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The Most Famous

PHILOSOPHERS from India

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This page contains a list of the greatest Indian Philosophers. The pantheon dataset contains 1,081 Philosophers, 47 of which were born in India. This makes India the birth place of the 8th most number of Philosophers behind Greece and Turkey.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Indian Philosophers of all time. This list of famous Indian Philosophers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Indian Philosophers.

Photo of Ramakrishna

1. Ramakrishna (1836 - 1886)

With an HPI of 76.48, Ramakrishna is the most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 82 different languages on wikipedia.

Ramakrishna (18 February 1836 – 16 August 1886), also called Ramakrishna Paramahansa (Bengali: রামকৃষ্ণ পরমহংস, romanized: Ramôkṛṣṇo Pôromohôṅso; pronounced [ramɔkriʂno pɔromoɦɔŋʃo] ; IAST: Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṃsa), born Ramakrishna Chattopadhay, was an Indian Hindu mystic. A devotee of the goddess Kali, Ramakrishna after adhering to various religious practices from the Hindu traditions of Vaishnavism, Tantric Shaktism, and Advaita Vedanta, as well as from Islam and Christianity, proclaimed that various world religions are "so many paths to reach one and the same goal", thus validating the essential unity of religions. His parable-based teachings espoused the ultimate unity of diverse religions as being means to enable the realization of the same God. He is regarded by his followers as an avatar or divine incarnation of God. Born in Kamarpukur, Bengal Presidency, India, Ramakrishna was the fourth and youngest child of his parents. He encountered several religious experiences starting from his childhood, and later began his career, at age twenty, as a temple priest at the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple in Calcutta. The devotional temperament of Ramakrishna coupled with his intense religious practices at the temple premises led him to experience various spiritual visions. Soon few religious teachers visited Ramakrishna and assured him the sanctity of his visions. In 1859, in accordance with then prevailing customs, Ramakrishna was married to Sarada Devi, a marriage that was never consummated. Tota Puri, a vedanta monk, initiated Ramakrishna into sannyasa in 1865. Ramakrishna later gained widespread acclaim amongst the temple visiting public as a guru, attracting to him social leaders, elites, and common people alike. Although initially reluctant to consider himself a guru, he eventually taught his disciples, and founded the monastic Ramakrishna Order. Ramakrishna died due to throat cancer on the night of 15 August 1886. After his demise, his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda popularized his ideas in India and the West.

Photo of Nagarjuna

2. Nagarjuna (150 - 250)

With an HPI of 75.31, Nagarjuna is the 2nd most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 89 different languages.

Nāgārjuna [c. 150 – c. 250 CE (disputed)] was an Indian Mahāyāna Buddhist philosopher monk of the Madhyamaka (Centrism, Middle Way) school. He is widely considered one of the most important Buddhist philosophers. Jan Westerhoff considers him to be "one of the greatest thinkers in the history of Asian philosophy."Nāgārjuna is widely considered to be the founder of the Madhyamaka school of Buddhist philosophy and a defender of the Mahāyāna movement. His Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Root Verses on Madhyamaka, MMK) is the most important text on the Madhyamaka philosophy of emptiness. The MMK inspired a large number of commentaries in Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Korean and Japanese and continues to be studied today.

Photo of Bodhidharma

3. Bodhidharma (483 - 540)

With an HPI of 72.92, Bodhidharma is the 3rd most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.

Bodhidharma was a semi-legendary Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th or 6th century CE. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism to China, and is regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. According to a 17th-century apocryphal story found in a manual called Yijin Jing, he began the physical training of the monks of Shaolin Monastery that led to the creation of Shaolin kungfu. He is known as Dámó in China and as Daruma in Japan. His name means "dharma of awakening (bodhi)" in Sanskrit.Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend and unreliable details.According to the principal Chinese sources, Bodhidharma came from the Western Regions, which typically refers to Central Asia but can also include the Indian subcontinent, and is described as either a "Persian Central Asian" or a "South Indian [...] the third son of a great Indian king." Throughout Buddhist art, Bodhidharma is depicted as an ill-tempered, large-nosed, profusely-bearded, wide-eyed non-Chinese person. He is referred to as "The Blue-Eyed Barbarian" (Chinese: 碧眼胡; pinyin: Bìyǎnhú) in Chan texts.Aside from the Chinese accounts, several popular traditions also exist regarding Bodhidharma's origins.The accounts also differ on the date of his arrival, with one early account claiming that he arrived during the Liu Song dynasty (420–479 CE) and later accounts dating his arrival to the Liang dynasty (502–557 CE). Bodhidharma was primarily active in the territory of the Northern Wei (386–534 CE). Modern scholarship dates him to about the early 5th century CE.Bodhidharma's teachings and practice centered on meditation and the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. The Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall (952) identifies Bodhidharma as the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in an uninterrupted line that extends all the way back to the Gautama Buddha himself.

