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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Biography

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Who was Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan?

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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a scholar, politician, philosopher, and statesman from India. He served as India's first Vice President and second President. Radhakrishnan spent his life and career as a writer attempting to describe, defend, and propagate his faith, which he referred to variously as Hinduism, Vedanta, and the religion of the Spirit. He wanted to show that his Hinduism was philosophically sound as well as ethically viable. He often seems to be at ease in both Indian and Western philosophical contexts, and he draws on both Western and Indian sources in his prose. As a result, Radhakrishnan has been hailed as a symbol of Hinduism to the West in academic circles.

In this biography of Sarvepalli Radha Krishnan, we will learn about his early life and family, his education, his career as a teacher, his political life and his death.

The Early Life of Sarvepalli RadhaKrishnan

In this section, we will learn about When was Radhakrishnan born, his parents, and his family background.

  • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan date of birth was 5 September 1888.

  • He was born to a Telugu-speaking Niyogi Brahmin family in Thiruttani, Madras Presidency, British India which is present-day Tamil Nadu, India.

  • His father’s name was Sarvepalli Veeraswami who was a subordinate revenue official in the service of a local zamindar and his mother’s name was Sarvepalli Sita.

  • His family is from Sarvepalli village in Andhra Pradesh's Nellore district. He grew up in the towns of Thiruttani and Tirupati.

  • Throughout his academic career, Radhakrishnan earned various scholarships.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Education

  • His primary education was at Thiruttani's K.V High School. In 1896, he transferred to Tirupati's Hermannsburg Evangelical Lutheran Mission School and Walajapet's Government High Secondary School.

  • For his high school education, he enrolled at Vellore's Voorhees College. At the age of 17, he enrolled in Madras Christian College after finishing his First of Arts class. He earned his bachelor's degree and his master's degree from the same institution in 1906.

  • "The Ethics of the Vedanta and its Metaphysical Presuppositions," Sarvepalli wrote for his bachelor's degree thesis. It was written in response to the accusation that the Vedanta scheme had no place for ethics. Rev. William Meston and Dr Alfred George Hogg, two of Radhakrishnan's professors, praised his dissertation. When Radhakrishnan was only twenty years old, his thesis was published.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Family

  • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was married to Sivakamu at the age of 16.

  • Sivakamu was Radha Krishnan’s distant cousin.

  • Radhakrishnan and Sivakamu were happily married for over 51 years.

  • Radhakrishnan had six children, five daughters and one son. 

  • Sarvepalli Gopal, his son, was a well-known Indian historian. He authored his father’s biography Radhakrishnan: A Biography and also Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography.

The Academic Career of Radha Krishnan

  • Radhakrishnan was appointed to the Madras Presidency College's Department of Philosophy in April 1909.

  • He was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of Mysore in 1918, where he taught at the Maharaja's College in Mysore.

  • He wrote several articles for prestigious journals such as The Quest, Journal of Philosophy, and the International Journal of Ethics while at Maharaja's College.

  • He also finished his first novel, Rabindranath Tagore's Philosophy. Tagore's philosophy, he claimed, was the "genuine expression of the Indian spirit."

  • In 1920, he published his second book, The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy.

  • In 1921, he was appointed as a professor of philosophy at the University of Calcutta, where he held the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science.

  • In June 1926, he represented the University of Calcutta at the British Empire Universities Congress, and in September 1926, he attended the International Congress of Philosophy at Harvard University.

  • Another significant academic event during this period was his acceptance of the Hibbert Lecture on the Ideals of Life, which he gave at Manchester College, Oxford in 1929 and was later published as “An Idealist View of Life” in book form.

  • In 1929, Radhakrishnan was invited to Manchester College to fill the vacancy left by Principal J. Estlin Carpenter. This gave him the opportunity to give a Comparative Religion lecture to University of Oxford students.

  • In June 1931, George V knighted him for his services to education, and the Governor-General of India, the Earl of Willingdon, formally invested him with his honour in April 1932.

  • After India's independence, he stopped using the title and instead used his academic title of Doctor.

  • From 1931 to 1936, he served as Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University.

  • Radhakrishnan was elected a Fellow of All Souls College and appointed Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at the University of Oxford in 1936.

  • He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1937. Nominations for the award continued to pour in well into the 1960s.

  • In 1939, he was invited to succeed Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya as Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). He was its Vice-Chancellor from January 1948 to January 1949.

The Political Career of Radha Krishnan

In this section, we will discuss the political view and career of Radha Krishnan. His tenure as Vice president and finally how he became Radhakrishnan president.

  • After a promising academic career, Radhakrishnan began his political career later in life. His political career came after his foreign impact.

  • He was one of the stalwarts who attended the Andhra Mahasabha in 1928, where he advocated the idea of renaming the Ceded Districts division of the Madras Presidency Rayalaseema.

  • In 1931, he was appointed to the League of Nations Committee for Intellectual Cooperation, where he became known as a Hindu expert on Indian ideas and a convincing translator of the role of Eastern institutions in contemporary society in Western eyes.

  • Radhakrishnan's involvement in Indian politics, as well as foreign affairs, grew in the years following India's independence. 

  • From 1946 to 1951, Radhakrishnan was a member of the newly formed UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), sitting on its Executive Board and heading the Indian delegation.

  • Radhakrishnan was also a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly for the two years following India's independence.

  • The demands of the University Commission and his continuing responsibilities as Spalding Professor at Oxford had to be balanced against Radhakrishnan's commitments to UNESCO and the Constituent Assembly.

  • When the Universities Commission's report was completed in 1949, Radhakrishnan was appointed Indian Ambassador to Moscow by then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a position he held until 1952. With his election to the Rajya Sabha, Radhakrishnan was able to bring his philosophical and political beliefs into motion.

