Teachers' Day: Why does Google celebrate it today?

India celebrates Teachers' Day to honour Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a philosopher and India's second president.

    Teachers' Day: Why does Google celebrate it today?
    Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, left, former president of India, receiving one of 100 University of Denver centennial medallions [File: Getty Images]

    Google has marked Teacher's Day in India with a Doodle or logo showcasing an animated red octopus, conducting a class.

    Teacher's Day is being celebrated on Thursday across India in the memory of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a philosopher, and India's second president who was born on September 5, 1888.

    As an academic, philosopher and statesman, Radhakrishnan is recognised by many as one of the most influential Indian thinkers of the 20th century.

    President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended their congratulations to teachers around the country.

    "On Teacher's Day, I pay homage to Dr Radhakrishnan and extend greetings to all our teachers," President Kovind wrote on Twitter.

    Prime Minister Modi shared a video paying homage to Radhakrishnan. 

    Who was Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan?

    Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, in Tirutania, southeast India, into a Brahmin family, the highest Hindu caste, in an area where Hinduism was a strong social force.

    By the age of eight, he was sent to a German missionary school, where he started to focus on his native religion.

    "I became familiar not only with the teaching of the New Testament but with the criticism leveled by Christian missionaries of Hindu beliefs and practices," Radhakrishnan wrote in a short autobiography.

    In 1904, he entered Madras Christian College, and before beginning his MA degree in 1906, his interest seems to have been placed in law.

    Radhakrishnan later recalled: "The challenge of Christian critics impelled me to make a study of Hinduism and find out what is living and what is dead in it... I prepared a thesis on the Ethics of the Vedanta (the earliest sacred literature of India), which was intended to be a reply to the charge that the Vedanta system had no room for ethics." 

    The success of his thesis led to his first academic appointment at Madras Presidency College in present-day Tamil Nadu state.

    At Presidency College, Radhakrishnan lectured on a variety of topics in psychology as well as in philosophy. 

    Isolated 

    From 1921, Radhakrishnan held the chair of philosophy at Calcutta University. It was the first time he was out of his native place, and he was geographically, culturally and linguistically isolated.

    However, this isolation allowed him to work during his early years in Calcutta, now renamed as Kolkata, on his two volumes of "Indian Philosophy".

    This was the first systematic approach to the subject, and one that opened the doors for Indian philosophy to be included as a formal study in universities throughout the world.

    Radhakrishnan was knighted in 1931 and years later he became the first Indian to hold a chair at Oxford University.

    During these years he expressed his vision of an autonomous country. Radhakrishnan envisioned a country that was guided by those who were educated.

    'The worst sinner has a future' 

    The years following India's independence from Britain mark Radhakrishnan's increasing involvement in Indian political affairs.

    Towards the end of the 1940s, he headed India's delegation to the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation and became the chairman of the organisation in 1949.

    Radhakrishnan also served as a member of the Indian Constituent Assembly helping to draft the first constitution.

    Later in 1949, then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru appointed him the ambassador to Moscow, a post he held until 1952.

    His tenure was known for his conversations with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. On one occasion, by his own account, he asked the Soviet leader: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?," according to a report by the New York Times.

    He became the country's vice president in 1952.

    Later, his religious beliefs changed, and he gradually came to believe that all religions shared a basic unity.

    In 1961, speaking at Harvard Divinity School of Harvard University, Radhakrishnan said: "It is one of the major tragedies of the world that the great religions, instead of uniting mankind in mutual understanding and goodwill, divide mankind by their dogmatic claims and prejudices."

    Eastern and Western religions, he declared, can share with each other as "two sides of the same mold".

    He became India's second president in 1972. After his retirement, he moved to his birthplace. Radhakrishnan died in 1975.

    Radhakrishnan was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour in the country, in 1954. He was also nominated five times for the Nobel Prize for literature, and 11 times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News