Photo of Swami Vivekananda

4. Swami Vivekananda (1863 - 1902)

With an HPI of 71.89, Swami Vivekananda is the 4th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 88 different languages.

Swami Vivekananda (; Bengali: [ʃami bibekanɔndo] ; IAST: Svāmī Vivekānanda ; 12 January 1863 – 4 July 1902), born Narendranath Datta (Bengali: [nɔrendronatʰ dɔto]), was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, author, religious teacher, and the chief disciple of the Indian mystic Ramakrishna. He was a key figure in the introduction of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world, and the father of modern Indian nationalism who is credited with raising interfaith awareness and bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion.Born into an aristocratic Bengali Kayastha family in Calcutta, Vivekananda was inclined from a young age towards religion and spirituality. He later found his guru Ramakrishna and became a monk. After the death of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda extensively toured the Indian subcontinent acquiring first-hand knowledge of the living conditions of Indian people in then British India. Moved by their plight, he resolved to help his countrymen and found a way to travel to the United States, where he became a popular figure after the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago at which he delivered his famous speech beginning with the words: "Sisters and brothers of America ..." while introducing Hinduism to Americans. He was so impactful at the Parliament that an American newspaper described him as "an orator by divine right and undoubtedly the greatest figure at the Parliament".After great success at the Parliament, in the subsequent years, Vivekananda delivered hundreds of lectures across the United States, England and Europe, disseminating the core tenets of Hindu philosophy, and founded the Vedanta Society of New York and the Vedanta Society of San Francisco (now Vedanta Society of Northern California), both of which became the foundations for Vedanta Societies in the West. In India, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math, which provides spiritual training for monastics and householder devotees, and the Ramakrishna Mission, which provides charity, social work and education.Vivekananda was one of the most influential philosophers and social reformers in his contemporary India, and the most successful missionaries of Vedanta to the Western world. He was also a major force in contemporary Hindu reform movements and contributed to the concept of nationalism in colonial India. He is now widely regarded as one of the most influential people of modern India and a patriotic saint. His birthday in India is celebrated as National Youth Day.

Photo of Jiddu Krishnamurti

5. Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

With an HPI of 71.26, Jiddu Krishnamurti is the 5th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Jiddu Krishnamurti ( JID-oo KRISH-nə-MOOR-tee; 11 May 1895 – 17 February 1986) was an Indian philosopher, speaker, writer, and spiritual figure. Adopted by members of the Theosophical tradition as a child, he was raised to fill the advanced role of World Teacher, but in adulthood he rejected this mantle and distanced himself from the related religious movement. He spent the rest of his life speaking to groups and individuals around the world; many of these talks have been published. He also wrote many books, among them The First and Last Freedom (1954) and Commentaries on Living (1956–60). His last public talk was in January 1986, a month before his death at his home in Ojai, California. Krishnamurti asserted that "truth is a pathless land" and advised against following any doctrine, discipline, teacher, guru, or authority, including himself. He emphasized topics such as choiceless awareness, psychological inquiry, and freedom from religious, spiritual, and cultural conditioning. His supporters — working through non-profit foundations in India, Britain, and the United States — oversee several independent schools based on his views on education, and continue to distribute his thousands of talks, group and individual discussions, and writings in a variety of media formats and languages.

Photo of Kabir

6. Kabir (1440 - 1518)

With an HPI of 70.60, Kabir is the 6th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.

