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Bharat Ratna Award


The Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India) is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India.

Instituted in 2 January 1954, the award is conferred "in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order", without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex. The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science, and public services, but the government expanded the criteria to include "any field of human endeavour" in December 2011.

The recommendations for the Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President, with a maximum of three nominees being awarded per year. Recipients receive a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a peepal-leaf–shaped medallion; there is no monetary grant associated with the award. Bharat Ratna recipients rank seventh in the Indian order of precedence.

The first recipients of the Bharat Ratna was politician C. Rajagopalachari, philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and scientist C. V. Raman, who were honoured in 1954. Since then, the award has been bestowed upon 48 individuals, including 14 who were awarded posthumously. The original statutes did not provide for posthumous awards but were amended in January 1955 to permit them.

Former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri became the first individual to be honoured posthumously.

In 2014, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, then aged 40, became the youngest recipient; while social reformer Dhondo Keshav Karve was awarded on his 100th birthday. Though usually conferred on India-born citizens, the Bharat Ratna has been awarded to one naturalised citizen, Mother Teresa, and to two non-Indians, Pakistan national Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

On 25 January 2019, the government announced the award to social activist Nanaji Deshmukh (posthumously), singer-music director Bhupen Hazarika (posthumously) and to former President of India Pranab Mukherjee.

Several bestowals of the award have met with criticism. The posthumous award for M. G. Ramachandran (1988) was considered to have been aimed at placating the voters for the upcoming assembly election and posthumous awards of Madan Mohan Malaviya (2015) and Vallabhbhai Patel (1991) drew criticism for they died before the award was instituted.

History :

On 2 January 1954, a press communiqué was released from the office of the secretary to the President announcing the creation of two civilian awards—Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award, and the three-tier Padma Vibhushan, classified into "Pahela Warg" (Class I), "Dusra Warg" (Class II), and "Tisra Warg" (Class III), which rank below the Bharat Ratna. On 15 January 1955, the Padma Vibhushan was reclassified into three different awards; the Padma Vibhushan, the highest of the three, followed by the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri.

There is no formal provision that recipients of the Bharat Ratna should be Indian citizens. It has been awarded to a naturalised Indian citizen, Mother Teresa in 1980, and to two non-Indians, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan of Pakistan in 1987 and the former South African president Nelson Mandela in 1990. M.S. Subbulakshmi from Tamil Nadu became the first musician to receive the honour. Sachin Tendulkar, at the age of 40, became the youngest person and first sportsperson to receive the honour. In a special ceremony on 18 April 1958, Dhondo Keshav Karve was awarded on his 100th birthday. As of 2015, the award has been conferred upon 45 people with 12 posthumous declarations.

The award was briefly suspended twice in its history. The first suspension occurred after Morarji Desai was sworn in as the fourth Prime Minister in 1977. His government withdrew all personal civil honours on 13 July 1977. The suspension was rescinded on 25 January 1980, after Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister. The civilian awards were suspended again in mid-1992, when two Public-Interest Litigations were filed, one in the Kerala High Court and another in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, challenging the "constitutional validity" of the awards. The awards were reintroduced by the Supreme Court in December 1995, following the conclusion of the litigation.

