Teachers’ Day: The Enigma behind the day honouring teachers

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's birthday is celebrated as Teachers' Day

India celebrates Teachers’ Day on September 5th every year. This tradition was started in 1962 and continues to date.

It’s the birthday of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. He was a philosopher, academic, and statesman. He served as the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and the second President of India (1962–1967).

He was one of India’s most distinguished twentieth-century scholars of comparative religion and philosophy. Sarvepalli believed that “teachers should be the best minds in the country”

Education & Career:

  • Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888, in a Tamil middle-class family at Thiruthani in Tamil Nadu.
  • He completed his education at Christian College in Madras (now Chennai) in 1911. He joined the same institution as an assistant professor.
  • He was outstanding in his subject knowledge and was soon elevated to the post of Professor of Philosophy at the Madras Presidency College. Subsequently, he was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Mysore (1918-1921).
  • In 1921, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had joined as the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta.
  • Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was Upton Lecturer at Manchester College in Oxford in 1926, and in 1930, he was appointed Haskell lecturer in Comparative Religion at the University of Chicago.
  • In 1936, he had joined as the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at University of Oxford and served till 1952. He was the first Indian to hold a professorial chair at the University of Oxford.
  • Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was awarded several high awards during his life and was the recipient of knighthood in 1931.
  • He led the Indian delegation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and was elected chairman of UNESCO’s executive board in 1948.
  • The highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna was awarded to him in 1954.
  • Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was awarded honorary membership of the British Royal Order of Merit in 1963.
  • He was also one of the founders of Helpage India, a non-profit organisation for elderly underprivileged in India. Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan died on April 16, 1975, in Chennai.

Teachers’ Day

When Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan became the President of India, some of his students and friends requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday, on 5 September.

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

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Since then his birthday has been celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India.