Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) – Biography, Contributions, Works

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan upsc notes
Why this topic is important for prelims?

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Mahatma Gandhi said that some of his deepest convictions were reflected in a book titled, “Unto this Last” and the book transformed his life. What was the message from the book that transformed Mahatma Gandhi?(2011)

(a.) Uplifting the oppressed and poor is the moral responsibility of an educated man

(b.) The good of individual is contained in the good of all

(c.) The life of celibacy and spiritual pursuit are essential for a noble life

(d.) All the statements (a), (b) and (c) are correct in this context

Solution (b)

With reference to Indian freedom struggle, Usha Mehta is well-known for: (2011)

(a.) Running the secret Congress Radio in the wake of Quit India Movement

(b.) Participating in the Second Round Table Conference

(c.) Leading a contingent of Indian National Army

(d.) Assisting in the formation of Interim Government under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

Solution (a)

What was the reason for Mahatma Gandhi to organize a satyagraha on behalf of the peasants of Kheda?(2011)

  1. The Administration did not suspend the land revenue collection in spite of a drought.
  2. The Administration proposed to introduce Permanent Settlement in Gujarat.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a.) 1 only

(b.) 2 only

(c.) Both 1 and 2

(d.) Neither 1 nor 2

Solution (a)

Consider the following statements :(2012)

The most effective contribution made by DadabhaiNaoroji to the cause of Indian National Movement was that he

  1. exposed the economic exploitation of India by the British
  2. interpreted the ancient Indian texts and restored the self-confidence of Indians
  3. stressed the need for eradication of all the social evils before anything else

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Solution (a)

Which of the following parties were established by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar?(2012)

  1. The Peasants and Workers Party of India
  2. All India Scheduled Castes Federation
  3. The Independent Labour Party

Select the correct answer using the codes given below :

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Solution (b)

Mahatma Gandhi undertook fast unto death in 1932, mainly because: (2012)

(a) Round Table Conference failed to satisfy Indian political aspirations

(b) Congress and Muslim League had differences of opinion

(c) Ramsay Macdonald announced the Communal Award

(d) None of the statements (a), (b) and (c) given above is correct in this context

Solution (c)

Annie Besant was: (2013)

  1. responsible for starting the Home Rule Movement
  2. the founder of the Theo-sophical Society
  3. once the President of the Indian National Congress

Select the correct statement/statements using the codes given below.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Solution (c)

Consider the following pairs : (2019)
Movement: Organization Leader
1.All India Anti-Untouchability League: Mahatma Gandhi
2. All India Kisan Sabha: Swami Sahajanad Saraswati
3.Self Respect Movement: E.V. Ramaswami Naicker
Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1,2 and 3

With reference to the British colonial rule in India, consider the following statements : (2019)
1. Mahatma Gandhi was instrumental in the abolition of the system of ‘indentured labour’.
2. In Lord Chelmsford’s War Conference’, Mahatma Gandhi did not support the resolution on recruiting Indians for World War.
3. Consequent upon the breaking of Salt Law by Indian people, the Indian National Congress was declared illegal by the colonial rulers.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 1 and 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

With reference to Indian National Movement, consider the following pairs : (2019)
Persons: Position head
1. Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru : President, All India Liberal Federation
2. K.C. Neogy : Member, The Constituent Assembly
3. P.C. Joshi : General Secretary, Communist Party of India
Which of the pairs given above is/ are correctly matched?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

In the context of Indian history, the Rakhmabai case of 1884 revolved around: (2020)

  1. women’s right to gain the education
  2. age of consent
  3. restitution of conjugal rights

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

[a) 1 and 2 only

[b) 2 and 3 only

[c) 1 and 3 only

[d) 1, 2 and 3

Which among the following is associated with ‘’Songs from Prison’’, a translation of ancient Indian religious lyrics in English? (2021)

a) Bal Gangadhar Tilak
b) Jawaharlal Nehru
c) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
d) Sarojini Naidu

Who among the following was associated as Secretary with Hindu Female School which later came to be known as Bethune Female School? (2021)
a) Annie Besant
b) Debendranath Tagore
c) Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
d) Sarojini Naidu

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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was an illustrious Indian philosopher, academician and statesman who served as the first Vice-President and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967. He was a brilliant student from a young age and went on to become one of the most influential figures in Indian history. Radhakrishnan was a renowned scholar of Hinduism, Indian philosophy, and comparative religion, and his works have been translated into numerous languages. He was a prominent advocate of religious tolerance, peace and non-violence, and he was influential in shaping the educational system of modern India. His birth anniversary is celebrated as Teachers’ Day in India.