YearLaureatesLocationNotes
1954C. RajagopalachariTamil NaduAn Indian independence activist, statesman, and lawyer, Rajagopalachari was the only Indian and last Governor-General of independent India. He was Chief Minister of Madras Presidency (1937–39) and Madras State (1952–54); and founder of Indian political party Swatantra Party
Sarvepalli RadhakrishnanAndhra PradeshPhilosopher Radhakrishnan served as India's first Vice-President (1952–62) and second President (1962–67). Since 1962, his birthday on 5 September is observed as "Teachers' Day" in India.
C. V. RamanTamil NaduWidely known for his work on the scattering of light and the discovery of the effect, better known as "Raman scattering", Raman mainly worked in the field of atomic physics and electromagnetism and was presented Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930.
1955Bhagwan DasUttar PradeshIndependence activist, philosopher, and educationist, Das is a co-founder of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith and worked with Madan Mohan Malaviya for the foundation of Banaras Hindu University.
M. VisvesvarayaKarnatakaCivil engineer, statesman, and Diwan of Mysore (1912–18), Visvesvaraya was a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire. His birthday, 15 September, is observed as "Engineer's Day" in India.
Jawaharlal NehruUttar PradeshIndependence activist and author, Nehru is the first and the longest-serving Prime Minister of India (1947–64).
1957Govind Ballabh PantUttar PradeshIndependence activist Pant was premier of United Provinces (1937–39, 1946–50) and first Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (1950–54). He served as Union Home Minister from 1955–61.
1958Dhondo Keshav KarveMaharashtraSocial reformer and educator, Karve is widely known for his works related to woman education and remarriage of Hindu widows. He established the Widow Marriage Association (1883), Hindu Widows Home (1896), and started Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women's University in 1916.
1961Bidhan Chandra RoyWest BengalA physician, political leader, philanthropist, educationist, and social worker, Roy is often considered as "Maker of Modern West Bengal". He was second Chief Minister of West Bengal (1948–62) and his birthday on 1 July is observed as National Doctors' Day in India.
Purushottam Das TandonUttar PradeshOften titled as "Rajarshi", Tandon was an independence activist and served as speaker of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly (1937–50). He was actively involved in a campaign to get official language status to Hindi.
1962Rajendra PrasadBiharIndependence activist, lawyer, statesman, and scholar, Prasad was closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi in the non-cooperation movement for Indian independence. He was later elected as the first President of India (1950–62).
1963Zakir HusainUttar PradeshIndependence activist and education philosopher, Husain served as a Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University (1948–56) and the Governor of Bihar (1957–62). Later, he was elected as second Vice-President of India (1962–67) and went on to become the third President of India (1967–69).
Pandurang Vaman KaneMaharashtraIndologist and Sanskrit scholar, Kane is best known for his five volume literary work, History of Dharmaśāstra: Ancient and Medieval Religious and Civil Law in India; the "monumental" work that extends over nearly 6,500 pages and being published from 1930 to 1962.
1966Lal Bahadur ShastriUttar PradeshKnown for his slogan "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan" ("Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer"), Independence activist Shastri served as second Prime Minister of India (1964–66) and led the country during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
1971Indira GandhiUttar PradeshKnown as the "Iron Lady of India", Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India during 1966–77 and 1980–84. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, her government supported Bangladesh Liberation War which led to the formation of a new country, Bangladesh.
1975V. V. GiriOdishaWhile studying at the University College Dublin, Giri was involved in the Irish Sinn Féin movement. Returning to India, he organized labour unions and brought them to take active participation in Indian freedom struggle. Post-independence, Giri held positions of Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Mysore and various other cabinet ministries. He became the first acting President and was eventually elected as the fourth President of India (1969–74).
1976K. KamarajTamil NaduIndependence activist and statesman Kamaraj was a Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for three terms; 1954–57, 1957–62, and 1962–63.
1980Mother TeresaWest Bengal"Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta" was a catholic nun and the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, Which manages homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work in 1979 and was beatified on 19 October 2003 by Pope John Paul II and canonised on 4 September 2016 by Pope Francis.
1983Vinoba BhaveMaharashtraIndependence activist, social reformer, and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhave is best known for his Bhoodan movement, "Land-Gift Movement". He was given the honorific title "Acharya" ("teacher") and was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1958) for his humanitarian work.
1987Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan PakistanWidely known as "Frontier Gandhi", independence activist and Pashtun leader Khan was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. He joined Khilafat Movement in 1920 and founded Khudai Khidmatgar ("Red Shirt movement") in 1929.
1988M. G. RamachandranTamil NaduActor turned politician Ramachandran served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for three terms; 1977–80, 1980–84, 1985–87.
1990Dr. B. R. AmbedkarMaharashtraSocial reformer and leader of the Dalits, Ambedkar was the Chief architect of the Indian Constitution and also served as the first Law Minister of India. Ambedkar predominantly campaigned against the social discrimination with Dalits, the Hindu varna system. He was associated with the Dalit Buddhist movement and accepted Buddhism as a religion along with his close to half a million followers on 14 October 1956.
Nelson Mandela South AfricaLeader of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa, Mandela was the President of South Africa (1994–99). Often called as the "Gandhi of South Africa", Mandela's African National Congress movement was influenced by Gandhian philosophy. In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1991Rajiv GandhiUttar PradeshGandhi was the sixth Prime Minister of India serving from 1984 to 1989.
Vallabhbhai PatelGujaratWidely known as the "Iron Man of India", Patel was an independence activist and first Deputy Prime Minister of India (1947–50). Post independence, "Sardar" ("Leader") Patel worked with V. P. Menon towards dissolving 555 princely states into the Indian union.
Morarji DesaiGujaratIndependence activist Desai was the fourth Prime Minister of India (1977–79). He is the only Indian national to be awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan, highest civilian award given by the Government of Pakistan.
