Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born in Tirutani on September 5, 1888 into a poor brahmin family. His father Sarvepalli Veeraswami was employed on a meagre salary in the zamindari. His mother's name was Sitamma. It was difficult for Radhakrishnan's father to educate him with a meagre income and a large family to take care. Radhakrishnan went through most of his education on scholarships. He initially went to school in Tirutani and then to the Lutheran Mission School in Tirupati for his high school.He joined the Voorhee's College in Vellore but switched to the Madras Christian College at the age of 17.He chose philosophy as his major and attained a B.A. and M.A. in the field. He was afraid that his M.A. thesis, "The Ethics of the Vedanta" would offend his philosophy professor, Dr. A.G. Hogg. Instead, Dr. Hogg commended Radhakrishnan on doing an excellent job. Radhakrishnan's M.A. thesis was published when he was only 20.

Radhakrishnan was married to Sivakamuamma at the age of 16 while still in Vellore. Radhakrishnan accepted an Assistant Lectureship at the Madras Presidency College in 1909. While at the College, he mastered the classics of Hindu philosophy, namely the Upanishads, Bhagvad Gita, Brahmasutra, and commentaries of Sankara, Ramunuja and Madhava. He also acquainted himself with Buddhist and Jain philosophy. At the same time he read philosophical commentaries of Plato, Plotinus, Kant, Bradley, and Bergson. Later on in his life, he studied Marxism and Existentialism.

In 1914, in a strange twist of fate, Radhakrishnan met Srinivasa Ramanujan, the mathematical genius. Srinivasa was leaving for Cambridge for studies and had come to seek Radhakrishnan's blessings because a goddess came in his dream and told him to do so before undertaking the trip. The two never met again.

In 1918, Radhakrishnan was selected as Professor of Philosophy by the University of Mysore. By the time, Radhakrishnan had written many articles for journals of repute like The Quest, Journal of Philosophy and the International Journal of Ethics. He completed his first book "The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore." He believed Tagore's philosophy to be the "genuine manifestation of the Indian spirit." Radhakrishnan's second book, "The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy" was published in 1920.

Radhakrishnan's books and articles, drew the attention of Ashutosh Mookerjee, Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University. He nominated Radhakrishnan to the prestigious George V Professor of Philosophy at the Calcutta University, 1921. In 1923, Dr. Radhakrishnan's "Indian Philosophy" was published. The book was in response to the request made by Prof. J. H. Muirhead, to write a book on Indian philosophy for the Library of Philosophy. Radhakrishnan accomplished this mammoth task by producing a systematic and readable account of Indian philosophy. The book was hailed as a "philosophical classic and a literary masterpiece."

Radhakrishnan was called to Oxford University, England, to deliver the prestigious "Upton Lectures" on "The Hindu View of Life." The lectures were followed by an invitation to head the Department of Comparative Religion at Oxford. A philanthropist, Spalding, created a professorship for Radhakrishnan to teach Religion and Ethics at Oxford.

Radhakrishnan used his lectures as a platform to further India's cause for freedom. He thundered, "India is not a subject to be administered but a nation seeking its soul." He would graphically describe the "shame of subjection and the lines of sorrow" apparent on every Indian's face.

In 1931, Radhakrishnan was elected Vice Chancellor of the Andhra University. The University was in a state of stagnation. Radhakrishnan restructured the Honors and Post- Graduate teaching in Humanities and Languages, and Science and Technology Departments from scratch. By the time he left in 1936, he had transformed the University into a robust and well-recognized institution.

In 1939, Radhakrishnan became the Vice Chancellor of the Benaras Hindu University, Uttar Pradesh, founded by Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya. The University was under pressure from the Governor, Sir Maurice Hallet, to turn the campus into a war hospital in response to the Quit India Movement launched by Gandhiji and the Congress. Radhakrishnan rushed to Delhi and successfully persuaded the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, to halt the Governor's action. The Governor instead suspended financial support to the University. Radhakrishnan went on "a Begging Pilgrimage," to collect funds from sympathizers and philanthropists. When Malaviyaji retired from University work completely, the Benaras Hindu University requested Radhakrishnan's services for an indefinite period which Radhakrishnan acquiesced to.

After independence on August 15, 1947, Radhakrishnan was requested to Chair the University Education Commission in 1948. The Radhakrishnan Committee's suggestions helped mould the education system for India's needs.

