Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Biography – The man behind Teacher’s Day in India

Scholarship Examination in India


Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) was one of the most recognized and influential Indian thinkers in academic circles in the 20th century. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a legendary teacher and India’s second President who served as the president of the nation from 1962 to 1967. He was a very prominent scholar and academician. Prior to this, he had served as the first Vice President of India from 1952 to 1962.


Born on 5 September 1888 at Tiruttani in Tamil Nadu, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was knighted in the year 1931 and since then till the attainment of India’s independence, he was addressed as Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.

“A good teacher must know how to arouse the interest of the pupil in the field of study for which he is responsible. He must himself be a master in the field of study and be in touch with the latest developments in the subject. He must himself be a fellow traveller in the exciting pursuit of knowledge.”




Facts and Information about Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan:






Place of Birth

Thiruttani, Madras Presidency, British India (now in Tamil Nadu, India)




Sarvepalli Veeraswami




17 April 1975 (aged 86) Madras (now Chennai), Tamil Nadu, India

Spouse Name

Sivakamu, Lady Radhakrishnan


Five daughters and One son


“Radhakrishnan was awarded scholarships throughout his academic life. He joined Voorhees College in Vellore but then moved to the Madras Christian College at the age of 17. He graduated from there in 1906 with a Master’s degree in Philosophy, being one of its most distinguished alumni.

Profession before joining politics

Professor of Philosophy

Known for contribution as

“Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if 5 September is observed as Teachers’ Day.”

Political Career

British Raj, Indian independence movement and Indian Independence

Awards and honours

“1931: appointed a Knight Bachelor in 1931, although he ceased to use the title “”Sir”” after India attained independence.

1938: elected Fellow of the British Academy.

1954: the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India.

1954: German “”Order pour le Merite for Arts and Science””

1961: the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.

1962: Institution of Teacher’s Day in India, yearly celebrated at 5 September, Radhakrishnan’s birthday, in honour of Radhakrishnan’s believe that “”teachers should be the best minds in the country””.

1963: the British Order of Merit.

1968: Sahitya Akademi fellowship,The highest honour conferred by the Sahitya Akademi on a writer(he is the first person to get this award)

1975: the Templeton Prize in 1975, a few months before his death, for advocating non-aggression and conveying “a universal reality of God that embraced love and wisdom for all people”. He donated the entire amount of the Templeton Prize to Oxford University.

1989: institution of the Radhakrishnan Scholarships by Oxford University in the memory of Radhakrishnan. The scholarships were later renamed the “”Radhakrishnan Chevening Scholarships””.”

Political party




Personal Life & Legacy:


  • 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.
  • His birthday, 5 September, has been celebrated as Teachers’ Day in India since 1962, the year he became the president, in honor of his belief that “teachers should be the best minds in the country.”
  • He died on 17 April 1975, at the age of 86.





  • 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.
  • A prominent academician by now, he was invited to deliver the Hibbert Lecture on the ideals of life which he delivered at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, in 1929.
  • He served as the Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University from 1931 to 1936 before being named Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at the University of Oxford and elected a Fellow of All Souls College.
  • He succeeded Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya as the Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1939, a position he held till 1948.
  • Radhakrishnan’s entry into politics happened quite late in life. He represented India at UNESCO from 1946 to 1952. He was also the Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union from 1949 to 1952.
  • Radhakrishnan was elected as the first Vice-President of India in 1952, during the tenure of President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He succeeded Rajendra Prasad to become the second President of India in 1962 and retired from politics five years later.
  • He was also 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).



Major Works:


Radhakrishnan is counted amongst India’s best and most influential scholars of comparative religion and philosophy. 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.



Awards and Achievements:


  • 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.
  • Shortly before his death 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.”


“One of the most striking things about Dr. Radhakrishnan was his versatility. His powerful mind, his power of speech, his command over the English language, his dedication to work and his mental alacrity greatly contributed to his success in life. He will truly be missed as a leader and a teacher who had the wisdom of a sage, detachment of a philosopher and the maturity of a statesman.”


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