About Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

by Aatish Palekar

Dr. Radha Krishnan, a great scholar and philosopher of international repute, was one of the most illustrious sons of mother India. It is the fitness of things that this great son of the land was unanimously elected as the second president of free India on the retirement of Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

“Coming events cast their shadow before” is a common saying. The early life of this great personality fully illustrates this proverb. He was born on September, 1888, in Andhra Pradesh. He got his education at Vellore, Madras, etc. after completing his university education in 1909 he joined the Provincial Education Service. He started his career as lecturer and within a short period of seven years he got the professorship. As a teacher he was very popular among his students. One very interesting illustration may be cited here. After proving his worth at Madras university he was about to leave it to join University Calcutta. Those were the days of horse-driven carriages. Professor Radha Krishnan was about to start for the station when to his surprise, he found that the students who had gathered there were removing the horses from the carriage and took him to the station in that way. This shows how successful as a teacher he was.

Dr. Radha Krishnan was an outstanding educationist and profound scholar of philosophy. He went to foreign countries to deliver lectures, under “extension lecture series” programmed, at the leading universities, like Oxford and Chicago. He decorated the high offices of Vice-Chancellorship of Andhra and Banaras Universities. He represented his country at the UNESCO. His lectures and studies on world religions are memorable. Even when he was holding the highest office of the president of India, he was regarded as an educationist first and anything else afterwards. Before independence, Dr. Radha Krishnan’s chief concern was academic pursuit. Major part of his life was spent in the service of the universities in one form or the other. But when India becomes free, he was assignments of political nature. He was appointed as the ambassador of India to Russia in 1949. He was the first diplomat in communist Russia who was called twice by marshal Station for interview. Thus, be proved that he could be even more successful as an ambassador. This job is most often regarded as the sacred jurisdiction of professional politicians and diplomats.

Dr. Radha Krishnan was a master exponent of Indian philosophy. He was an equally great scholar of Western philosophy. He was regarded as the leading philosopher of the world. He was an idealist. But his idealism was not divorced from real life. He was not only a thinker and writer but also an orator of outstanding repute. His life was a real embodiment of the Indian principle of simple living and high thinking. His saintly life, sharp intellect, and intense love for his countrymen won for him love, affection and admiration of everyone in India.

In a country of the dimensions of India, his unanimous election to the coveted office of the president was something unique. Throughout the country, there were demands which are detrimental to national unity. Emotional integration and national integration were the paramount need of the hour. The demand for the secession of Southern India from the rest of the country was a big challenge to the whole nation. Then the opposition, which was persistently being offered by the South to the national language, Hindi, was to be set at the rest for ever.

Dr. Radha Krishnan came from the south, a non-Hindi speaking region. It will not be an exaggeration to say that he was the only person at the time who could act as a cementing force between the north and the south, and Hindi and non-Hindi speaking people. The country’s eyes were fixed upon him for the solution of such vital problem-the problem of the life and death for the nation.

From this point of view it is to be regretted that he did not agree to continue as the president of the country for the second term of five years. But it should also be remembered that he resigned from the high office in the interest of the country. In this way, he established the healthy tradition that none should hold this office for more than one term. One must make way for others, who deserve this honor. Moreover, reasons of health also compelled him to retire. He had been ailing for some time and had to undergo an eye-operation. His death left void in Indian national life which can never be filled.

We often talk of increasing corruption, nepotism and favoritism in the post independent India. In fact, truth, honesty, merit and hard work have no meaning in the present times. Dr. Radha Krishnan as the president of India served as a ray of hope in the darkness all around. Indeed the dream of the great philosopher Plato, of a philosopher-king, came true with his election as the President of India.