In 1949, Dr. Radhakrishnan was appointed ambassador to the Soviet Union. The appointment raised many eyebrows because people wondered what kind of an impression Radhakrishnan, a student of idealist philosophy, would make on Joseph Stalin, an ardent communist. In 1950, Radhakrishnan was called to the Kremlin to meet with the Premier. This was rather irregular. Radhakrishnan was accompanied by Indian Embassy Minister, Rajeshwar Dayal and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Vyshinsky and interpreter Pavlov. Radhakrishnan told Stalin, "We had an emperor in India who, after bloody victory, renounced war and became a monk. You have waded your way to power through force. Who knows that might happen to you also." Radhakrishnan was referring to Stalin's infamous "bloody" purges. Stalin smiled and replied, "Yes, miracles do happen sometimes. I was in a theological seminary for five years!"

On April 5, 1952, a few days before Radhakrishnan's departure for India, Stalin called on Radhakrishnan. Radhakrishnan records Stalin's face being bloated. Radhakrishnan patted him on the cheek and on the back. Stalin said, "You are the first person to treat me as a human being and not as a monster. You are leaving us and I am sad. I want you to live long. I have not long to live." Stalin died six months later. Radhakrishnan's legacy in Moscow was a firm and friendly understanding between India and the Soviet Union. A relationship which has flourished over the years and has become even stronger.

Radhakrishnan was elected Vice-President of India in 1952. The Vice-President presides over the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) sessions, much like the Speaker does in the Lok Sabha (Lower House). Often, during a heated debate, Radhakrishnan would intervene with slokas from the sanskrit classics or quotations from the Bible to calm the charged atmosphere. Nehru commented later, "By the way in which Radhakrishnan conducted the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha, he had made the meetings of the House look like family gatherings!"

Dr. Radhakrishnan was honored with the Bharat Ratna in 1954. Around the same time, an 883-page compilation titled "The Philosophy of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan" was released in America.

In 1956, Radhakrishnan's devoted wife, Sivakamuamma, passed away after sharing 50 years of married life. The couple had five daughters and a son.

After serving two terms as Vice-President, Radhakrishnan was elected President of India in 1962. Radhakrishnan's tenure as President was marked by the disastrous Indo-China war of 1962, his state visit to the United States in 1963, the end of the Nehru-era with Nehru's death in 1964, and India's victorious performance against Pakistan in 1965 under Lal Bahadur Shastri. Radhakrishnan guided each of the Prime Ministers wisely and helped see India through those trying years safely. Radhakrishnan refused to continue for another term as President after his term ended in 1967.

At the age of 79, Dr. Radhakrishnan returned to Madras in May 1967 to a warm homecoming. He spent his last years happily at his house "Girija" in Mylapore, Madras.

Dr. Radhakrishnan died on April 17, 1975.

Potti Sriramulu

Sri Sriramulu Potti was born in Chennai in 1890. His parents were from Nellore district. Sriramulu had his early education in Chennai and then higher studies in engineering in Mumbai. He worked as an engineer for a while in the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. After his wife died in his 25th year, he joined Sabarmati Ashram. He was admired by Gandhiji for his dedicated and sincere work.

In 1946, he went to Nellore and devoted his time to Harijan welfare work and propagation of Khadi and village industries. He undertook three fasts during 1946-48 for the temple entry of Harijans in Nellore.

Sri Sriramulu Potti began his last fast on 19 October 1952 at Chennai for a separate Andhra state and continued his fast until he died on the night of 15 December 1952. This resulted in wide spread disturbances and opened the eyes of Nehru’s government. Thus Andhra State was formed in October 1953, which catalyzed the formation of other linguistic states. On November 1, 1956 Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka states were formed, followed by Gujarat and Maharashtra in 1960. The formation of linguistic states is the single most important event in the history of South Indian languages, as it provided an opportunity for these languages to develop independently, each of them having a state to support.

Sri Sriramulu Potti has become Amarajeevi (immortal) for Telugus. Today, we are celebrating the Andhra Pradesh Formation Day, only because of Amarajeevi Potti Sriramulu.

Long Live Amarajeevi Potti Sriramulu! Jai Telugu Talli!

Tanguturi Prakasham Pantulu

Ongole District was renamed Prakasam District in 1972 to cherish the fond memory of late Andhra Kesari Tanguturi Prakasam Panthulu born in the District.

Tangutri Prakasam was born on August 23, 1872 at Kanaparthi village in Ongole Distt. in Andhra Pradesh. After higher education, Prakasam entered the profession of law and set up practice at Ongole and later at Rajahmundry in a bid to widen his clientele. In 1904,Prakasam sailed for England to qualify himself for the Bar. On return he started practice at the Madras bar becoming before long, one of the leaders of the Madras Bar commanding a lucrative practice.

