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Biography of Bharat Ratna “Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan” complete biography for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan


Known the world over as a versatile genius, scholar, litterateur, philosopher, statesman, seer, orator, writer and administrator—all combined—Bharat Ratna Dr. (Sir) Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888, in a middle class family in the pilgrim town of Tirutani, with background of learning. His father, it is said, did not want his son to learn English, which was the pre-requisite to of orthodox success in India, desiring him instead to become a priest. However, the talents of the boy were so outstanding that he was sent to school at Tirupati and then Vellore. Later he joined the Christian College, Madras, and studied philosophy. Here he was imbued with a .zeal to defend the principles of Hinduism. His thesis on ‘The Ethics of the Vedanta and its Metaphysical Presuppositions” which he had to write for the M.A. degree examination, was an effective refutation of the charge that the Vedanta system had no room for ethics. His professor, Dr. A.G.Hogg, observed: ‘The thesis which he prepared in the second year of his study for this degree shows a remarkable understanding of the main aspects of the problem, a capacity for handling easily a complex argument besides more than the average mastery of good English.”

After leaving the Madras University in 1909, Dr. Radhakrishnan entered the Madras Provincial Education Service as a lecturer. By the time he was 23, he was Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Five years later he was professor. Later he went to the Mysore University. Here, he published the

“Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore” in 1918; two years later came ‘The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy.” He was then offered the professorship of Philosophy in the Calcutta University, where he completed the first volume of his well-known work “Indian Philosophy.” Soon, he was spoken in the same breath, as Rabindranath Tagore, the poet and Mahatma Gandhi the reformer, as one of India’s leading intellectual lights.

It was as a philosopher attempting to explain the East to the West that Dr. Radhakrishnan first visited the western world in the late twenties to deliver lectures to respectful university audiences. In 1926, he delivered the Upton Lectures in Oxford, followed by Haskell Lectures at the Chicago University in the same year. Three years later he was invited to deliver the Hibbert Lectures at the London University. He served as Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University from 1931 to 1936. He was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Benares University in 1939. Two years later he took over the Sir Sayaji Rao Chair of Indian Culture and Civilisation in Benares. During his term as Vice-Chancellor he improved the finances of the University which was immersed in debts and the standards of teaching in the post-graduate courses.

Recognition of his scholarship came again in 1936, when he was invited to fill the Chair of Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford which he retained for 16 years.

Dr. Radhakrishnan arrived in Oxford with an impeccable academic record, a perfect command of the English language, and with the only sort of passport which carries authority in academic circles, a solid list of publications to his credit. He thought of himself primarily as an interpreter of one civilisation to another. But he also realised that he was admirably placed not only to expound the profundities of Indian philosophy but also to propagate a more readily understandable idea that India was not a subject to be ruled, but a nation seeking its soul. Both these objects he successfully pursued. The Public Orator expressing Oxford’s apppreciation at a ceremony to admit him to an honorary degree as Doctor of Civil Law said: “He has specialised in his subject with one end always in view, namely that a clearer understanding of the highest common factor between the philosophies of East and West may bring the peoples of Europe and Asia more closely together and strengthen the cause of peace throughout the world.” He liked the atmosphere of Oxford. He gave occasional, rather sparsely attended lectures; he  listened to the work of his pupils, conversed with Indian students and pursued his own researches. He was Knighted in 1931.

The” British Academy invited him to deliver its “Master Min Lecture in 1938, which was later published under the title “Gautama the Buddha.” He was also elected to the Fellowship the Academy. In 1939, he edited and wrote the Introduction to “Mahatma Gandhi—Essays and Reflections on His Life and Work” which was presented to Gandhiji on, his 70th birthday. During this year his Spalding Lectures entitled “Eastern Religion and Western Thought” were published. A series of 12 lectures delivered by Dr. Radhakrishnan at the instance of the Chinese Government in China in 1944 were published under the title “India and China”. He was invited in 1946 by the U.S. to lecture at 14 universities . He led the Indian delegation to UNESCO from 1946 to 1954 and was elected its Chairman in 1948. As Chairman of the University Commission set by the Indian Government, he urged the restoration of India’s ancient religious culture in its universities, while also encouraging the study of good points in other faiths.

At 61, Dr. Radhakrishnan went to Moscow as India’s Ambassador to USSR. He served in this capacity from 1949 to 1952. Since then he assumed a leading place in the international diplomatic field. Apart from his Moscow activities and two interviews with Stalin which brought him sudden world-wide fame, he completed a fact-finding tour of Cairo, Rome, Bonn, London and Paris acting as the eyes and ears of the Indian Government.

