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.
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 Paramahansa (Bengali: রামকৃষ্ণ পরমহংস, romanized: Ramôkṛṣṇo Pôromohôṅso; pronounced [ramɔkriʂno pɔromoɦɔŋʃo] (listen), 18 February 1836 – 16 August 1886), also spelled Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, born Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya, was an Indian Hindu mystic and spiritual leader. After adhering to various religious practices from the Hindu traditions of Bhakti yoga, Tantra, and Advaita Vedanta as well as from Islam and Christianity, he proclaimed the world's various religions as "so many paths to reach one and the same goal", thus validating the essential unity of religions. Ramakrishna's followers came to regard him as an avatar, or divine incarnation, as did some of the prominent Hindu scholars of his day. Ramakrishna, who experienced spiritual ecstasies from a young age, started his spiritual journey as a priest at the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, built by Rani Rashmoni. Soon his mystical temperament gained him widespread acclaim amongst the general public as a Guru, attracting to him various religious teachers, social leaders, Bengali elites, and common people alike; initially reluctant to consider himself a guru, he eventually taught his disciples, who later formed the monastic Ramakrishna Order. After his demise, his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda popularized his ideas, and founded the Ramakrishna Math, which provides spiritual training for monastics and householder devotees, and the Ramakrishna Mission, to provide charity, social work and education.
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 thinker, scholar-saint and philosopher. 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 (centrism, middle-way) school of Buddhist philosophy and a defender of the Mahāyāna movement. His Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Root Verses on Madhyamaka, or 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.
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 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, profusely-bearded, wide-eyed non-Chinese person. He is referred 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.
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] (listen); 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 is credited with raising interfaith awareness, and bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion. Vivekananda became a popular figure after the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where he began his famous speech with the words, "Sisters and brothers of America...," before 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. 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 was highly successful. In India, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math, which provides spiritual training for monastics and householder devotees, and the Ramakrishna Mission, to provide charity, social work and education. Vivekananda was also a major force in contemporary Hindu reform movements, and contributed to the concept of nationalism in colonial India. He is regarded as a patriotic saint, and his birthday in India is celebrated as National Youth Day.
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 a philosopher, speaker and writer. In his early life, he was groomed to be the new World Teacher, an advanced spiritual position in the theosophical tradition, but later rejected this mantle and withdrew from the organization behind it. His interests included psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, holistic inquiry, human relationships, and bringing about radical change in society. He stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasised that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social. Krishnamurti was born in South India, in what is now the modern-day Madanapalle of Andhra Pradesh. In early adolescence, he met occultist and theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater on the grounds of the Theosophical Society headquarters at Adyar in Madras. He was subsequently raised under the tutelage of Annie Besant and Leadbeater, leaders of the Society at the time, who believed him to be a 'vehicle' for an expected World Teacher. As a young man, he disavowed this idea and dissolved the Order of the Star in the East, an organisation that had been established to support it. Krishnamurti said he had no allegiance to any nationality, caste, religion, or philosophy, and spent the rest of his life travelling the world, speaking to large and small groups, as well as individuals. He wrote many books, among them The First and Last Freedom, The Only Revolution, and Krishnamurti's Notebook. Many of his talks and discussions have been published. His last public talk was in Madras (now known as Chennai), India, in January 1986, a month before his death at his home in Ojai, California. His supporters — working through non-profit foundations in India, Britain, and the United States — oversee several independent schools based on his views on education. They continue to transcribe and distribute his thousands of talks, group and individual discussions, and writings by use of a variety of media formats and languages.
With an HPI of 70.60, Kabir is the 6th most famous Indian Philosopher. His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
Kabir Das (1398–1518): 14–15 was a 15th-century 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.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 recognises him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. Its members are known as Kabir panthis.
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 ɕɐŋkɐraːtɕaːrjɐ]), 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 postulation of Shankara's writings is the identity of the Self (Ātman) and Brahman, defending the liberating knowledge of the Self, taking the Upanishads as an independent means of knowledge, against the ritually-oriented Mīmāṃsā school of Hinduism. 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 Saivism 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.
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 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.
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: Kṛṣṇadvaipāyana), 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 portrayed in most Hindu traditions. He is traditionally regarded as the author of the epic Mahabharata. Born to fisherwoman Satyavati and the sage Parashara, Vyasa himself fathered the Kuru king Pandu 'under Niyoga practice' in place of a half-brother who died heirless, at the behest of Satyavati. Vyasa was also the surgeon who put the Kauravas siblings into incubation.Vyasa is also regarded by many Hindus as a partial incarnation (aṃśa-avatāra) 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 seven immortal Chiranjeevis, implying he is still alive in the current Kali yuga.
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 Sarvāstivāda or Mahasanghika Buddhist philosopher, dramatist, poet 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 rivalled 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.
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.
1836 - 1886
150 - 250
483 - 540
1863 - 1902
1895 - 1986
1440 - 1518
788 - 820
717 - 762
390 BC - 310 BC
80 - 150
1772 - 1833
1893 - 1952
Which Philosophers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 21 most globally memorable Philosophers since 1700.