Famous Indian Intellectuals & Academics

India has never had a dearth of people who possess powers of logical reasoning and remonstration. The world’s first university at Takshashila was founded by a group of Indian intellectuals. It is because of Aryabhatta, that India can proudly lay claim to ‘Zero’, a mammoth contribution to the number system. India’s freedom from the shackles of colonial rule would not have been possible, if not for intellectuals like Gandhi and Tagore. The country’s economy would have continued to suffer had it not been for economists like Amartya Sen or Bimal Jalan. Indian intellectuals and academics are recognized globally for their contribution to the society in general. Many of them have made their mark on Indian and foreign soils alike. Be it philosophers, writers, professors, researchers, film and theatre personalities, activists or scientists, the Indian society needs such people at every step. These are the people who have been paving the way for India to touch the peak of holistic development. Here we bring you a collection of biographies of some of the most famous Indian intellectuals and academicians. Read on and find out all about their life stories, timelines and also some interesting facts & trivia related to their lives.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 
Amartya Sen
(Economist & Philosopher)

Amartya Sen
12
Birthdate: November 3, 1933
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India
Indian economist Amartya Sen was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory. Sen is known for his development of more sophisticated measures of poverty, and also for his work on the causes and prevention of famines. He is considered an important contemporary liberal thinker for his views about the nature and primacy of liberty. 

 2 
Raja Ram Mohan Roy
(Socio-religious Reformer)

Raja Ram Mohan Roy
10
Birthdate: May 22, 1772
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Radhanagore, West Bengal, India
Died: September 27, 1833

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was an Indian social and religious reformer. He is credited with co-founding the Brahmo Sabha, a social-religious reform movement. Often referred to as the Father of the Bengal Renaissance, Roy has had an influential role in fields like politics, education, and religion. In 2004, he was ranked 10th in BBC's Greatest Bengali of all time poll.

Rabindranath Tagore
14
Birthdate: May 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: August 7, 1941

Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath who contributed greatly to the fields of literature, art, and philosophy. Referred to as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music. The first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore is also credited with composing the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

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 4 
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
(2nd President of India (1962 – 1967), 1st Vice President of India (1952 - 1962))

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
4
Birthdate: September 5, 1888
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Thiruttani, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: April 17, 1975

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was the second President of India and served from 1962 to 1967. He is regarded as one of India’s most eminent scholars and wrote extensively on Indian philosophy and religion. Lifelong he defended Hindu traditions and culture against criticism from the West. September 5, his birthday, is observed as Teachers Day in India, in his honour.

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 5 
Gautama Buddha
(Founder of Buddhism)

Gautama Buddha
4
Birthdate: 0563 BC
Birthplace: Lumbini Province, Nepal
Died: 0483 BC

Gautama Buddha is said to have lived in the 5th to 4th century BC and is revered as the founder of Buddhism. He is said to have spread his teachings for around 45 years based on his insights regarding suffering, nirvana and cycle of birth and rebirth. He had a large following. He obtained ‘enlightenment’ in India’s Bodh Gaya.

 6 
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
(Educator & Social Reformer He is Considered the "Father of Bengali prose")

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
10
Birthdate: September 26, 1820
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Birsingha, West Bengal, India
Died: July 29, 1891

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was an Indian social reformer and educator. He is best remembered for his efforts to modernize and simplify Bengali prose for which he is widely regarded as the father of Bengali prose. As a social reformer, Vidyasagar played a crucial role in enacting the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, which legalized the remarriage of Hindu widows in India. 

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 7 
Manmohan Singh
(Former Prime Minister of India)

Manmohan Singh
14
Birthdate: September 26, 1932
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gah, Punjab, British India (present-day Punjab, Pakistan)

The 13th Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh became the first Sikh in office when he took office in 2004. A prominent economist and academic, he held several key posts in the Government of India in the 1970s and 1980s. Known for his humility, he  has been described by the media as "one of the world's most revered leaders."

