While the world celebrates international Teacher’s Day on the 15th of October, India celebrates it on the 5th of September, which is also the birthday of the famous teacher, academic philosopher and the second President of India, Mr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishan.
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born in the year 1888 in a well-known religious state in Chennai, then called Madras. He was the second son of Veera Samayya, a tehsildar in a zamindari. It was a middle-class, respectable Hindu Brahmin family.
He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Arts from Madras University. In partial fulfillment for his M.A. degree, Radhakrishnan wrote a thesis on the ethics of the Vedanta titled “The Ethics of the Vedanta and Its Metaphysical Presuppositions”, which was a reply to the charge that the Vedanta system had no room for ethics.
The Origin of Teacher’s Day
Since 1962, 5th of September has been celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakhrishnan was a philosopher and a teacher par excellence. Some of his students and friends approached him and requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday. In reply, Dr, Radhakrishnan said, “Instead of celebrating my birthday separately, it would be my proud privilege if September 5th is observed as Teacher’s day”. The request showed Dr.Radhakrishnan’s love for the teaching profession. From then onwards, his birthday is observed as Teacher’s Day in India.
What did he Do
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.
Dr. Radhakrishnan was of the opinion that only the right kind of education could solve many ills of the society and the country. He wanted to bring in a change in the educational system by improving the quality of education and building up a strong relationship between the teacher and the taught. In his opinion, teachers should be the best minds of the country; they should not merely instruct but should gain the true affection of pupils, and the respect for teachers cannot be ordered but it should be earned.
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. 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. He also received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1961.
Even as the president Sarvepalli remained a humble man. It was an open house at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and people from all sections of society were welcome to meet him. In addition he accepted only Rs. 2,500 out of his salary of Rs. 10,000 and donated the remaining amount to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund every month. He remained a teacher in many ways and even adopted the authoritative tone of a headmaster in many of his letters to his ministers. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan passed away on April 17, 1975.