1992Abul Kalam AzadWest BengalIndependence activist Azad was India's first Minister of Education and worked towards free primary education. He was widely known as "Maulana Azad" and his birthday on 11 November is observed as National Education Day in India.
J. R. D. TataMaharashtraIndustrialist, philanthropist, and aviation pioneer, Tata founded India's first airline Air India. He is the founder of various institutes including Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Tata Memorial Hospital, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tata Motors, TCS, National Institute of Advanced Studies, and National Centre for the Performing Arts.
Satyajit RayWest BengalHaving debuted as a director with Pather Panchali (1955), film-maker Ray is credited with bringing world recognition to Indian cinema. In 1984, Ray was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award in cinema.
1997Gulzarilal NandaPunjabIndependence activist Nanda was two times interim Prime Minister of India (1964, 1966) and two times deputy chairman of the Planning Commission.
Aruna Asaf AliWest BengalIndependence activist Ali is better known for hoisting the Indian flag in Bombay during the Quit India Movement in 1942. Post Independence, Ali was elected as Delhi's first mayor in 1958.
A. P. J. Abdul KalamTamil NaduAerospace and defence scientist, Kalam was involved in the development of India's first satellite launch vehicle SLV III and was the architect of Integrated Guided Missile Development Program. He worked for Indian National Committee for Space Research, Indian Space Research Organisation, Defence Research and Development Laboratory and was appointed as the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, Secretary to Department of Defence Research and Development and Director General of Defence Research and Development Organisation. Later, he served as the eleventh President of India from 2002 until 2007.
1998M. S. SubbulakshmiTamil NaduCarnatic classical vocalist Subbulakshmi was from Madurai, Tamil Nadu. She is known for her divine voice & often hailed as "Queen of songs",the first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award for her public service. She was honoured as a resident artist Asthana Vidhwan of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.Tirupati Urban Development Authority (TUDA) has installed a bronze statue of her in the city. Her many famous renditions include the chanting of Bhaja Govindam, Vishnu sahasranamam(1000 names of Vishnu),Hari Tuma Haro,Venkateswara Suprabhatam(musical hymns to awaken Lord Balaji early in the morning),Annamacharya Sankeerthanas & Tamil Tevaram. She also acted in a few Tamil films in her youth from 1938 - 1947. She donated many of the royalties on several best sold records to many charity organisations.
Chidambaram SubramaniamTamil NaduIndependence activist and former Minister of Agriculture of India (1964–66), Subramaniam is known for his contribution towards Green Revolution in India. During the late 1970s, he worked for International Rice Research Institute, Manila, and the International Maize and Wheat Research Institute, Mexico.
1999Jayaprakash NarayanBiharIndependence activist, social reformer, and commonly referred as "Lok Nayak" ("People's Hero"), Narayan is better known for "Total Revolution Movement" or "JP Movement" initiated during the mid-1970s to "overthrow the corrupt and exploitative Congress government".
Amartya SenWest BengalWinner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1998), Sen has done research over several topics including social choice theory, ethics and political philosophy, welfare economics, decision theory, development economics, public health, and gender studies.
Gopinath BordoloiAssamIndependence activist Bordoloi is the first Chief Minister of Assam (1946–50). His efforts and association with the then Minister of Home Affairs Vallabhbhai Patel were widely acknowledged while keeping Assam united with India when parts of it were to merge with East Pakistan.
Ravi ShankarWest BengalWinner of four Grammy Awards and often considered "the world's best-known exponent of Hindustani classical music", sitar player Shankar is known for his collaborative work with Western musicians including Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison.
2001Lata MangeshkarMaharashtraWidely credited as the "nightingale of India", playback singer Mangeshkar started her career in the 1940s and has sung songs in over 36 languages. In 1989, Mangeshkar was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award in cinema.
Bismillah KhanUttar PradeshHindustani classical shehnai player, Khan played the instrument for more than eight decades and is credited to have brought the instrument to the centre stage of Indian music.
2009Bhimsen JoshiKarnatakaHindustani classical vocalist, Joshi was a disciple of Kirana gharana, an Indian musical school. He is widely known for the Khyal genre of singing with a "mastery over rhythm and accurate notes".
2014C. N. R. RaoKarnatakaThe recipient of Honorary Doctorates from 63 Universities including Purdue, IIT Bombay, Oxford, chemist and professor Rao has worked prominently in the fields of Solid State and Materials Chemistry, Spectroscopy and Molecular Structure. He has authored around 1600 research papers and 48 books.
Sachin TendulkarMaharashtraHaving debuted in 1989, Tendulkar played 664 international cricket matches in a career spanning over two decades. He holds various cricket records including the only player to have scored one hundred international centuries, the first batsman to score a double century in a One Day International and the only player to complete more than 30,000 runs in both ODI and Test cricket.
2015Madan Mohan MalaviyaUttar PradeshScholar and educational reformer Malaviya is a founder of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha (1906) and Banaras Hindu University and served as the university's vice-chancellor from 1919 until 1938. He was the President of Indian National Congress for four terms and was the Chairman of Hindustan Times from 1924 to 1946.
Atal Bihari VajpayeeMadhya PradeshParliamentarian for over four decades, Vajpayee was elected nine times to the Lok Sabha, twice to the Rajya Sabha and served as the Prime Minister of India for three terms; 1996, 1998, 1999–2004. He was Minister of External Affairs during 1977–79 and was awarded the "Best Parliamentarian" in 1994.
2019Pranab MukherjeeWest BengalMukherjee is an Indian politician who served as the 13th President of India from 2012 until 2017. In a political career spanning five decades, Mukherjee has been a senior leader in the Indian National Congress and has occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India. Prior to his election as President, he was Union Finance Minister from 2009 to 2012.
Bhupen HazarikaAssamHazarika was an Indian playback singer, lyricist, musician, poet and film-maker from Assam, widely known as Sudhakantha. His songs, written and sung mainly in the Assamese language by himself, are marked by humanity and universal brotherhood and have been translated and sung in many languages, most notably in Bengali and Hindi.
Nanaji DeshmukhMaharashtraChandikadas Amritrao Deshmukh also known as Nanaji Deshmukh (11 October 1916 – 27 February 2010) was a social activist from India. He worked in the fields of education, health, and rural self-reliance. He was a leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and also a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Last updated on: 24/10/2019

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