5th September: Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India’s Second President is Born

On 5th September 1888, India’s second President Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born. This day is celebrated as Teacher’s Day all across India. Since the year 1962, India has commemorated Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birth anniversary by paying tribute to its hardworking – and admittedly under-appreciated – teachers and gurus with the Teacher’s Day.

Teacher’s Day

A philosopher, Dr. S Radhakrishnan served as the first Vice President of India (1952-1962) and the second President of India (1962-1967). He is remembered as India’s most renowned academician on Comparative religion and philosophy and for introducing Indian philosophy to the West, bridging the gap between both the cultures.

Dr. Radhakrishnan with the Government Officials

Radhakrishnan was a prominent philosopher and writer and also held the position of Vice-chancellor of the Andhra University and Banaras Hindu University.

Some notable events falling on This Day:

  • 1612: The East India Company’s marine under the British Government was founded with four small fighting ships.
  • 1698: A rival East India Company was founded in England.
  • 1763: Mir Qasim fought the British at Udayana near Rajmahal and lost the battle.
  • 1997: Mother Teresa passed away in Kolkata.

This festival is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists, to pay their respects to their teachers and express their gratitude. The festival is celebrated on the full moon day (Purnima) in the Hindu month of Ashadha (June–July) in the Hindu calendar of India and Nepal. This day marks the first peek of the lunar cycle after the peak of the solar cycle. The celebration is marked by ritualistic respect to the GuruGuru Puja.

As a mark of respect and to recognize a teacher’s contribution to society, most countries celebrate Teacher’s Day. In India, we observe it on September 5, the day teacher and President Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Virswami were born. In the USA, Teacher’s Day is observed in the first week of May while the UK celebrated it on October 5.

Teacher’s Day Celebration in School

On Teacher’s day, students across India dress up as their teachers and take lectures in classes that are assigned to the teachers they represent. Sometimes, teachers sit in their classes as students, trying to relive the time when they themselves were students

Known for his humble nature

It is said that when Dr. Radhakrishnan became President (1962-1967), his students and friends wanted him to celebrate his birthday. Known for his humble nature, he requested,

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

His birthday has since been celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India.

Teacher’s Day

He was a teacher of philosophy at the Madras Presidency College and was popular among his students. So much so, it is said, when he was leaving to join as a professor in Calcutta, a flower-decked carriage was pulled by his students all the way from the Mysore University to the railway station.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888, in a middle-class Telugu family in the pilgrim town of Thiruttani (near the border of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states). His early years were spent in Thiruttani and Tirupati. His primary education was at K.V. High School at Thiruttani. His father, it is said, did not want his son to learn English, instead wanted him to become a priest.

A rare picture of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan playing cricket with his grand children.

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. Drawn by accident into philosophy, Radhakrishnan by his confidence, concentration, and strong convictions went on to become a great philosopher.

He was an evocative teacher, exceedingly popular among his students right from his early days as a professor at Presidency College, Madras, and was offered the professorship at Calcutta University when he was less than 30 years old. He served as Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University from 1931 to 1936. In 1939, he was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University.

President John F. Kennedy with Indian President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, in the Oval Office

Two years later, he took over the Sir Sayaji Rao Chair of Indian Culture and Civilisation in Banaras. In 1952, Dr. Radhakrishnan was chosen to be the Vice President of the Republic of India and in 1962, he was made the Head of the State for five years.

Dr. Radhakrishnan was honored with the Bharat Ratna (the highest civilian award in India) in 1954.

Sarvepalli on a 1989 stamp of India

Awards and honors

  • 1931: appointed a Knight Bachelor(basic rank granted to a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not inducted as a member of one of the organized orders of chivalry; it is a part of the British honours system) 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 on 5 September, Radhakrishnan’s birthday, in honor of Radhakrishnan’s belief that “teachers should be the best minds in the country”.
  • 1963: the British Order of Merit.
  • 1968: Sahitya Akademi fellowship, The highest honor 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: the institution of the Radhakrishnan Scholarships by Oxford University in the memory of Radhakrishnan. The scholarships were later renamed the “Radhakrishnan Chevening Scholarships”.
  • He was nominated fifteen times for the Nobel Prize in literature, and eleven times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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One thought on “5th September: Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India’s Second President is Born

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