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 8 
Raghuram Rajan
(Economist, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (2013-16))

Raghuram Rajan
9
Birthdate: February 3, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India

Raghuram Rajan is an Indian economist who served as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India from 2013 to 2016. He also served as the 15th Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India. For his significant contribution in the field of economics, Raghuram Rajan was honored with the Fischer Black Prize by the American Finance Association in 2003.

 9 
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
(Indian Minister of Education (1947-58))

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad
4
Birthdate: November 11, 1888
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Died: February 22, 1958

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was an Indian independence activist, Islamic theologian, and scholar. He played a key role in the Indian independence movement, serving as a senior leader of the Congress. His contribution to the Indian education system is recognized across India by celebrating his birthday as National Education Day

 10 
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan
(Indian Islamic Reformer and Educationist Who Founded the ‘Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College’, the First Muslim University in Southern Asia)

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan
10
Birthdate: October 17, 1817
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Delhi, India
Died: March 27, 1898
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University. He is accredited as the father of Two-Nation Theory and is regarded as the originator of Muslim nationalism in India. A proponent of freedom of speech and democratic ideals, he propelled social and educational reforms.

 11 
Swami Vivekananda
(Hindu Monk)

Swami Vivekananda
21
Birthdate: January 12, 1863
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: July 4, 1902

The founder of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, and spiritual leader. He is credited with introducing the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. He is also credited with elevating the status of Hinduism as a major religion in the modern world by raising interfaith awareness.

 12 
Romila Thapar
(Historian known for Authoring books about Indian history)

Romila Thapar
11
Birthdate: November 30, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Renowned history scholar and JNU professor Romila Thapar has also taught at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. She has previously been in the news for rejecting the Padma Bhushan twice, stating she didn’t accept state awards. She has also often opposed Hindutva and the “saffronization” of education.

 13 
Abhijit Banerjee
(Economist)

Abhijit Banerjee
5
Birthdate: February 21, 1961
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Born to economics professor parents, Abhijit Banerjee grew up in India before he moved to the U.S. to study at Harvard. He later taught at Harvard and Princeton and is now associated with MIT. His studies on the ways of reducing world poverty won him a Nobel Prize.

 14 
Nagarjuna
(Philosopher)

Nagarjuna
6
Birthdate: 0150 AD
Birthplace: Andhra Pradesh, India
Died: 0250 AD

 15 

Tiruvalluvar
8
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Uncertain: Madurai,Chennai, India

Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar, also known as Valluvar, had written some of the finest masterpieces of Tamil literature, such as his collection of couplets, Tirukkural. His towering statue adorns the coast of Kanyakumari, the southern-most tip of India. He is also known as the patron saint of bus drivers in Chennai.

 16 
Kabir
(Saint and Mystic Poet)

Kabir
9
Birthdate: 1440 AD
Birthplace: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: 1518 AD

Kabir was an Indian saint and mystic poet whose works influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, which in turn played a key role in the formation of Sikhism, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism and Islam and his legacy continues to live through a religious community known as the Kabir panth.

 17 
Osho Rajneesh
(Spiritual leader)

Osho Rajneesh
21
Birthdate: December 11, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Raisen, Madhya Pradesh, India
Died: January 19, 1990

Osho Rajneesh was an Indian godman and mystic. Also known as Acharya Rajneesh and Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, he was the founder of the Rajneesh movement. He preached the importance of meditation, mindfulness, celebration,  love, courage, and creativity and called for a more open attitude to human sexuality, because of which he was considered a controversial new religious movement leader. 

 18 
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
(Independence Activist, Reformer)

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
21
Birthdate: May 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bhagur
Died: February 26, 1966

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.