Early Life and Education

Radhakrishnan was born in Thiruttani, Madras Presidency, British India on 5 September 1888. His father, Sarvepalli Veeraswami, was a subordinate revenue official in the service of a local zamindar (landlord). His mother, Sitamma, was a devout housewife. Radhakrishnan was educated in Thiruttani, Kumbakonam, and Tirupati, and attended Christian College in Madras for his undergraduate degree. After completing his B.A. in philosophy and English literature, he went on to pursue an M.A. in philosophy from the same college.

Radhakrishnan’s academic career was illustrious, and he was awarded the prestigious titles of “Sir” and “Doctor” of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in 1916. He was appointed professor of philosophy at the Madras Presidency College in 1918, and then professor of philosophy at the Calcutta University from 1921 to 1923. During this time, he wrote several books, including The Principal Upanishads, Eastern and Western Religion, Indian Philosophy, and The Bhagavad Gita.

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Career and Achievements

Radhakrishnan was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University in 1931 and served in this position for five years. During his tenure, he established several educational institutions and wrote several books, including An Idealist View of Life and The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy. In 1936, he was appointed Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at the University of Oxford.

Radhakrishnan was widely recognized for his scholarship, and he was awarded honorary doctorates from several universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, and Harvard. He was also invited to deliver lectures at major universities around the world, including Harvard and the University of Chicago.

Radhakrishnan was active in Indian politics and served as the Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union from 1949 to 1952. He was also a member of the Constituent Assembly of India and the UNESCO Executive Board. He was appointed Vice-President of India in 1952, and in 1962 he became the second President of India, serving until 1967.


Radhakrishnan was a great philosopher and thinker, and his works have been widely studied and admired. His philosophy was based on Advaita Vedanta, which is a form of Hinduism that emphasizes the essential unity of all existence. He believed that all religions are fundamentally the same, and that truth is relative and not absolute.

His thesis for his MA degree was titled, ‘The Ethics of the Vedanta & its Metaphysical Presuppositions’. In this paper, he defended Vedanta against the charge that it lacked ethicality. He defended Hinduism against “uninformed Western criticism” and played a major role in the formation of contemporary Hindu identity. He was deeply influenced by Swami Vivekananda.

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Literary Works

Radhakrishnan’s literary works were quite impressive. His book, ‘The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore’, attracted global attention to Indian philosophy. His other works include Indian Philosophy (1923-27), The Philosophy of the Upanishads (1924), An Idealist View of Life (1932), Eastern Religions and Western Thought (1939), East and West: Some Reflections (1955), The Hindu View of Life (1926), Kalki, or the Future of Civilization (1929), Religion and Society (1947), The Bhagavadgītā: with an introductory essay, The Dhammapada (1950), 194 pages, Oxford University Press, The Principal Upanishads (1953), Recovery of Faith (1956), A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (1957), and The Brahma Sutra: The Philosophy of Spiritual Life.

Awards and Honours

  • Radhakrishnan held several important positions and was awarded many honours.
  • He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award in 1954.
  • He received a knighthood in 1931.
  • However, after India’s independence, he stopped using his title ‘Sir’ and used the prefix ‘Dr.
  • He was also given honorary membership of the British Royal Order of Merit in 1963.
  • He was elected chairman of UNESCO’s executive board in 1948.
  • He was one of the founders of Helpage India, a renowned NGO for elderly underprivileged in India.
  • He also had formed the Krishnarpan Charity Trust along with Ghanshyam Das Birla and some other social workers.
  • He was the first Indian to hold a chair at the University of Oxford as a Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics (1936-1952).
  • In 1930, he was appointed Haskell lecturer in Comparative Religion at the University of Chicago.


Radhakrishnan died at his home in Madras (now Chennai) on 17 April 1975 at the age of 86. He had been in ill health for some time leading up to his death. His death was widely mourned in India, and he was accorded a state funeral.


Radhakrishnan is remembered as one of India’s most iconic figures in modern history. His works remain influential, and his philosophy of tolerance, peace, and non-violence has been widely adopted in India and around the world. He is also remembered for his contribution to the educational system of modern India, and for his efforts in promoting religious tolerance and understanding.

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