The freedom movement of Andhra, in early 1920s found a great champion in T.Prakasam who was a rare combination of a great lawyer, journalist, nationalist and a politician. It is no wonder that his lifelong exertion in such diverse fields in the service of nation has earned him the honour of Andhra Kesari conferred on him by the people of Andhra Pradesh.

Responding to Gandhiji's call, Prakasam gave up his legal practive and led the great Gandhian upsurge in that part of the country. He became President of the Andhra Provincial Congress Committee in 1921. He led the Simon Commission Boycott in 1928 in Madras City and virtually bared his chest when a British Bayonet was pointed at him.

He started a Nationalist Daily 'Swarajya' in 1921. Within a short time not only did it rise in circulation phenomenally, but there did arise a persistent clamour for Telugu and Tamil editions of the daily. When the Congress got into power in 1937. Prakasam became the Revenue Minister and initiated many progressive measures.

Later in 1946 he became the Chief Minister of the Composite Madras State and remained in office for about 13 months setting in motion a spate of revolutionary reforms. On October 1, 1953, the Andhra State came into being and Andhra Kesari was prevailed upon to heard the first Andhra Ministry. His administration at Kurnool was packed with significant events. To crown them all, he declared general amnesty for over 2,000 condemned criminals to mark the State's first anniversary in 1954. Prakasam was responsible for establishing Sri Venkateswara University in Tirupathi, introduction of water supply schemes and projects in the new State and construction of a barrage across the Krishna.

Durgabai Deshmukh

Durgaibai,� was married (at the age of 15) when she was a child just like, every other girl in those times , in India. After hearing Gandhiji's sermons, she joined the freedom struggle, took to wearing khadi clothes and selling them in the streets in Kakinada and Rajamundry. She was activiely involved in the "Videshi vastra dahan, Swadeshi vastra apnao" andolan [burn foreign clothes and wear native material movement], a boycott of Clothes manufactured in the foreign (English) mills and promotion of the Khadi (locally woven material).

In her childhood, she did not study much, later she completed her Intermediate [program], BA Honours from Andhra University (Vishakhapatnam). At Vizag, she was dynamic even on the campus. She would even cook for the entire hostel, if the cook was absent for days. She worked with Congress Workers like Bulusu Sambha Murthy, Tanguturi Prakasam, Pandit Nehru, etc., and went to Gandhiji frequently for advice. She achieved great academic excellance too.

At Madras, she started the Chinna Andhra Mahila Sabha, in Mylapore for the betterment of womenkind. She was intrumental in starting Hindi, English, music classes for women. She sought and got, donations from the rich for her cause and made Andhra Mahila sabha a very big institution.

After India got its independance, she was one of the most important people in the Indian Congress Party. While working here, she met Chintamani Deshmukh, her true soul mate, and ICS officer, who later became the Finance Minister in the first Cabinet under Prime Minister Nehru. Deshmukh was a widower. They got married in Delhi about 1954. Later they came to Mumbai, to the house where Deshmukh's younger brother and mother lived.

At that time V.N.Murti was in Mumbai too. Durgabai was V.N.Murti's batchmate from Vishkhapatnam college days.While working at RBI, as a

Statistician, he hosted a reception for the newly wed couple in Mumbai. He invited Maharashtrian friends of Deshmukh and the Telugu friends of Durgabai for dinner and hosted the reception to Mumbai in grandeur.

After that they came to Hyderabad, and bought land next to Osmania Univ and built a house and called it Rachana. They were also instrumental in convincing V.N. Murti to buy a plot nearby.In the same neighbourhood, they got the Literacy House built, eminent leaders like Indira Gandhi, Sarojini Devi and M .Venkat Rangaiya� came to give lectures at the Literacy House.In Hyderabad , she established and started the Andhramahila sabha, elimenatry school and then went on to build larger institutions like the hospital, and the colleges , which even today run succesfully. It was started with the vision of providing illetrate people of AP an opportunity to learn how to read and write.

The colony was named after her as Durgabai Deshmukh Colony. Durgabai left her husband to join the Congress, later she got him married to another brahmin girl who was more suited to be the home maker that he needed, than Durgabai herself. Soon after the wedding, the girl became a widow. Durgabai then brought Timmaiamma (who is still alive) to Andhramahila sabha and involved her activily for the upliftment of women in Andhra Pradesh.