In 1952, Dr. Radhakrishnan was elected Vice-President of the Indian Union and ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. He was re-elected Vice-President in 1957. Not only did he guide the deliberations of the Rajya Sabha with distinction, he was also a roving political and cultural Ambassador who carried the message of India literally from China to Peru. His two-month tour included countries like Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union, Hungary, Bulgaria, East and Central Africa, Singapore, Indonesia Japan and China. Later, he visited the U.S. and attended the PEN Congress in Germany in 1959. From 1953 to 1962, he served a

Chancellor of the Delhi University. He was elected President of the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. He received the German Order of Merit in 1954 and the Goethe Plaquette in 1959. He was also Awardee of Master of Wisdom, De Equestrine Ordine Militac Auratae, and Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

During the illness of President Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Radhakrishnan acted as President of India in 1960. Two years later (May 12, 1962) he was elected President of the Indian Republic. His appointment as President was hailed by Bertrand Russell who said: “It is an honour to philosophy that Dr. Radhakrishnan should be President of India and I, as a philosopher, take special pleasure in this. Plato aspired for philosophers to become kings and it is a tribute to India that she should make a philosopher her President.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan’s writings as the British Academy has borne witness, exert deep and widespread influence. Throughout his life Dr. Radhakrishnan was a fearless crusader for peace and liberty and raised his voice of protest against cruelty and injustice. He underlined the fact that unless nations lived in peace, the world would be reduced to graveyard. He stressed that nuclear tests would only lead to annihilation of life on this planet. He emphasised the need for spiritual regeneration of the individual as a pre-condition for society’s welfare. He had immense faith in education and hoped it would reform the individual. He was against regimentation and said that society should be like a flower garden instead of a field of turnips. Dr. Radhakrishnan was a versatile and prolific writer and his numerous books include: “Heart of Hindustan,” “The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore,” “The Hindu View of Life,” “An Idealist View of Life.” “The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy,” “Indian Philosophy. 2 Vol.”, ” Freedom and Culture,” “East and West in Religion,” “Kalki or The Future of Civilisation,” ‘The Religion We Need,” “Gautama the Buddha,” “Eastern Religions and Western Thought,” “India and China,” “Religion and Society,” “Education, Politics and War,” “Is This Peace?” “Bhagavad Gita,” “Dhammapada,” “Contemporary Indian Philosophy,” “Mahatma Gandhi,” “A Source Book of Indian Philosophy,” ‘The Principal Upanishads,” “Recovery of Faith,” “East and West—Some Reflections,” “Brahma Sutra” and “Fellowship of the Spirit.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan was the embodiment of culture and humility. His astonishing mind ranged from the Upanishads to Bertrand Russell. The adventures ,of his penetrating mind and pilgrimages of his spirit had been recorded in his illuminating books and lectures. Left to himself the scholar-philosopher might have been content to be a professor mastering the intricacies of metaphysics or dissecting the lore of Aryan culture. But like other eminent Indians he was sucked into the realm of constructive politics and here made great headway reaching the top. He was a man of simple habits and unassuming traits. He started his day with prayer in bed. After breakfast, he read the morning papers and received visitors. He was a voracious and discriminating reader, and eloquent speaker and a brilliant lecturer. He delighted in the company of friends and was a stimulating conversationalist. In several ways he was the ideal philosopher-king envisaged by Plato in his “Republic.” Plato had said “Until philosophers are kings and kings and princes of the world have the spirit and power of philosophy and all commoner natures are compelled to stand aside, cities will never rest from evil nor the human race.”

It was in 1962 when Dr. Radhakrishnan became the President of India that his birthday in September came to be observed as “Teachers’ Day”. It was a tribute to Dr. Radhakrishnan’s close association with the cause of teachers. Whatever position he held whether as President or Vice-President or even as Ambassador, Dr. Radhakrishnan essentially remained a teacher all his life. The teaching profession was his first love and those who studied under him still remember with gratitude his great qualities as a teacher—the clarity of expression, the analytical exposition of the most abstract theories and the humorous anecdotes with which he regaled his students.

Dr. Radhakrishnan had great faith in Indian democracy. In his farewell broadcast to the Nation on May 12, 1967, he said that despite occasional forebodings to the contrary the Indian Constitution had worked successfully so far. But democracy, he warned, was more than a system of Government. It was a way of life and a regime of civilised conduct of human affairs. It was this faith in peaceful conduct of affairs that made him say that the feeling should not be encouraged that no change could be brought about except by violent disorders. ‘We should be the architects of Bharat Ratnas  peaceful changes and the advocates of radical reform,” he said.

It was Jawaharlal Nehru who brought Dr. ‘Radhakrishnan into the Government realising the need for a philosophical touch to refine and rationalise the mystique of Indian puritanism which became the hall-mark of patriotism during the freedom movement. He wanted some one of Dr. Radhakrishnan’s eminence to give the Government the benefit of his towering intellect in looking beyond the world of day-to-day problems and projecting India before the international community with high-minded purpose and sophistication of thought. In his own inimitable way, he served as a link between the Gandhian concept of “Ram Raj” and the Nehru doctrine of egalitarianism. Dr. Radhakrishnan played a notable part in ensuring smooth transition.

