Childhood And Early Education of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan

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Childhood And Early Education of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan

Childhood And Early Education

Dr. Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888 at a small place, Tiruttani, 40 miles north-west of Madras City in a middle class Niyogi Brahmin family as the second son of his parents. Dr. Radhakrishnan is an ideal representative of the Niyogi sect of Andhra Brahmins who are known for their intelligence and modern culture. As is said by P. Rajesware Rao.” It takes centuries of life to create a little history and centuries of history to create enduring tradition. There is no denying the fact that certain communities in our country established traditions of character and capacity, service and sacrifice,” and Dr. Radhakrishnan belonged to this community of Niyogi sect who had produced many great poets, administrators, dewans and commanders.

His father was Sarvepalli Veerasamaiah and his mother’s name was Sitamma. Most of the details about his parents are uncertain except that his father was a subordinate revenue official in the service of a local zamindar. His family was highly religious and had conventioned outlook. Radhakrishnan was quite different from his four brothers and sister in physical appearance as well as on intellectual level. His captivating extraordinary personality suggested that he belonged to different stock.

His father had a meager income and it was hard for him to maintain his large family. Radhakrishnan spent his first twelve years in Tiruttani and Tirupati. Both these places are famous pilgrim centres. He learnt elementary English, geography, arithmetic, Indian history and geography. At Tirupati, he joined Hermansburg Evangelical Lutheran Mission School which was run by German missionaries. Thus Radhakrishnan was influenced by the Christianity during his early days. Along with this, due to his family’s bent of mind towards Hindu religion, he regularly practised rituals and visited temples. Though he was not opposed to any religion, as his religious sensibilities developed, he was drawn to the values of the Vedanta.

When Radhakrishnan was a schoolboy, he was ordinary child with no exceptional qualities. Although he won many scholarships, he was not studious. He was not interested in sports also and he loved loneliness. Due to his withdrawn nature, it was difficult to know Radhakrishnan. He had very few friends and his favourite pastime was to walk around the village in a meditation frame of mind. He had infinite patience because of his firm faith in God.

He believed that the invisible hand of God was responsible for ail that was happening in the world. This belief made him strong and he was not perturbed by the grave difficulties. Due to his love of solitude, he felt himself close to God and developed perception of seeing the world with the mind, not with the senses. This nature made him intellectual as well as spiritual.

Radhkrishnan’s father knew no English and was opposed to his learning this language but because of his extraordinary talent, he was sent to missionary schools. In 1900, he left Missionary School at Triputi and joined the Voorhee’s College at Vellore when he completed his B.A. in 1904 and won scholarship. He also got certificate of merit for his proficiency in Scriptures.

During this period, he developed reading habit and started buying books. As he was a shy and a lonely man, books became his best friend. But slowly he became social and started enjoying good company with a few familiar friends. His social side become evident during Vellore days and he liked entertaining friends but he himself never smoked or tasted liquor. He was purely vegetarian and remained so throughout his life.

In May 1903, while still a student at Vellore, he was married to a distant cousin, Sivakamu, at the age of sixteen. She was an ideal Hindu wife, religiously following the footsteps of her husband. Although she did not share his intellectual interests and ambitions, she provided him intimate companionship full of warmth and love. She was happy in poverty and accepted struggles as the part of life. She was like rock and provided stable home life which enabled Radhakrishnan to be engrossed in his own work. Their first child, daughter was born in 1908 and afterwards six more children out of which one son died. He always regarded himself happily married and felt that his wife was a devoted wife by all standards.

In 1904, he joined the Christian College, Madras. For his B.A. degree, he was confused and unclear about the subjects he should choose. His inclination was towards physical sciences but ultimately he opted for philosophy which proved very fruitful later in his life. As in his own words, “The subject of philosophy which I happened to take up by sheer accident has been of considerable help to me in giving me a goal to work for.”

He asserted that the study of philosophy helped him immensely in understanding the deeper meaning of life. He further said; “To all appearance this is a mere accident. But when I look at the series of accidents that have shaped my life. I am persuaded that there is more in this life than meets the eye…………… Chance seems to form the surface but deep down other forces are at work.”

This clearly indicates that Radhkrishnan was convinced that his life was being shaped by God himself.

In 1906, he obtained the B.A. degree in first class and was the best student of that year in philosophy. From then onwards, his days of hardships started and he opted for the studentship of Rs. 25 per month and joined M.A. classes in philosophy. For his M.A. degree examination, he prepared a thesis entitled, “Ethics of the Vedanta”. This thesis was later published in a book form in 1908 and can be rightly considered the first creative work of Radhakrishnan. The Department of Philosophy at Madras Christian College was headed by Principal William Skinner and consisted of William Meston and Alfred Hogg as Professors.

Radhakrishnan was greatly influenced by Professor Hogg and considered him as “distinguished teacher” who was, according to him, “one of the greatest Christian teachers of his generation” who ” left a permanent mark on the minds of those who came under his influence.” Professor Hogg, in turn, recognised the potential of Radhakrishnan and appreciated his thesis. Thus Radhakrishnan impressed his Professors a lot and successfully obtained his M.A. degree in January, 1909. In April, he joined the Madras Provincial Education Service and began his teaching career. He was already familiar with teaching profession as during his post graduation itself, he started taking up private tution classes for students to earn some money for himself and his family. Thus his educational career was outstanding.