  • In 1952, Radhakrishnan was elected as India's first Vice-President, and in 1962, he was elected as the country's second President.

  • During his time in office, Radhakrishnan saw a growing need for world peace and universal fellowship.

  • The importance of this need was driven home to Radhakrishnan by what he saw as global crises unfolding. The Korean War was already in full swing when he assumed the role of Vice-President.

  • Radhakrishnan's presidency was dominated by political conflicts with China in the early 1960s, followed by hostilities between India and Pakistan.

  • Furthermore, the Cold War split East and West, leaving each on the defensive and wary of the other.

  • Radhakrishnan questioned what he saw as self-proclaimed international organisations like the League of Nations' divisive ability and dominant character.

  • Instead, he advocated for the promotion of an innovative internationalism focused on integral experience's metaphysical foundations. Only then will mutual understanding and tolerance be encouraged between cultures and nations.

Philosophical Thoughts by Radha Krishnan

  • Radhakrishnan attempted to bring eastern and western ideas together, defending Hinduism against uninformed Western criticism while also integrating Western philosophical and religious ideas.

  • Radhakrishnan was one of Neo-most Vedanta's influential spokesmen.

  • His metaphysics was based on Advaita Vedanta, but he reinterpreted it for a modern audience.

  • He recognised the truth and diversity of human nature, which he saw as grounded in and endorsed by the absolute, or Brahman.

  • Theology and creeds are intellectual formulations, as well as symbols of religious experience or religious intuitions, for Radhakrishnan.

  • Radhakrishnan graded the different religions according to their interpretation of religious experience, with Advaita Vedanta holding the highest spot.

  • In comparison to the intellectually mediated conceptions of other religions, Radhakrishnan saw Advaita Vedanta as the best representative of Hinduism, as it was based on intuition.

  • Vedanta, according to Radhakrishnan, is the highest type of religion because it provides the most direct intuitive experience and inner realisation.

  • Despite his familiarity with western culture and philosophy, Radhakrishnan was critical of it. He said that, despite their claims to objectivity, Western philosophers were influenced by religious influences from their own society.

Death of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

  • Radha Krishnan’s Sivakamu died on 26 November 1956. He never remarried and he was a widower till his death.

  • In 1967, Radhakrishnan stepped down from public life. 

  • He spent the last eight years of his life in Mylapore, Madras, in the house he designed.

  • On April 17, 1975, Radhakrishnan passed away.

Awards and Honours of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

  • Radhakrishnan was awarded Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of India in 1954.

  • He was knighted by King George V for his services to education in the year 1931.

  • He was honoured with the recipient of the Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts in 1954 by Germany.

  • He was honoured with the recipient of the Sash First Class of the Order of the Aztec Eagle in the year 1954 by Mexico.

  • He was honoured with the membership of the Order of Merit in 1963 by the United Kingdom.

  • He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for the record 27 times. 16 times in literature and 11 times for the Nobel peace prize.

  • In 1938 he was elected as the Fellow of the British Academy.

  • He was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1961.

  • In the year 1968, he was the first person to be awarded the Sahitya Akademi fellowship which is the highest honour conferred by the Sahitya Akademi on a writer.

  • Since 1962, India has celebrated Teacher's Day on 5 September, Radhakrishnan's birthday, in recognition of Radhakrishnan's belief that teachers should be the best minds in the world.

  • In 1975, he received the Templeton Prize for promoting nonviolence and conveying a common truth of God that included compassion and knowledge for all people. 

Literary works by Sarvepalli Radha Krishnan

  • The first book authored by Radha Krishnan was a philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore in the year 1918.

  • His second book was published in 1923 named Indian Philosophy.

  • The Hindu View of Life published in 1926 was Radha Krishnan's third book which was related to Hindu philosophy and beliefs.

  • An Idealist View of Life was published in 1929.

  • Kalki or the Future of Civilization was published in 1929.

  • He published his sixth book named Eastern Religions and Western Thought in the year 1939.

  • Religion and Society were published as the seventh book in 1947.

  • in 1948 The Bhagavadgita: with an introductory essay, Sanskrit text, English translation and notes were published.

  • In 1950 his book The Dhammapada was published.

  • His tenth book The Principal Upanishads was published in 1953.

  • Recovery of Faith was published in 1956.

  • The twelfth book was A Source Book in Indian Philosophy published in 1957.

  • The Brahma Sutra: The Philosophy of Spiritual Life. was published in 1959.]

  • His last book named Religion, Science & Culture was published in 1968.

In this biography, we got to know Who was Dr Radhakrishnan, his early life, his education, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan date of birth, his teaching career, his tenure as Vice president and president of India, his literary works, his awards and achievements, and his death.

Conclusion

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was an academic, philosopher, and statesman who was one of the most well-known and prominent Indian thinkers in academic circles during the twentieth century. Radhakrishnan spent his life and career as a writer attempting to describe, defend, and propagate his faith, which he referred to variously as Hinduism, Vedanta, and the religion of the Spirit. Rather than being known as Radhakrishnan president, he was famous for his academic skills and as a teacher.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Who was Dr. Radhakrishnan?

Ans: Dr. Radhakrishnan was the first Vice president and second president of Independent India. He was an academic, philosopher, and statesman who was one of the most well-known and prominent Indian thinkers in academic circles.

2. When was Radhakrishnan born?

Ans: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on 5 September 1888 to a Telugu-speaking Niyogi Brahmin family in Thiruttani, Madras Presidency, British India which is present-day Tamil Nadu, India.

3. In which year Radhakrishnan became the President of India?

Ans: In the year 1962 Radhakrishnan became the second president of India.