 19 
Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
(Spiritual & Religious Leader)

Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
9
Birthdate: February 18, 1836
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kamarpukur, West Bengal, India
Died: August 16, 1886

The widely revered Hindu religious leader and saint who had a large following was known for promoting the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a devotee of Goddess Kali who he worshipped as the universal mother. His marriage to Sharada Devi was never consummated. Swami Vivekanada was the most famous disciple of the Bengal-born mystic.

 20 
Jaggi Vasudev
(Yoga Guru)

Jaggi Vasudev
35
Birthdate: September 3, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mysore, Karnataka, India

The recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of India, Jaggi Vasudev is a mystic, yogi, and author.  His spiritual program called inner engineering is famous all over the world, particularly in the Western world. Popularly known as Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev's yoga programs, environmental initiatives, and educational and social initiatives have earned him celebrity status in India.

 21 
Sri Aurobindo
(Philosopher, Spiritual Leader)

Sri Aurobindo
8
Birthdate: August 15, 1872
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: December 5, 1950

Sri Aurobindo was an Indian philosopher, poet, yogi, teacher, and nationalist. He was one of the most influential leaders of the Indian independence movement before becoming a spiritual reformer, focusing on spiritual evolution and human progress. He is credited with founding the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, which continues to serve spiritual aspirants from all over the world.

 22 
Ramanuja
(Philosopher)

Ramanuja
9
Birthdate: 1017 AD
Birthplace: Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: 1137 AD

 23 
Patanjali
(Author)

Patanjali
9
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: India
Died: 0150 AD

 24 
Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi
(Islamic Scholar, Reformer)

Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi
8
Birthdate: June 14, 1856
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bareilly
Died: October 28, 1921

Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, also known as Ala-Hazrat, was a renowned Islamic scholar and an Urdu poet. Born in Bareilly, British India, he belonged to a family of Rohilla Pushtuns who had migrated from Qandahar. He wrote about various subjects such as philosophy, science, and astronomy.

 25 
Abul A'la Maududi
(Philosopher)

Abul A'la Maududi
9
Birthdate: September 25, 1903
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Aurangabad, India
Died: September 22, 1979

Islamic scholar and philosopher Abul A'la Maududi was born into an elite Aurangabad family. He grew up to be fundamentalist who believed Islam should be free of Western influences and launched the Jamaʿat-i Islami. Though an important figure in Pakistani politics, he was also imprisoned for a while for opposing the government.

 26 
Vyasa
(Author)

Vyasa
9
Birthdate: 0000 BC
Birthplace: Kalpi

Indian sage Vyasa, also known as Vedavyasa, is regarded as the author of one of the most significant Indian epics, the Mahabharata. Considered one of the seven immortals of Hinduism, he is also credited with dividing the Vedas into four parts and penned the eighteen Puranas.

 27 
Basava
(Hindu religious leader)

Basava
9
Birthdate: 1105 AD
Birthplace: Basavan Bagewadi, India
Died: 1167 AD

Basava was an Indian poet, philosopher, social reformer, statesman, and saint who lived in the 12th century AD. He is credited with spreading social awareness through his poems. Although hagiographic texts and traditional legends claim that Basava founded Lingayatism, modern scholars believe that he refined and popularized the already existing religious tradition, which is popular in Karnataka, South India.

 28 
Vinoba Bhave
(Indian Social Reformer and Philosopher Best Known for the 'Bhoodan Movement')

Vinoba Bhave
3
Birthdate: September 11, 1895
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Died: November 15, 1982

Vinoba Bhave was an Indian social reformer and advocate of human rights and nonviolence. A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhave played an important role in the Indian freedom movement. In 1958, he became the first person to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. In 1983, Vinoba Bhave was posthumously honored with the prestigious Bharat Ratna award.

 29 
Girish Karnad
(Linguist, Author, Film director, Actor, Translator, Screenwriter)

Girish Karnad
5
Birthdate: May 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Matheran, Maharashtra, India

Actor, film director and playwright, Girish Karnad was also a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters degree in philosophy, political science and economics. A prolific writer, he authored scores of plays in Kannada, which were later translated into other languages. Also an eminent actor, film director and screenwriter, he was conferred with numerous awards including the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.

