Radhakrishnan as a Vice Chancellor

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Radhakrishnan as a Vice Chancellor

Radhakrishnan as a Vice Chancellor

Andhra University was established in 1926 and the first Vice Chancellor was C.R. Reddy. Again Election was held in 1931 and Radhakrishnan also contested the election against his will as he never aspired for wealth or power. He was a man of simple wishes and wanted to serve his country without being involved in any power politics. But his friends pressurised him, the reason being that he was from Andhra and also by then had become internationally famous.

Radhakrishnan won the election and his winning was welcomed by all. The British owned Madras Mail wrote: “Under his influence this young University, whose infancy has been so sorely troubled with political and factious strife, may develop into a true home of learning, a place where character is developed and knowledge is increased.”
Radhakrishnan as a Vice Chancellor 1
When Radhakrishnan became Vice Chancellor of the Andhra University, he had virtually to start from scratch.

The university had no building of its own and only few subjects were taught. It was more like an examination centre. Radhakrishnan took more buildings on rent and started instruction in several other subjects such as History, Political Science, Economics and Telugu and within two months after he took charge of the office, the College of Arts came into existence. Within two years, the new buildings were constructed and All Arts departments were shifted into them. Hostel building was also constructed and meals were served for students of different castes on the same tables.

Radhakrishnan began recruiting permanent staff and during the next five years, he attracted the best available persons. He recruited distinguished Indians like Hiren Mukherjee and Humayun Kabir from Bengal, Damle and Vulvakar from Maharashtra and Chawla from Punjab. He invited Ludwig Wolf to occupy the professional seat at chemistry.

He also persuaded Rabindranath Tagore, C.Y. Chintamani, Yare Naguchi, Kavya Kantha Vasishta, Ganpati Muni to deliver special lectures. Thus within two years, Radhakrishnan made the Andhra University, one of the most exciting academic centers in India. He transformed it into seat of learning, truly national but having international outlook.

In 1932, departments of Philosophy, Mathematics, Economics, Politics and Foreign languages were added. In the same year, University College of Science and Technology was establish with the help of an Honorary Professor (C.V. Raman) and four lecturers. In 1933, honours courses in Technology started and in 1934, Commerce courses started. In 1935, Radhakrishnan received a letter from Indian Medical Council that the Andhra Medical College could not be recognized since there was no adequate medical and surgical equipment in the Medical College and Hospital at Vishakhapatnam. But due to sincere efforts of Radhakrishnan, the Medical College was saved from closure.

Radhakrishnan also gave much importance to the library. A special feature of this library was its collection of Marxist literature. Thus by 1934, the two colleges and one hostel had been completed; two more hostels were ready the next year and by 1936, the library and Clock tower had been completed. As is said by C.V. Raman that it was “like a story from the Arabian nights, Radhakrishnan had waved his wand and a university complete with buildings and staff had sprung up.”

Because of his administrative and organizational talents, Radhakrishnan laid the foundations in every sense of the Andhra University. He asserted that with the help of staff of a superior quality, he planned to produce “well trained men and women much above the average.” In I his address to the convocation of Andhra University in 1935, he said, “Democracy can save itself only by becoming aristocratic. Its leaders must be men of integrity and independence, of discernment and devotion to truth.”

In 1934, Radhakrishnan was unanimously re-elected and continued working till 1936 and in February 1936, he informed the senate of the Andhra University that he would leave in May as he accepted the chair at Oxford, which was of more than professional significance. He shifted his base to Britain and there he remained for the next three years till September 1938. Therefore during his tenure as Vice Chancellor of Andhra University, he worked hard to make it a place of learning provided with facilities for advanced study and research.

In Britain, he was a well known figure because of his learning and lucid eloquence. He worked hard in educating the people of England about India. He proved to be very good lecturer and was able to draw students from various disciplines. One of his colleague Edward Thomson wrote, “I admire his intellect, scholarship, spirit. His mind is alive at every moment. His lectures at Oxford, by universal admission, have been astonishingly clear and vivid.”

In August 1937, Radhakrishnan was invited by the British Academy to deliver the Master Mind Lecture on the Buddha. He was the first Asian to be selected and the lecture proved to be very successful, delivered without any notes or single hesitation. Because of this lecture, Radhakrishnan was awarded fellowship of the Academy and he became once again, first Indian to be so honoured.

Along with these achievements, Radhakrishnan continued to take active part in struggle of India for attaining freedom. He was very much impressed with Gandhiji’s attitude and tried to convince the British that Gandhiji was their best friend. Radhakrishnan had his first meeting with Mahatma Gandhi in the house of G.A. Natsen in Madras, when Gandhiji was returning from South Africa.

Radhakrishnan made a profound impact on Gandhiji. Radhakrishnan in turn, also came close to Gandhiji and to him, Gandhiji was a political worker with a religious outlook. He recognized Gandhiji’s deep spiritual force by which he was activated.

