888, at Tirutani, Madras (Chennai) in a poor Brahmin family. As his father was poor, Radhakrishnan supported most of his education through scholarships. Dr Sarvepalli Radha-krishnan had his early education at Gowdie School, Tiruvallur and then went to the Lutheran Mission School in Tirupati for his high school. He joined the Voorhee’s College in Vellore and later switched to the Madras Christian College. He chose Philosophy as his major subject and did his BA and MA in it.

After completing his MA, Sarvepalli Radha-krishnan accepted an Assistant Lectureship at the Madras Presidency College in 1909. In college, he mastered the classics of Hindu philosophy, namely, the Upanishads, Bhagvad Gita, Brahmasutra, and commentaries of the Sankara, Ramunuja and Madhava. He also acquainted himself with Buddhist and Jain philosophies and the philosophies of Western thinkers such as Plato, Plotinus, Kant, Bradley, and Bergson.

In 1918, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was selected as the Professor of Philosophy by the University of Mysore. In 1921, Radhakrishnan was nomi-nated as the Professor of Philosophy at the Calcutta University. In 1923, Dr Radha-krishnan’s book Indian Philosophy was published. The book was hailed as a “philosophical classic and a literary masterpiece”.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was called to Oxford University to deliver lectures on Hindu philosophy. He used his lectures as a platform to further India’s cause for freedom. He also argued that Western philosophers, despite all claims of objectivity, were biased by theological influences from their wider culture. He showed that Indian philosophy, once translated into standard academic jargon, is worthy of being called philosophy by Western standards. He thus placed Indian philosophy on the world map.

In 1931, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was elected the Vice-Chancellor of the Andhra University. In 1939, Radhakrishnan became the Vice-Chancellor of the Banaras Hindu University. In 1946, he was appointed as the Ambassador to UNESCO. After Independence Dr Radha-krishnan was requested to Chair the University Education Commission in 1948. The Radha-krishnan Committee’s suggestions helped mould the education system for India’s needs.

In 1949, Dr SarvepalliRadhakrishnan was appointed as the ambassador to the Soviet Union. He helped lay the foundation for a strong relationship with the Soviet Union. Radha-krishnan was elected the first Vice-President of India in 1952. He was honoured with the Bharat Ratna in 1954. After serving two terms as the Vice-President, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was elected the President of India in 1962. During his tenure as the President, India fought wars with China and Pakistan. As the President he helped see India through those trying years safely. He retired as the President in 1967 and settled in Madras. As a teacher, philosopher, statesman, writer and a wonderful speaker Radhakrishnan touched the hearts of millions in India and abroad. He elucidated Indian philosophy before the global community. Dr Sarvepalli Radha-krishnan died on April 17, 1975.

On Teacher’s Day, it is apt that the country not only honours the greatness of Dr Radha-krisnan, but also acknowledges the contribution of teachers to nation-building. Because, as the famous saying goes, “Á learned man informs, an intellectual man instructs, but a teacher transforms and inspires”.

Sunny Jacob S.J. is on the faculty of the Loyola College of Education, TELCO, Jamshedpur (Jharkhand).

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