Kabir (1398–1518 CE): 14–15  was a well-known Indian mystic poet and saint. His writings influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, and his verses are found in Sikhism's scripture Guru Granth Sahib, the Satguru Granth Sahib of Saint Garib Das, and Kabir Sagar of Dharamdas. Today, Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam, especially in Sufism.Born in the city of Varanasi in what is now Uttar Pradesh, he is known for being critical of both organized religion and religions. He questioned what he regarded to be the meaningless and unethical practices of all religions, primarily what he considered to be the wrong practices in the Hindu and Muslim religions. During his lifetime, he was threatened by both Hindus and Muslims for his views. When he died, several Hindus and the Muslims he had inspired claimed him as theirs.Kabir suggested that "truth" is with the person who is on the path of righteousness, considered everything, living and non living, as divine, and who is passively detached from the affairs of the world. To know the truth, suggested Kabir, drop the "I", or the ego. Kabir's legacy survives and continues through the Kabir panth ("Path of Kabir"), a religious community that recognizes him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. Its members are known as Kabir panthis.

Photo of Adi Shankara

7. Adi Shankara (788 - 820)

With an HPI of 70.44, Adi Shankara is the 7th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.

Adi Shankara, also called Adi Shankaracharya (Sanskrit: आदि शङ्कर, आदि शङ्कराचार्य, romanized: Ādi Śaṅkara, Ādi Śaṅkarācārya, lit. 'First Shankaracharya', pronounced [aːdɪ ɕɐŋkɐraːt͡ɕaːrjɐ]), was an Indian Vedic scholar and teacher (acharya). His works present a harmonizing reading of the sastras, with liberating knowledge of the self at its core, synthesizing the Advaita Vedanta teachings of his time.Due to his later fame, over 300 texts are attributed to him, including commentaries (Bhāṣya), introductory topical expositions (Prakaraṇa grantha) and poetry (Stotra). However, most of these are likely to be written by admirers or pretenders or scholars with an eponymous name. Works known to be written by Shankara himself are the Brahmasutrabhasya, his commentaries on ten principal Upanishads, his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upadeśasāhasrī. The authenticity of Shankara being the author of Vivekacūḍāmaṇi has been questioned and mostly rejected by scholarship.The central concern of Shankara's writings is the liberating knowledge of the true identity of jivatman (individual self) as Ātman-Brahman, taking the Upanishads as an independent means of knowledge, beyond the ritually-oriented Mīmāṃsā-exegesis of the Vedas. Shankara's Advaita shows influences from Mahayana Buddhism, despite Shankara's critiques; and Hindu Vaishnava opponents have even accused Shankara of being a "crypto-Buddhist," a qualification which is rejected by the Advaita Vedanta tradition, highlighting their respective views on Atman, Anatta and Brahman. Shankara has an unparallelled status in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, but his influence on Hindu intellectual thought has been questioned. Until the 10th century Shankara was overshadowed by his older contemporary Maṇḍana Miśra, and there is no mention of him in concurring Hindu, Buddhist or Jain sources until the 11th century. The popular image Shankara started to take shape in the 14th century, centuries after his death, when Sringeri matha started to receive patronage from the kings of the Vijayanagara Empire and shifted their allegiance from Advaitic Agamic Shaivism to Brahmanical Advaita orthodoxy. Hagiographies dating from the 14th-17th centuries deified him as a ruler-renunciate, travelling on a digvijaya (conquest of the four quarters) across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy, defeating his opponents in theological debates. These hagiographies portray him as founding four mathas ("monasteries"), and Adi Shankara also came to be regarded as the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order, and the unifier of the Shanmata tradition of worship. The title of Shankaracharya, used by heads of certain monasteries in India, is derived from his name.

Photo of Padmasambhava

8. Padmasambhava (717 - 762)

With an HPI of 69.92, Padmasambhava is the 8th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 50 different languages.