On the death of Dr. Radhakrishnan on April 17, 1975, the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, fully reflected the sentiments of the nation in the condolence message she sent to the bereaved family recalling the dignity and lustre Dr. Radhakrishnan had brought to the high offices he held with his rare wisdom, moral fervour and range of knowledge. Those who had known him well during his days in Delhi were drawing attention to the stabilising role that he played as President during the early Sixties when the country went through the agonising ordeals of the death of two Prime Ministers, two wars and two draughts.

Though his death had not come as a surprise since he had been ailing for quite some time, people from all walks of life received the news with considerable grief because Dr. Radhakrishnan was generally regarded as one of the last of the towering personalities and intellectual giants of the freedom struggle and the Indian renaissance who had given a special dimension to the very concept of Independence. He was not a visionary who dreamtgreat dreams, a preacher who cast himself in an oracular role, a prophet of an unfulfilled urge with a mystic sense of mission, a power-hungry politician who was a prisoner of passion, or a figure of history who became a legend in his own lifetime. He was essentially a self-possessed individual who, with his vast expanses of knowledge and deep insight, tried to reinterpret the synthesis of Indian thought in this age of reason and correlate it to the people’s social aspirations with his transcendental eloquence, exquisite diction and vividness of expression.

As flags flew at half-mast, the thoughts of many went back to the halcyon days when Dr. Radhakrishnan’s resonant voice helped to inspire his countrymen, provided a philosophical intonation to Nehru’s concepts of political equality and social justice, and invested India’s foreign policy with a reformative spirit. Not only his grateful countrymen but also the foreign diplomatic community mourned his death with the feeling that he was perhaps the last of towering intellectual giants who had helped to humanise modern politics in an era of power pursuits and materialistic values.

As Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Dr. Radhakrishnan had impressed Stalin at their very first meeting.

“I told him (Stalin),” Radhakrishnan recalled to Rajeshwar Dayal, “we had an Emperor who, after a bloody victory, renounced war and became a monk. You have waded your way to power through force. Who knows, that might happen to you also.”

Stalin smiled and said: “Yes, miracles do happen sometimes. I was in a theological seminary for five years.”

Later, Interpreter Pavlov told Dayal that Stalin’s remark about Dr. Radhakrishnan was: “He is not a narrow patriot. His heart bleeds for the suffering humanity.”

Before Dr. Radhakrishnan’s departure on April 5, 1952, after the expiry of the ambassadorial term, Stalin wanted to see him. “Stalin’s face looked somewhat bloated,” Dr. Radhakrishnan reminisced. “I patted him on the cheek and on the back. I passed my hand over his head.”

Stalin told him: “You are the first person to treat me as a human being and not as a monster. You are leaving us and I am sad. I want you to live long and I have not long to live.”

Stalin died six months later.

Dr. Radhakrishnan’s first meeting with Mahatma Gandhi was at a common friend’s house in Madras soon after Gandhi’s return from South Africa.

During their conversation, Gandhiji told Dr. Radhakrishnan: “Don’t drink milk. It is the essence of beef.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan: “In that case, we are all cannibals for we drink our mother’s milk which is the essence of human flesh.”

The conversation then turned to medical relief.

Gandhiji: Thousands of births take place in the jungle. They do not need any medical attention.

Dr. Radhakrishnan: Thousands die in the jungle too.

Gandhiji: How do you know ?

Dr. Radhakrishnan: How do you know ?

The common friend intervened: Don’t you know he is a professor of logic ?

In December, 1947, a few weeks before Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, Dr. Radhakrishnan asked Gandhiji’s permission to dedicate his work on the Bhagavad Gita to him.

Gandhiji said: “I know you will not write anything unworthy. But before that, I want to ask you something. I am your Arjuna and you are my Krishna. I am like Arjuna confused.”

With these words Gandhiji placed before him certain doubts in regard to his own theories of Brahmachanya. After Dr. Radhakrishnan had expressed his views, Gandhiji agreed to have his Gita dedicated to him.

A man of versatile talent and varied achievements, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, lived a richly varied and entirely purposeful life and made distinct contribution both to the academic and public life. He bestowed upon humanity a fund of wisdom for the guidance of future generations. He was very simple and humane. He always dressed himself in traditional Indian style and in spotless white with a turban. His life was a saga of wise and dedicated service to his country and to humanity. By eminence of his intellect, moral fervour and matchless eloquence, Dr. Radhakrishnan dominated the world scene for decades and in his frail person he personified the wisdom of India. His memories would a I ways be a source of pride and inspiration to his countrymen. He is immortal in his many writings which enriched the human wisdom.

Bharat Ratna, the highest award of the nation, was conferred. on him in 1954 in recognition of his meritorious service to the country.


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