 30 
Urjit Patel
(Economist)

Urjit Patel
5
Birthdate: October 28, 1963
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Nairobi, Kenya

Urjit Patel is an Indian economist. From 2016 to 2018, he served as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. In 2018, he resigned stating personal reasons. He also became the fifth governor to have resigned before the completion of his term. Urjit Patel is the recipient of Yale University’s Wilbur Cross Medal. 

 31 
Subramanian Swamy
(Economist, Politician, Author)

Subramanian Swamy
13
Birthdate: September 15, 1939
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mylapore

Indian politician Subramanian Swamy, who is a BJP MP, has also been the president of the Janata Party earlier. Known for his far-right views, he was previously a professor economics at IIT, Delhi. He boasts of a PhD from Harvard and has penned several books, such as Terrorism in India.

Paramahansa Yogananda
9
Birthdate: January 5, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: March 7, 1952

Paramahansa Yogananda was an Indian Hindu monk, yogi, and guru. He is known for introducing the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) / Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India to millions across the world. He authored the book Autobiography of a Yogi and is considered the Father of Yoga in the West.

 33 
Jiddu Krishnamurti
(Public Speaker & Philosopher)

Jiddu Krishnamurti
10
Birthdate: May 12, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Madanapalle
Died: February 17, 1986

Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher, speaker, and writer. Many years after his death, Krishnamurti's supporters oversee several schools based on his views and ideas. The Krishnamurti Foundation runs several schools in India and foreign countries. Among those who were influenced by his works were Toni Packer, Dada Dharmadhikari, and Achyut Patwardhan.

 34 
Pranav Mistry
(Computer scientist)

Pranav Mistry
4
Birthdate: May 14, 1981
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Palanpur, Gujarat, India

Currently the President and CEO of Samsung Technology & Advanced Research Labs, Pranav Mistry, is best known for developing SixthSense, a wearable device enabling interactions between the real world and the world of data. Earlier, he had introduced a smartwatch called Samsung Galaxy Gear and a 3D-capturing 360-degree camera called Project Beyond; his other inventions being Mouseless, Quickies, Blinkbot etc.  

 35 
Satish Dhawan
(Aerospace engineer, Engineer)

Satish Dhawan
4
Birthdate: September 25, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Srinagar
Died: January 3, 2002

Satish Dhawan was an Indian aerospace engineer and mathematician remembered for his research in the field of boundary layers and turbulence. From 1972 to 1984, Dhawan served as the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization during which he played a key role in the development of the space program in India. In 1981, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.

 36 
Allan Octavian Hume
(Founder of Indian National Congress)

Allan Octavian Hume
3
Birthdate: June 4, 1829
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Saint Mary Cray, Orpington, United Kingdom
Died: July 31, 1912

British civil servant A. O. Hume is remembered as the Father of the Indian National Congress, having co-founded the party. Apart from being an administrator, he was also an ornithologist and had written List of Birds in India. His vocal criticism of the British made his bosses distrust him.

 37 
Pampa
(Poet)

Pampa
6
Birthdate: 0902 AD
Birthplace: Vemulawada, Telangana, India
Died: 0975 AD

Pampa was an Indian poet remembered for his works written in the Kannada language. A court poet of Arikesari II, Pampa is renowned for writing epics like Vikramarjuna Vijaya and Adipurana. These epics served as a paradigm for future works written in the champu style. Along with Ranna and Ponna, Pampa is counted among the three gems of Kannada literature.

 38 
Adi Shankara
(Advaita Philosopher)

Adi Shankara
4
Birthdate: 0700 AD
Birthplace: Kaladi, India
Died: 0750 AD
Indian philosopher and theologian Adi Shankaracharya, or Adi Shankara, promoted the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. His Sanskrit works talk about concepts such as the Ātman and Nirguna Brahman. He criticized the Mīmāṃsā school and explained the differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. He also established four "mathas," or monasteries.

