Teachers Day Saluting a visionary teacher Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Prof Dr Jayadeba Sahoo *

 Picture of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan at the Teacher's Day Celebration by Edn(S) Govt of Manipur on Sep 05 2009
Picture of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan at the Teacher's Day Celebration by Edn(S) Govt of Manipur on Sep 05 2009

"Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Deva Maheswara; Guru sakshat Param Brahma, Tasmei Sri Gurave Namah"
Teacher guides us towards the success in every aspect of life. It is important for both to respect the relationship

Since times immemorial, Indians have respected and idolized their teachers and placed above the God.. Earlier, we used to call our teachers 'Guru' and now it's the contemporary 'Sir' or 'Madam'. Nevertheless, the role of teachers has remained the same. A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others. They were, are and will continue to be our guiding light, creating conditions conducive to our overall development. "The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself" said Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

Henry Brooks Adams eulogized "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops". The great saint, Kabir, extolled "Teacher and God are standing before me, whom to pay my obeisance, I will bow to you my teacher who guided me to God"; here "bow" implies a great respect, curtsy and regard for the teacher. We will always be thankful to them for their constructive support. It is as an expression of this gratitude only that we celebrate Teacher's Day in India.

Since times immemorial, Indians have respected and idolized their teachers and placed above the God.. Earlier, we used to call our teachers 'Guru' and now it's the contemporary 'Sir' or 'Madam'. Nevertheless, the role of teachers has remained the same. They were, are and will continue to be our guiding light, creating conditions conducive to our overall development. We will always be thankful to them for their constructive support. It is as an expression of this gratitude only that we celebrate Teacher's Day in India.

The idea of celebrating Teacher's Day took ground independently in many countries during the XX century; in most cases, they celebrate a local educator or an important milestone in education (for example, Argentina celebrates Domingo Faustino Sarmiento's death Anniversary on September 11 since 1915, while India celebrates Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan's birthday on September 5 since 1962). These two factors explain why almost all countries celebrate this day on different dates, unlike many other International Days.

Teacher's Day is a tribute to the hard work and devotion of the teachers all year long, to educate a child. Indian Teacher's Day is dedicated to Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who was one of the most distinguished diplomats, a philosopher a zealous advocate of education and one of the greatest scholars and teachers par excellence of all times, and his contribution towards Indian education system apart from being the first Vice President and the second President of India. As a tribute to this phenomenal great teacher, his birthday is observed as Teacher's Day across India. As a matter of fact, when his students and friends asked him for the permission to celebrate his birthday, it was he who asked them to celebrate the day as Teacher's Day, honoring the efforts of teachers across the country.

Birth & Education

Dr. S Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888, at Tiruttani, forty miles to the northeast of Chennai (then Madras), in South India. His early years were spent in Tiruttani and Tirupati, both famous as pilgrim centers. He graduated with a Master's Degree in Arts from Madras University. In April 1909, he was appointed to the Department of Philosophy, at the Madras Presidency College. From then onwards, he was engaged in a serious study of Indian philosophy and religion, and went on to become a teacher of Philosophy.

Professional Life

In 1918, Doctor Radha Krishnan was appointed as the Professor of Philosophy, in the University of Mysore. Three years later, he was appointed as a Professor to King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science in the University of Calcutta. Dr. Radhakrishnan even represented the University of Calcutta at the Congress of the Universities of the British Empire in June 1926 and the International Congress of Philosophy at the Harvard University in September 1926. In 1929, Dr. Radhakrishnan was invited to take the post vacated by Principal J. Estin Carpenter, in Manchester College, Oxford.

In Oxford, Dr. Radhakrishnan lectured the students on Comparative Religion. From 1936-39, he served as the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford University. In 1939, he was elected Fellow of the British Academy. From 1939-48, he was the Vice-Chancellor of the Banaras Hindu University. He later held offices that dealt with India's national and international affairs. He was the leader of the Indian delegation to UNESCO during 1946-52. Dr. Radhakrishnan served as the Ambassador of India to U.S.S.R. during 1949-52. He was also a member of the Constituent Assembly of India.

His Works

Dr. Radhakrishnan penned down a number of books during his lifetime, some of which are like The Hindu View of Life, The Idealist View of Life, Religion and Society, Eastern Religions and Western Thought and A Source Book in Indian Philosophy. He had also written for some of the most reputed international journals.

Presidency of India

Dr. Radhakrishnan was the Vice-President of India from 1952 to 1962 and the President, General Conference of UNESCO, from 1952 to 1954. He held the office of the Chancellor, University of Delhi, from 1953-62. In May 1962, Dr. Radhakrishnan became the President of India, a post he served till May 1967. He was honored with Bharat Ratna in 1954. He was also knighted by the British government in the year 1931, but, he used only his academic title 'Doctor' throughout his life.

Contribution towards Indian Education: Just after Independence Dr. Radhakrishnan Chaired the University Education Commission in 1948-49. As Erich Fromm told "Education makes machines which act like men and produces men who act like machines," he realized that our Education system does not appear to fulfill the true aim of education. He said, "The three things- vital dynamism, intellectual efficiency and spiritual direction together constitute the proper aim of education. Moral and spiritual training is an essential part of education.

Enfranchisement of the mind, freedom from prejudice and fanaticism, and courage are essential. What we need today is the education of the whole man- physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual…If education is to help us to meet the moral challenge of the age and play its part in the life of the community, it should be liberating and life giving. It must give a basic meaning to personality and existence and equip us with the power to overcome spiritual inertia and foster spiritual sensitivity….......Seat of learning should produce men and women who will move together to develop common ideals and purposes, love each other and co-exist to create a co-operative common wealth."

Radhakrishnan had also strongly recommended the teaching of spiritual and ethical aspects of the religions as it is evident in the report of the University education commission of which he was the Chairman. The report maintained that: "Unless morality is taken in a larger sense it is not enough. If we exclude the spiritual training in our institutions, we would have to be untrue to our whole historical development. To be secular is not to be religiously illiterate. It is to be deeply spiritual and not narrowly religious." To enable students to become enlightened civilized citizen, he used to lay stress on the need of ethical teaching while addressing them.

The significance of celebrating Teachers' Day

The Radhakrishnan Commission's suggestions helped mould the education system for India's needs. Dr Radhakhrishnan believed that "teachers should be the best minds in the country". Teachers Day is the only occasion when we remember the time spent with our teacher, what they taught and what we are today. Teacher guides us towards the success in every aspect of life. Teachers are the prime movers who commit their whole life to the welfare of the youth; hence they are the greatest builders of a society or a nation. If we are proud of our country, our progress, our wealth and power, then we should be proud of our teachers.

When Dr APJ Abdul Kalam became President of India, he located his centenarian class VIII science teacher Siva Subramania Iyer (who had changed his life with a lesson on how birds fly) in Tamil Nadu and put him on stage with him to share his honour. Dr Kalam said, "The launch of the rocket is most crucial. If it is given the right take-off, it can reach the moon. The teacher is the launching pad of every great person who reaches for the sky." Dr. Manmohan Singh said, "Through teachers, flow the values and culture of a nation and its people,"

On this day, we gratefully remember the great educationist, apart from honoring all the teachers that have made our life much more knowledgeable and fulfilled, as serving as our beacons of light.

Happy Teachers Day

* Prof Dr Jayadeba Sahoo wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Faculty, Brahma Kumaris, RERF & Dean (Ex-HoD), Faculty of Education, Rajiv Gandhi (Central) University, Itanagar. He can be reached at bkjayadev(aT)rediffmail(doT)com
This article was posted on September 05, 2015.

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