Radhakrishnan went to South Africa and talked to Indian Societies. He urged Indian community to work together with Africans against common humiliation and to stand up. He told them to follow the path shown by Gandhiji. About this, Gandhiji wrote in “Indian opinion” that, Radhakrishnan’s short visit to South Africa was like “a flash of light” from heaven.

With the outlook of war in September 1939 Radhakrishnan pressed Britain to transfer the self-government immediately because it was the right thing to do. However, all the talks with Government failed and Radhakrishnan was forced to recognize that the British were not serious about immediate self-government.

In 1939, the founder Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya nominated Radhakrishnan as his successor. Radhakrishnan was already dividing the year between Oxford and Calcutta and he was happy at Calcutta but he decided to leave Calcutta and planned to be Vice-Chancellor at Banaras Hindu University. His achievements in Banaras Hindu University were dazzling like “the hues of a rainbow” and he never mixed education with politics. Also he isolated religion from politics. In his own words, “A University is a seat of learning, not a centre of worship.

It believes in the pursuit of knowledge and not in the establishment of a cult. As University men, it is our privilege and honour to seek for truth.” Under his guidance the Banaras University progressed and became a place to develop the higher mind of the country, its conscience and its ideals. While the University had been set up at Banaras to promote the Hindu culture and religion, Radhakrishnan gave a wide definition to religion, which was to promote spiritual values independent of doctrine.

According to him, a good Hindu respected all religions as much as his own. Thus he made efforts to convert the University into a home of liberty “whose ideal was the promotion of liberty of mind or freedom of thought.”

His tenure of Vice-Chancellorship lasted for less than three years. In 1942 he was invited by the Senate of the Calcutta University to deliver Kamala Lectures and these lectures were published in the form of his famous book “Religion and Society.”

Radhakrishnan, therefore, proved to be a successful Vice-Chancellor of Andhra and Banaras Hindu University. When the Government decided to take over the University in 1942 for the conversion of the university buildings into a base hospital, he boldly opposed the Government of India and saved the Universities. He made sincere effort to maintain discipline in the University and for this, he used to pay surprise visits to the University buildings.

Because of his untiring work, he also suffered from typhoid for several weeks.

Radhakrishnan made it a point that politics should not enter into the administration of the University. He always extended the best possible co-operation to others and his good nature and generosity won him many friends In 1945, Radhakrishan was amongst those invited by Sapru. He was also made the Honorary Fellow of Calcutta University in 1946. In 1948, he was elevated to the office of the Chairman of the University Education Commission. He was also member of the Constituent Assembly from 1946 to 1949.

Radhakrishnan played a vital role in the formative years of the Indian Republic. He believed that Civilization had reached a stage when the world had to become one. In achieving this, Radhakrishnan stressed that UNESCO had a vital role to play. He was India’s Chief delegate to the new organization, and from 1945 to 1952, he worked for UNESCO, as a member. He twice become the Chairman of the Executive Board of UNESCO in 1948. His British Colleague, Lord Redeliffe-Maud, said that as Chairman he never lost his temper and was respected by everybody. He was one of the best suited persons to hold that office as he had already done a lot for the culture and thought of the world.

He said that the main objective of UNESCO was to re-create re-education and re-habilitation of man in order to create a new world community. He said, “We are a priesthood of the spirit. Thus he expressed the ideals of UNESCO better than any one else and was applauded by other members also. Jacques Maritain, a member of French delegation in 1948, said, “I have followed with the utmost interest all your interventions, as I think that you represent the very spirit’ of philosophy.” Because of his noble ideas, he was elected president of the general conference in 1952 and after six years was invited to open the new buildings in the place de Fontenoy in Paris.

Along with these milestones set by Radhakrishnan, he continued with his literary works and his edition of the Bhagvad Gita was published in the spring of 1948. He told people in this book that one must carry out one’s duties with detachment and with no enmity towards anybody. According to him, the aim of religion was the establishment of a brotherhood upon earth. After this, he started translating the Dhammapada, the Buddhist work, and the other two major works of the Hindu canon, the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutra.

Along with his achievements abroad, he also worked for his country who had recently attained freedom. In 1948, he was asked to head a commission to study the working of Indian universities with a view to recommending measures for their improvement. This Commission asserted that every student should be encouraged to take spiritual training along with academics.

The commission headed by Radhakrishnan also proposed the establishment of a University Grants Commission (UGC) which should be autonomous and in charge of distribution of funds provided by the Government of India. It stressed to raise the salaries of teachers in order to raise their social status and improve their quality. The establishment of University Grants Commission was the biggest achievement of Radhakrishnan Commission. He rendered valuable services in the cause of philosophy and international goodwill.