Padmasambhava ("Born from a Lotus"), also known as Guru Rinpoche (Precious Guru) and the Lotus from Oḍḍiyāna, was a tantric Buddhist Vajra master from medieval India who taught Vajrayana in Tibet (circa 8th – 9th centuries). According to some early Tibetan sources like the Testament of Ba, he came to Tibet in the 8th century and helped construct Samye Monastery, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. However, little is known about the actual historical figure other than his ties to Vajrayana and Indian Buddhism.Padmasambhava later came to be viewed as a central figure in the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet. Starting from around the 12th century, hagiographies concerning Padmasambhava were written. These works expanded the profile and activities of Padmasambhava, now seen as taming all the Tibetan spirits and gods, and concealing various secret texts (terma) for future tertöns. Nyangral Nyima Özer (1124–1192) was the author of the Zangling-ma (Jeweled Rosary), the earliest biography of Padmasambhava. He has been called "one of the main architects of the Padmasambhava mythos – who first linked Padmasambhava to the Great Perfection in a high-profile manner."In modern Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava is considered to be a Buddha that was foretold by Buddha Shakyamuni. According to traditional hagiographies, his students include the great female masters Yeshe Tsogyal and Mandarava. The contemporary Nyingma school considers Padmasambhava to be a founding figure. The Nyingma school also traditionally holds that its Dzogchen lineage has its origins in Garab Dorje through a direct transmission to Padmasambhava.In Tibetan Buddhism, the teachings of Padmasambava are said to include an oral lineage (kama), and a lineage of the hidden treasure texts (termas). Tibetan Buddhism holds that Padmasambhava's termas are discovered by fortunate beings and tertöns (treasure finders) when conditions are ripe for their reception. Padmasambhava is said to appear to tertöns in visionary encounters, and his form is visualized during guru yoga practice, particularly in the Nyingma school. Padmasambhava is widely venerated by Buddhists in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, the Himalayan states of India, and in countries around the world.

Photo of Vyasa

9. Vyasa (-390 - -310)

With an HPI of 65.92, Vyasa is the 9th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 58 different languages.

Krishna Dvaipayana (Sanskrit: कृष्णद्वैपायन, romanized: Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana), better known as Vyasa (; Sanskrit: व्यासः, romanized: Vyāsaḥ, lit. 'compiler') or Vedavyasa (वेदव्यासः, Veda-vyāsaḥ, "the one who classified the Vedas"), is a revered sage or Rishi portrayed in most Hindu traditions. He is traditionally regarded as the author of the epic Mahābhārata. Vyasa is also regarded by many Hindus as a partial incarnation (Sanskrit: अंशावतार, romanized: aṃśa-avatāra / aṃśāvatāra) of the god Vishnu and the compiler of the mantras of the Vedas into four Vedas, as well as the author of the eighteen Puranas and the Brahma Sutras. He is one of the eight immortals Chiranjīvis, implying he is still alive in the current Kali yuga.

Photo of Aśvaghoṣa

10. Aśvaghoṣa (80 - 150)

With an HPI of 65.75, Aśvaghoṣa is the 10th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.

Aśvaghoṣa, also transliterated Ashvaghosha, (Sanskrit: [ˌɐɕʋɐˈɡʱoːʂɐ], अश्वघोष; lit. "Having a Horse-Voice"; Tibetan: སློབ་དཔོན་དཔའ་བོ།, Wylie: slob dpon dpa' bo; Chinese 馬鳴菩薩 pinyin: Mǎmíng púsà, litt.: 'Bodhisattva with a Horse-Voice') (c. 80 – c. 150 CE), was a Buddhist philosopher, dramatist, poet, musician, and orator from India. He was born in Saketa, today known as Ayodhya.He is believed to have been the first Sanskrit dramatist, and is considered the greatest Indian poet prior to Kālidāsa. It seems probable that he was the contemporary and spiritual adviser of Kanishka in the first century of our era. He was the most famous in a group of Buddhist court writers, whose epics rivaled the contemporary Ramayana. Whereas much of Buddhist literature prior to the time of Aśvaghoṣa had been composed in Pāli and Prakrit, Aśvaghoṣa wrote in Classical Sanskrit. He may have been associated with the Sarvāstivāda or the Mahasanghika schools.

Pantheon has 47 people classified as philosophers born between 390 BC and 1950. Of these 47, 2 (4.26%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living philosophers include Rambhadracharya and Homi K. Bhabha. The most famous deceased philosophers include Ramakrishna, Nagarjuna, and Bodhidharma. As of April 2022, 3 new philosophers have been added to Pantheon including Mahadev Govind Ranade, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and Wahiduddin Khan.

Living Philosophers

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Deceased Philosophers

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Newly Added Philosophers (2022)

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Which Philosophers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 21 most globally memorable Philosophers since 1700.