Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (September 5, 1888 – April 17, 1975) is best known as the man who introduced the thinking of western idealist philosophers into Indian thought. He was an Oxford don who became the first Vice President and the second President of India.
He was born at Tiruttani, forty miles to the north-east of Madras in South India. His mother tongue was Telugu(తెలుగు). His early years were spent in Tiruttani and Tirupati. He graduated with a Master's Degree in Arts from Madras University.

Life and career
In 1929, Radhakrishnan was invited to take the post vacated by Principal J. Estin Carpenter in Manchester College, Oxford. This gave him the opportunity to lecture to the students of University of Oxford on Comparative Religion. In 1936, Radhakrishnan was named the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at the University of Oxford, a post which he held until he was named the first Vice President of India in 1952.

He showed how western philosophers, despite all claims to objectivity, were biased by theological influences from their wider culture. In one of his major works he also showed that Indian philosophy, once translated into standard academic jargon, is worthy of being called philosophy by western standards. His main contribution to Indian thought, therefore, is that he placed it "on the map", thereby earning Indian philosophy a respect that it had not had before. After 1946, his philosophical career was cut short when his country needed him as ambassador to UNESCO and later to Moscow. He was later to become the first Vice-President and finally the President (1962-1967) of India. When he became the President of India in 1962, some of his students and friends requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday, September 5. He replied, "Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if September 5 is observed as Teacher's Day." Since then, Teacher's Day is celebrated in India.

He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1954. The University of Oxford instituted the Radhakrishnan Chevening Scholarships and the Radhakrishnan Memorial Award in his memory.


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