After she passed away, Shri V.N Murti was appointed the Chairman, and he generated funds and grants for continuing her good work. Forwarding the cause of the women, Shri VN murti started a puppetry cell to use puppetry as a medium to communicate with the help of Ratnamala Nori . The purpose was to spread the message of literacy to villagers and the uneducated population in a familiar medium (puppetry has traditionally been used in India to tell stories). Today the Cell is a self sustaining unit and carries on the good work that was the vision of Durgabai Deshmukh.

She was called 'Veeravanitha', another name for a woman warrior on India and a very apt one for her life and its work.
(This information is provided the family of Radhika Gajjala who were close friends of Durgabai Deshmukh. Some of the names mentioned in this account were nationalists and some of them are Radhika�s family members. [Personal correspondence of Radhika Gajjala, dated 8 August 2002)

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore, a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, which was a new religious sect in nineteenth-century Bengal and which attempted a revival of the ultimate monistic basis of Hinduism as laid down in the Upanishads. He was educated at home; and although at seventeen he was sent to England for formal schooling, he did not finish his studies there. In his mature years, in addition to his many-sided literary activities, he managed the family estates, a project which brought him into close touch with common humanity and increased his interest in social reforms. He also started an experimental school at Shantiniketan where he tried his Upanishadic ideals of education. From time to time he participated in the Indian nationalist movement, though in his own non-sentimental and visionary way; and Gandhi, the political father of modern India, was his devoted friend. Tagore was knighted by the ruling British Government in 1915, but within a few years he resigned the honour as a protest against British policies in India.

Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal. With his translations of some of his poems he became rapidly known in the West. In fact his fame attained a luminous height, taking him across continents on lecture tours and tours of friendship. For the world he became the voice of India's spiritual heritage; and for India, especially for Bengal, he became a great living institution.

Although Tagore wrote successfully in all literary genres, he was first of all a poet. Among his fifty and odd volumes of poetry are Manasi (1890) [The Ideal One], Sonar Tari (1894) [The Golden Boat], Gitanjali (1910) [Song Offerings], Gitimalya (1914) [Wreath of Songs], and Balaka (1916) [The Flight of Cranes]. The English renderings of his poetry, which include The Gardener (1913), Fruit-Gathering (1916), and The Fugitive (1921), do not generally correspond to particular volumes in the original Bengali; and in spite of its title, Gitanjali: Song Offerings (1912), the most acclaimed of them, contains poems from other works besides its namesake. Tagore's major plays are Raja (1910) [The King of the Dark Chamber], Dakghar (1912) [The Post Office], Achalayatan (1912) [The Immovable], Muktadhara (1922) [The Waterfall], and Raktakaravi (1926) [Red Oleanders]. He is the author of several volumes of short stories and a number of novels, among them Gora (1910), Ghare-Baire (1916) [The Home and the World], and Yogayog (1929) [Crosscurrents]. Besides these, he wrote musical dramas, dance dramas, essays of all types, travel diaries, and two autobiographies, one in his middle years and the other shortly before his death in 1941. Tagore also left numerous drawings and paintings, and songs for which he wrote the music himself.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

This autobiography/biography was first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

Rabindranath Tagore died on August 7, 1941.

LalBahadur Sastri

Lal Bahadur Shastri was a well-known freedom fighter. After Jawaharlal Nehru's death, he became the second Prime Minister of India. He believed in high thinking and simple living.

In 1965, when Pakistan attacked India, Shastri proved to be a man of steel. The Indian troops were victorious, but being essentially a man of peace, Shastri agreed to a peace treaty (The Tashkent agreement), which was fair to Pakistan.

The following speech (abridged) was given by Lal Bahadur Shastri at the convocation of the Aligarh Muslim University.

19 December 1964
Whatever your station in future life, each one of you should first of all think of yourselves as citizens of the country. This confers on you certain rights, which are guaranteed by the Constitution, but it also subjects you to certain responsibilities, which also have to be clearly understood.

Ours is a democracy, which enjoins freedom to the individual, but this freedom has to be subjected to a number of voluntary restraints in the interests of organized society. And these voluntary restraints have to be exercised and demonstrated in every-day life.

A good citizen is one who obeys the law, whether there is a policeman around or not, and who takes delight in performing his civic duties. In the olden days sense of self-restraint and discipline was inculcated by the combined effort of the family and the teacher. The economic stresses of present-day life unfortunately do not leave enough time to the parents to look after the children.

