Taking ‘Hi’ from the Himalayas in the North and ‘Indu’ from Sindhu, The roaring seas of the South this country is the ancient land of Hindus, said Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan on becoming the second President of India in 1962. As for a very long time Radhakrishnan served as a teacher indifferent capacities his birthday—September – 5 is observed as Teachers’ day. True he was born in a poor family that is why when he was being felicitated he said, ‘I have not had any advantage of birth or wealth.
Radhakrishnan was much influenced by Swami Vivekananda and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Naturally he had great interest in Vedanta and literature. With a mix of the two he took Philosophy and Logic as his subjects of study. He was the first to explain Indian Philosophy in a simple way to the west including USA. Because of his illuminating, lectures and books Indian Philosophy was included for study in many American and European Universities.
With the help of scholarships Radhakrishnan continued his education. Most of his education was missionary schools and colleges. It gave him an opportunity to study Bible and appreciated Christianity. But he felt hurt by the criticism leveled by the missionaries at Hindu beliefs and practices. His religious pride as a Hindu was aroused by Vivekanand’s appeal to India’s youth to cultivate self respect. It was rather more cemented by a sense of nationalism after reading V.D. Savarkar’s book. The first was of Independence. Naturally he wrote his thesis in M.A. on The Ethics of the Vedanta. He thought that his examiner who was a Scottish missionary might punish him. On the contrary Dr. Hogg gave him a testimonial saying it “Shows a remarkable understanding of the main aspects of the Philosophical problems, a capacity for handling easily a complex argument, besides mastery of good English.
Born in Tirutavi a town in Madras Presidency in 1888 in a poor Brahmin family Radhakrishnan faced difficulties in his life for a long time. He was married at 16 to Sivakamuamma who was just 10. Thus instead of going to Oxford for studies, after his M.A. he started teaching as an Assistant Lecturer at the Madras Presidency college in 1909 on a salary of Rs. 100/- only. Those days it was not possible to oppose the authorities. But he fought like trade unionist against discrimination with Subordinate grade staff. He didn’t win. But he mastered the Indian classics Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Buddhism and Jain Philosophy. He also studied Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhava. He also specialized in western philosophy by studying a large number of writers including Plato. In English Literature to he studied many writers.
Radhakrishnan was known for his oratory. He wrote his first book The Essentials of Psychology’. It became popular with students. But he had to sell its copyright for a meager Rs. 500. His articles were printed in journals of international repute. In 1918 when he was 30 he was selected Professor of Philosophy by Mysore University. In 1921 at the age of 33 he was made George V Professor of philosophy at the Calcutta University. While leaving Mysore he advised his students “Don’ts lose the foothold on earth while sweeping the skies!’In 1923 he wrote his famous book Indian Philosophy. It was a philosophic classic and a literary masterpiece’.
Radhakrishnan was invited to deliver ‘Upton Lecture’s at the Oxford University. He was made professor of Religion and Ethics at the Oxford and was honoured as Fellow of all Souls College Oxford. His connections with Oxford University continued for two decades (1928-1948). During his stay in Oxford two Indian Universities faced crisis— Andhra University in 1931 and Banaras Hindu University in 1939. He became Vice Chancellor of both these one after the other. 1943 was a trying year for BHU as the students had actively participated in Quit India movement. But the efforts of Radhakrishnan saved the University from becoming an army hospital.
Now came a long period and a leading part as a statesman. After Independence in 1948 he was made chairman of the University Education Commission. He led the Indian delegation to UNESCO. In 1949 he was chosen as India’s first envoy to the Soviet Union. He was elected first Vice President of India on April 5, 1952. Before he left for India he was given a luncheon. Halfway Stalin wanted to see him. Radhakrishnan found that he was not well. He patted him on the cheek and passed his hand over his head. Stalin, the great dictator commented, “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. I have not long to live.”
For ten years Radhakrishnan remained Vice President. He would preside over the Rajya Sabha sessions. To relieve the atmosphere during heated debates he intervened with Slokas from Sanskrit classic and quotations from the Bible to bring peaceful atmosphere. After a decade in 1962 he was elected the second President of Independent India. He never acted in favour of any party. He laid emphasis on the basic principles of right thinking and right conduct, “the foundation on which all government and good loving must rest.”
In 1954 He was the first to be conferred Bharat Ratna. In 1963 the Philosopher king made a state visit to United States. He was well known for his lectures on philosophy. Now people heard from him about India’s domestic and foreign policies. His informality impressed the people the most chagla was high Commissioner in England. He took him to his room and remarked, much happier at Oxford moving about in academic atmosphere than as President in Rashtrapati Bhavan with all its pomp, prestige and protocol.”
During his President ship he saw the end of Nehru era, Indian performance in the 1965 war with Pakistan. Lal Bahadur Shastri’s short period regime and Indira Gandhi’s Prime Minister ship. He was 79 and declined to be elected again. Before moving to his house in Mylapore, Madras and much before in demise on April 17, 1975 he advised the people of India,” that no change can be brought about except by violent disorders. As dishonesty creeps into every side of public life we should be wise and bring about suitable alterations mour life….we must move forward with the times…..”