The Most Famous

PHILOSOPHERS from India

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This page contains a list of the greatest Indian Philosophers. The pantheon dataset contains 1,089 Philosophers, 45 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 82.17, Ramakrishna is the most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 77 different languages on wikipedia.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (Bengali: শ্রীরামকৃষ্ণ পরমহংস, romanized: Ramokṛṣṇo Pôromhongśo ; 18 February 1836 – 16 August 1886), born Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya, (Bengali: গদাধর চট্টোপাধ্যায় ) was an Indian Hindu mystic, saint, and religious leader in 19th century Bengal. Sri Ramakrishna experienced spiritual ecstasies from a young age, and was influenced by several religious traditions, including devotion toward the Goddess Kali, Tantra, Bhakti and Advaita Vedanta.As a priest at the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, his mystical temperament and ecstasies gradually gained him widespread acknowledgement, attracting to him various spiritual teachers, social leaders, and lay followers; he eventually taught disciples, who would later form the monastic Ramakrishna Order. He was generally revered by Bengali elites and within religious circles, which led to his chief disciple Swami Vivekananda founding the Ramakrishna Math, which provides spiritual training for monastics and householder devotees and the Ramakrishna Mission to provide charity, social work and education.

Photo of Nagarjuna

2. Nagarjuna (150 - 250)

With an HPI of 79.61, Nagarjuna is the 2nd most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 86 different languages.

Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250 CE; Chinese pinyin: Lóngshù; Standard Tibetan: mGon-po Klu-grub) was an Indian Mahāyāna Buddhist thinker who is widely considered one of the most important Buddhist philosophers. Furthermore, according to Jan Westerhoff, he is also "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, 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 Jiddu Krishnamurti

3. Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

With an HPI of 78.43, Jiddu Krishnamurti is the 3rd most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 70 different languages.

Jiddu Krishnamurti (; 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, but later rejected this mantle and withdrew from the Theosophy organization behind it. His interests included psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, 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, India, in January 1986, a month before his death at his home in Ojai, California. His supporters — working through non-profit foundations in India, Great 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. Krishnamurti was unrelated to his contemporary U. G. Krishnamurti (1918–2007), although the two men had a number of meetings.

Photo of Adi Shankara

4. Adi Shankara (788 - 820)

With an HPI of 77.32, Adi Shankara is the 4th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 68 different languages.

Adi Shankaracharya (Sanskrit: आदि शङ्कराचार्यः [aːdɪ ɕɐŋkɐɽɐh]) was an Indian philosopher and theologian who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. He is credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism.His works in Sanskrit discuss the unity of the Ātman and Nirguna Brahman "brahman without attributes". He wrote copious commentaries on the Vedic canon (Brahma Sutras, Principal Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) in support of his thesis. His works elaborate on ideas found in the Upanishads. Shankara's publications criticised the ritually-oriented Mīmāṃsā school of Hinduism. He also explained the key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that Hinduism asserts "Ātman (Soul, Self) exists", while Buddhism asserts that there is "no Soul, no Self".Shankara travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers. He established the importance of monastic life as sanctioned in the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra, in a time when the Mīmāṃsā school established strict ritualism and ridiculed monasticism. He is reputed to have founded four mathas ("monasteries"), which helped in the historical development, revival and spread of Advaita Vedanta of which he is known as the greatest revivalist. Adi Shankara is believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and unified the Shanmata tradition of worship.

Photo of Bodhidharma

5. Bodhidharma (483 - 540)

With an HPI of 77.27, Bodhidharma is the 5th 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. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the monks of Shaolin Monastery that led to the creation of Shaolin kungfu. In Japan, he is known as Daruma. 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 refers to Central Asia but may 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) and later accounts dating his arrival to the Liang dynasty (502–557). Bodhidharma was primarily active in the territory of the Northern Wei (386–534). Modern scholarship dates him to about the early 5th century.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. Bodhidharma also known as "The Wall-Gazing Brahmin".

Photo of Kabir

6. Kabir (1440 - 1518)

With an HPI of 77.05, Kabir is the 6th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 59 different languages.

Kabir Das (IAST: Kabīr) was a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, whose writings influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement and his verses are found in Sikhism's scripture Guru Granth Sahib. His early life was in a Muslim family, but he was strongly influenced by his teacher, the Hindu bhakti leader Ramananda. Kabir was born in the Indian city of Varanasi. Kabir is known for being critical of both Hinduism and Islam, stating followers of both were misguided by the Vedas and Quran, and questioning their meaningless rites of initiation such as the sacred thread and circumcision respectively. During his lifetime, he was threatened by both Hindus and Muslims for his views. When he died, both Hindus and Muslims he had inspired claimed him as theirs.Kabir suggested that Truth is with the person who is on the path of righteousness, considered all creatures on earth as his own self, 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.

