This article commemorates Girija, the residence of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the philosopher-statesman in honour of whom September 5 is observed as Teachers’ Day

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) was from a poor family from Tiruttani. Educating himself largely through scholarships, he completed his MA in Philosophy at the Madras University and became Assistant Professor at the Madras Presidency College in 1909. In 1918, he was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the Mysore University. In 1921, he became the George V Professor of Philosophy at the Calcutta University. By then he was the author of many books, and in 1923 published his best-known work, Indian Philosophy, which has since long been hailed as a masterpiece. During this time he also became the Spalding Professor of Religion and Ethics in Oxford. He was knighted in 1931.

Returning to India that year, he became Vice-Chancellor of the Andhra University in Visakhapatnam. In 1938, he was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the Benares Hindu University. It was during this time that he purchased 13 grounds of land on Madras’ upmarket Edward Elliot’s Road (now renamed Dr. S. Radhakrishnan Road). Girija, was built on the site to the design of L.M. Chitale, a leading architect of Madras at the time. Its facade is a classic in the Art Deco-style.

After Independence, Dr. Radhakrishnan headed the University Education Commission and in 1949 he became Ambassador to the Soviet Union. In 1952, he became Vice-President of India and in 1962 President. At the end of his term, he returned to Girija where he lived till his death. His son Sarvepalli Gopal (1932-2002), the well-known historian and biographer, also lived there. – (Courtesy: KalamKriya.)

This article is extracted from my book Historic Residences of Chennai, published  in 2008 by Smt Chandra Sankar’s organisation Kalamkriya. The sketch is by V Vijayakumar