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Why do we celebrate Teachers' Day?

September 5 is India's second President Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's birthday. The original idea -- it came from his students -- had been to celebrate the day as 'Radhakrishnan Day'

Radhakrishnan Day?

India started celebrating Teachers' Day in 1962, when Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan assumed office as the second President of India. The original idea had come from his students, who had wanted to celebrate September 5 -- Radharkrishnan's birthday -- as 'Radhakrishnan Day'.

No thank you. Teachers' Day would be better

But Radhakrishnan demurred. It would be better to celebrate September 5 as Teachers' Day, he said. "Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if September 5th is observed as Teachers' Day," he is quoted as saying. In photo: Radhakrishnan sits next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

A teacher first, and last

Radhakrishnan was a teacher all his life. He was professor of Philosophy at the University of Mysore (1918-1921), the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta (1921?1932), and Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at the University of Oxford (1936?1952). (He studied philosophy because a cousin had handed down his books to him.) He went on to become the first Indian to be appointed vice chancellor of the Benaras Hindu University. He was also knighted.

A politician in shadow

Radhakrishnan did not have a background in the Indian National Congress or in politics for that matter, which is why he was often referred to as 'politician in shadow'.

A study of Indian philosophy and religion

Radhakrishnan commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads are well-known and still very popular. Radhakrishnan said western criticism of Indian culture had 'disturbed' him, which is what led to his study of Indian philosophy and religion. In photo: Radhakrishnan meets with US President John F Kennedy.