Why do Indians celebrate Dr Radhakrishnan’s birthday as Teachers’ Day?
Among all the professions in the world, teaching is undoubtedly the most influential. Due to the responsibility of molding young minds into tomorrow’s responsible citizens, we owe a debt of gratitude towards teachers. Hence almost every nation celebrates “Teachers’ Day” during which teachers are honored & their roles acknowledged. For example, USA celebrates Teachers’ Day in the first week of May, while the UK celebrates it on October 5th.
In India, we celebrate Teachers’ Day on the birth anniversary of Dr. Radhakrishnan (September 5th). But why did we choose his birthday and not that of any other leader? Legend says: “After Dr Radhakrishnan became the President of India, when a group of students wanted to celebrate his birthday as Radhakrishnan Jayanti, he humbly refused and instead suggested them to celebrate it as a day to honor teachers and that is how India has been celebrating Teachers’ Day on his birth anniversary (5th September).”
Although the above folklore would suffice as the reason as to why Dr Radhakrishnan’s birthday is celebrated as Teachers’ Day, it would be a great deal of injustice on the man if we do not read about his qualities & acknowledge this honor which he truly deserves.
By the 1960s, when India, to the surprise of its critics, had established itself as the world’s largest democracy, the need for a platform to honor teachers arose naturally. Dr Radhakrishnan was one of the most influential thinkers of Modern India who had realized the importance of teachers in national development and highlighted it in most of his works. The following excerpt from the book “Political Thinkers of Modern India” depicts how he linked the success of a democracy with the quality of education & teachers.
In addition to being a thinker, he was a philosopher as well, renowned for his contribution towards Indian Philosophy. The following excerpt related to his book on Bhagavad Gita depicts how he intended to define an ideal teacher i.e As one who emphasizes on presentation to converge different currents of thoughts to the same end.
By the time Dr Radhakrishnan entered politics, he was already respected worldwide as a visionary & statesman, due to which national leaders like Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Patel & others held him in very high regard and sought his advice on issues relating to ethics, morality. In a way, he had become a mentor (teacher) in politics as well. He had the political acumen to identify national obstacles well in advance and had the courage to rebuke parties & leaders for their inaction & misconduct. For example, he had already realized the consequences of corruption & nepotism back in 1947 itself and strongly warned Congress party to set it right before it would be too late.
We can find several such instances where Dr Radhakrishnan epitomized all the qualities of an ideal teacher throughout his life as a Scholar, Professor, Philosopher, Statesman, Visionary, Political Mentor & the President of India. Hence, it is but natural for India to honor him by celebrating his birthday as Teachers’ Day.
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