In the educational institutions the numbers have grown so large as to take away the benefits, which used to accrue formerly by personal contact between the teacher and the taught. Inevitably, our young students are often left much to their own resources. Often this creates problems, which we all know about. This is an important aspect, which needs thorough examination. The responsibility of our young citizens is great. In my view every station in life is important in itself. Work has its own dignity and there is great satisfaction in doing one's own job to the best of one's ability. Whatever the duties, we should apply ourselves with sincerity and devotion. Such an approach, apart from being good in itself, also has the added advantage of opening avenues for further advancement. We have to see whether we have done our own job well before thinking of criticizing anybody else. All too often, we succumb to the temptation of decrying others without bothering to look to ourselves.

Never forget that loyalty to the country comes ahead of all other loyalties. And this is an absolute loyalty, since one cannot weigh it in terms of what one receives. It is essential to remember that the entire country is one and that any one who fosters or promotes separatism or fissiparous tendencies is not our true friend. What I have said stems from a desire to see that the youth of our country prepares itself in a disciplined and determined manner for the responsibilities of tomorrow. A democratic country is sustained not by the greatness of a few but by the co-operative effort of the many. The future of the country is in your hands and as the older generations complete their task the new ones come along to take their place. If they are well equipped as individuals and as citizens, the country's future will be bright indeed. At a time when you are at the threshold of a new period in your life I would urge you to play your role with confidence and dignity.

Our position with regard to secularism is known so well that it hardly needs any reiteration. It is embodied in our Constitution, which ensures equal respect for all religions and equal opportunities for all citizens, irrespective of their caste and creed and the faith which they profess. In spite of a seeming diversity, there is a fundamental unity in India, which we all cherish and it has to be our constant endeavor to maintain and strengthen this unity.

The country can progress only if it does away completely with fissiparous tendencies and emerges as an integrated whole. And it is in the field of education that the seed of secularism has to be sown at the earliest stages, so that the plant can be carefully nurtured as it grows.

The world is at the moment passing through very difficult times. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that never before in the recent past had mankind to grapple with problems of as complex a nature as are confronting it today. It is imperative that satisfactory and, as far as possible, lasting solutions should be found to these problems without undue delay, otherwise there is a danger of the situation getting out of hand. Mutual suspicions, hatred and ill-will between nations and groups of persons have to be removed at all costs and sincere and determined efforts have to be made to ensure that differences and outstanding problems are resolved by mutual discussion in a spirit of understanding, and not by the use of force. Wars and conflicts, as we know to our cost, always create more problems than they succeed in solving. The great advances made by science and technology, particularly in the field of nuclear and thermonuclear energy, have placed an almost unlimited power at the disposal of mankind. This power can be used either for constructive or for destructive purposes and it is up to us to try to derive the fullest possible benefit from it.

We, in India, have our own special problems. No one can deny that some of them are of a serious nature and must be tackled with vigour and determination. Our national objective has been defined clearly and unambiguously. We aim that every citizen should be provided with the basic necessities of life and should have complete freedom to lead the life of his or her own choice. We aim at a democratic society, strong and free, in which every citizen, irrespective of his religious belief, will occupy an equal and honoured place, and will be given full and equal opportunities for growth and service. We aim at the removal of untouchability and the doing away of the prevailing serious inequalities in status and wealth. We are opposed to the concentration of wealth in a few hands. Our rich cultural heritage extending over countless centuries is not the culture of this community or that but the synthesis of the cultures of the great peoples who lived here at various times in the past. The objectives I have mentioned are by no means easy of achievement in their entirety. I know that we have met with only a limited degree of success so far, but we have to persevere until the goal is achieved.

It must be remembered that the vast majority of Indians are extremely poor and it is only a small minority that live in relative comfort and have the benefit of university education and other worthwhile things. It is when we look at the Indian scene in such a perspective that Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsecs and others, instead of feeling that they are different, will together begin to put forth a tremendous effort to fight poverty, to eradicate disease and banish illiteracy.

Swami Vivekananda

Narendranath Dutt or Swami Vivekananda was a great social reformer and Indian nationalist of the 19th century. Vivekananda was the disciple of the great social reformer, Ramakrishna Paramahansa. After his master's death, Vivekananda organized the Ramakrishna Mission for the upliftment of the poor folk whom he called the 'Daridra Narayan.'

The following speech was delivered by Vivekananda at the Parliament of world religions on 11 September, 1893. In those times not many people knew about India and its great religious heritage. The presence of Swamiji was greeted with much enthusiasm and helped spread awareness about the religious tradition in our country.

September 11, 1893

Sisters and Brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome, which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.

My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honour of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration.

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation, which has sheltered the persecuted, and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.

I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion, which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation.

I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a, vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me."

Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.