 39 
Mahadev Govind Ranade
(Judge, Social Reformer)

Mahadev Govind Ranade
5
Birthdate: January 18, 1842
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Niphad
Died: January 16, 1901

Mahadev Govind Ranade was an Indian social reformer, scholar, author, and judge. Ranade is credited with co-founding the Indian National Congress as well as founding several organizations like the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Widow Marriage Association, and Vaktruttvottejak Sabha. He also contributed as an editor of a nationalist publication named Induprakash.

 40 

Ramachandra Guha
6
Birthdate: April 29, 1958
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Dehradun, Uttar Pradesh, India (now in Uttarakhand, India)

Bengaluru-based Indian historian and author Ramachandra Guha is best known for his iconic books Gandhi Before India and India After Gandhi. As a journalist, he has also written on cricket and was a long-time columnist for The Hindu. He has also been honored with the Sahitya Akademi Award.

 41 
Rajmohan Gandhi
(Historian, Politician)

Rajmohan Gandhi
4
Birthdate: August 7, 1935
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New Delhi, India

 42 

Purandara Dasa
4
Birthdate: 1484 AD
Birthplace: Shimoga, Karnataka, India
Died: January 2, 1564

 43 
Nizamuddin Auliya
(Sufi Saint)

Nizamuddin Auliya
3
Birthdate: October 9, 1238
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Budaun, India
Died: April 3, 1325

Nizamuddin Auliya was an Indian Sunni Muslim scholar and Sufi saint of the Chishti Order. He stressed love as a means of realizing God and believed that love of God implies love of humanity. He is considered one of the most famous Sufis from the Indian Subcontinent. His teachings were marked by an evolved sense of religious pluralism and kindness. 

 44 
M. N. Roy
(Revolutionary, Philosopher)

M. N. Roy
8
Birthdate: March 21, 1887
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Changripota, 24 Parganas, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died: January 25, 1954

Apart from being one of the co-founders of the Communist Party of India, M. N. Roy also established the Mexican Communist Party. Jailed for his political activities, he penned the nine-volume Prison Manuscripts in prison. He later joined the Indian National Congress but quit it soon after.

 45 
Debendranath Tagore
(Philosopher)

Debendranath Tagore
4
Birthdate: May 15, 1817
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kolkata
Died: January 19, 1905

 46 
Panini
(Linguist)

Panini
1
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Shalatula

Akka Mahadevi
5
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Karnataka

 48 
William Dalrymple
(historian, writer)

William Dalrymple
6
Birthdate: March 20, 1965
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Scotland

At 22, William Dalrymple penned the award-winning book In Xanadu. His 6-year research in Delhi culminated in the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award-winning volume City of Djinns. He has also presented the 6-part docu-series Stones of the Raj and written for publications such as Time and The Guardian.

 49 
Ramananda
(Poet)

Ramananda
6
Birthdate: 1380 AD
Birthplace: Prayagraj, India
Died: 1475 AD

Ramananda was a 14th-century Vaishnava devotional poet-saint who lived in India. He is considered the founder of the Bairagi Sampradaya, popularly known as the Ramanandi Sect. He was a pioneering figure of the Bhakti movement and an early social reformer. Unlike many other saints of his era, he accepted disciples without any caste or gender discrimination. 

 50 
Vandana Shiva
(Philosopher, Physicist, Writer, University teacher)

Vandana Shiva
1
Birthdate: November 5, 1952
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dehradun

Indian environmental activist and physicist Vandana Shiva is known for her anti-GMO campaigns. The Gandhi of grain is the founder of RFSTN, which promotes sustainable agriculture, and is against globalization. She developed an interest in environmentalism after witnessing a forest at her hometown being cleared for a project.