Photo of Swami Vivekananda

7. Swami Vivekananda (1863 - 1902)

With an HPI of 75.13, Swami Vivekananda is the 7th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 84 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. He was a chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world, and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He was a major force in the contemporary Hindu reform movements in India, and contributed to the concept of Indian nationalism as a tool to fight against the British empire in colonial India. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is perhaps best known for his speech which began with the words "Sisters and brothers of America ...," in which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago in 1893. Born into an aristocratic Bengali Kayastha family of Calcutta, Vivekananda was inclined towards spirituality. He was influenced by his guru, Ramakrishna, from whom he learnt that all living beings were an embodiment of the divine self; therefore, service to God could be rendered by service to humankind. After Ramakrishna's death, Vivekananda toured the Indian subcontinent extensively and acquired first-hand knowledge of the prevailing in British India. He later travelled to the United States, representing India at the 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions. Vivekananda conducted hundreds of public and private lectures and classes, disseminating tenets of Hindu philosophy in the United States, England and Europe. In India, Vivekananda is regarded as a patriotic saint, and his birthday is celebrated as National Youth Day.

Photo of Sri Aurobindo

8. Sri Aurobindo (1872 - 1950)

With an HPI of 72.96, Sri Aurobindo is the 8th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 63 different languages.

Sri Aurobindo (born Aurobindo Ghose; 15 August 1872 – 5 December 1950) was an Indian philosopher, yogi, guru, poet, and nationalist. He joined the Indian movement for independence from British rule, for a while was one of its influential leaders and then became a spiritual reformer, introducing his visions on human progress and spiritual evolution. Aurobindo studied for the Indian Civil Service at King's College, Cambridge, England. After returning to India he took up various civil service works under the Maharaja of the Princely state of Baroda and became increasingly involved in nationalist politics in the Indian National Congress and the nascent revolutionary movement in Bengal with the Anushilan Samiti. He was arrested in the aftermath of a number of bomb outrages linked to his organization in a public trial where he faced charges of treason for Alipore Conspiracy. However Aurobindo could only be convicted and imprisoned for writing articles against British rule in India. He was released when no evidence could be provided, following the murder of a prosecution witness, Narendranath Goswami, during the trial. During his stay in the jail, he had mystical and spiritual experiences, after which he moved to Pondicherry, leaving politics for spiritual work. At Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo developed a spiritual practice he called Integral Yoga. The central theme of his vision was the evolution of human life into a divine life. He believed in a spiritual realisation that not only liberated but transformed human nature, enabling a divine life on earth. In 1926, with the help of his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa (referred to as "The Mother"), he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. His main literary works are The Life Divine, which deals with theoretical aspects of Integral Yoga; Synthesis of Yoga, which deals with practical guidance about Integral Yoga; and Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol, an epic poem. Books by Sri Aurobindo — The Integral Yoga, The Life Divine The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, Essay on Gita, Savitri : A Legend and a Symbol

Photo of Ramana Maharshi

9. Ramana Maharshi (1879 - 1950)

With an HPI of 72.72, Ramana Maharshi is the 9th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 49 different languages.

Ramana Maharshi (30 December 1879 – 14 April 1950) was an Indian Hindu sage and jivanmukta (liberated being). He was born Venkataraman Iyer, but is mostly known by the name Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.He was born in Tiruchuli, Tamil Nadu, India. In 1895, an attraction to the sacred hill Arunachala and the 63 Nayanmars was aroused in him, and in 1896, at the age of 16, he had a "death-experience" where he became aware of a "current" or "force" (avesam) which he recognized as his true "I" or "self", and which he later identified with "the personal God, or Iswara", that is, Shiva. This resulted in a state that he later described as "the state of mind of Iswara or the jnani". Six weeks later he left his uncle's home in Madurai, and journeyed to the holy mountain Arunachala, in Tiruvannamalai, where he took on the role of a sannyasin (though not formally initiated), and remained for the rest of his life. He attracted devotees that regarded him as an avatar and came to him for darshan ("the sight of God"). In later years an ashram grew up around him, where visitors received upadesa ("spiritual instruction") by sitting silently in his company asking questions. Since the 1930s his teachings have been popularized in the West, resulting in his worldwide recognition as an enlightened being.Ramana Maharshi approved a number of paths and practices, but recommended self-enquiry as the principal means to remove ignorance and abide in Self-awareness, together with bhakti (devotion) or surrender to the Self.

Photo of Aśvaghoṣa

10. Aśvaghoṣa (80 - 150)

With an HPI of 72.49, Aśvaghoṣa is the 10th most famous Indian Philosopher.  His biography has been translated into 41 different languages.

Aśvaghoṣa or Ashvaghosha (/'əɕʋə'gʰoːʂə/; c. 80 – c. 150 CE (Lopon rTa Yangs, སློབ་དཔོན་རྟ་དབྱངས།) was a Sarvāstivāda Buddhist philosopher, dramatist, poet and orator from India. He was born in Saketa in northern India. He is believed to have been the first Sanskrit dramatist, and is considered the greatest Indian poet prior to Kālidāsa. 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 45 people classified as philosophers born between 390 BC and 1950. Of these 45, 2 (4.44%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living philosophers include Homi K. Bhabha and Rambhadracharya. The most famous deceased philosophers include Ramakrishna, Nagarjuna, and Jiddu Krishnamurti. As of October 2020, 5 new philosophers have been added to Pantheon including Ravidas, Eknath, and Rishabhanatha.

Living Philosophers

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Deceased Philosophers

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Newly Added Philosophers (2020)

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Which Philosophers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 20 most globally memorable Philosophers since 1700.