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Bharat Ratna Award: India’s Highest Civilian Award Recipients, Facts and Perks

Bharat Ratna Award: Bharat Ratna is India’s highest civilian award. Bharat Ratna is awarded for the highest degrees of national service. The Bharat ratna award was instituted in the year 1954. Until 2011, the official criteria for awarding the Bharat Ratna stipulated it was to be conferred “for the highest degrees of national service. This includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as “recognition of public service of the highest order. On December 2011, the Government of India modified the criteria to allow sportspersons to receive the award; since then, the award may be conferred “for the performance of highest order in any field of human endeavor.”

Any person without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex is eligible for the award. It is not mandatory that Bharat Ratna has to be awarded every year. The prime minister of India gives the recommendations for the Bharat Ratna to the president. On conferment of the award, the recipient of the award receives a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion. The number of annual awards is restricted to a maximum of three in a particular year.

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Bharat Ratna winners list :

Year Recipient Notes
1954 C. Rajagopalachari

(10 December 1878 – 25 December 1972)

An 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 Radhakrishnan

(5 September 1888 – 17 April 1975)

Philosopher Radhakrishnan served as India’s first Vice-President (1952–62) and second President (1962–67). His birthday on 5 September is observed as “Teachers’ Day” in India
C. V. Raman

(7 November 1888 – 21 November 1970)

Widely 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.
1955 Bhagwan Das

(12 January 1869 – 18 September 1958)

Independence 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. Visvesvaraya

(15 September 1860 – 14 April 1962)

Civil 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 Nehru

(14 November 1889 – 27 May 1964)

Nehru was the first and the longest-serving Prime Minister of India (1947–64). Nehru himself was Prime Minister of India at the time of receiving award.
1957 Govind Ballabh Pant

(10 September 1887 – 7 March 1961)

Independence 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.
1958 Dhondo Keshav Karve

(18 April 1858 – 9 November 1962)

Social 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.
1961 Bidhan Chandra Roy

(1 July 1882 – 1 July 1962)

A 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 Tandon

(1 August 1882 – 1 July 1962)

Often 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.
1962 Rajendra Prasad

(3 December 1884 – 28 February 1963)

Independence 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).
1963 Zakir Husain

(8 February 1897 – 3 May 1969)

Independence 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 Kane

(7 May 1880 – 8 May 1972)

Indologist 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.
1966 Lal Bahadur Shastri

(2 October 1904 – 11 January 1966)

Known 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.
1971 Indira Gandhi

(19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984)

Known as the “Iron Lady of India”,Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India during 1966–77 and 1980–84. Indira Gandhi herself was Prime Minister of India at the time of receiving award.
1975 V. V. Giri

(10 August 1894 – 24 June 1980)

While 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).
1976 K. Kamaraj

(15 July 1903 – 2 October 1975)

Independence activist and statesman Kamaraj was a Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for three terms; 1954–57, 1957–62, and 1962–63.
1980 Mother Teresa

(26 August 1910 – 5 September 1997)

“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.
1983 Vinoba Bhave

(11 September 1895 – 15 November 1982)

Independence activist, social reformer, and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He 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.
1987 Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

(6 February 1890 – 20 January 1988)

Widely 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.
1988 M. G. Ramachandran

(17 January 1917 – 24 December 1987)

Actor turned politician Ramachandran served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for three terms; 1977–80, 1980–84, 1985–87.
1990 B. R. Ambedkar

(14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956)

Social 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

(18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013)

Leader 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.
1991 Rajiv Gandhi

(20 August 1944 – 21 May 1991)

Rajiv Gandhi was the sixth Prime Minister of India serving from 1984 to 1989.
Vallabhbhai Patel

(31 October 1875 – 15 December 1950)

Widely 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 Desai

(29 February 1896 – 10 April 1995)

Independence 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.
1992 Abul Kalam Azad

(11 November 1888 – 22 February 1958)

Independence 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. Tata

(29 July 1904 – 29 November 1993)

Industrialist, philanthropist, and aviation pioneer, Tata founded India’s first airline Air India. He was 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 Ray

(2 May 1921 – 23 April 1992)

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.
1997 Gulzarilal Nanda

(4 July 1898 – 15 January 1998)

Independence activist Nanda was two times interim Prime Minister of India (1964, 1966) and two times deputy chairman of the Planning Commission.
Aruna Asaf Ali

(16 July 1909 – 29 July 1996)

Independence 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 Kalam

(15 October 1931 – 27 July 2015)

Aerospace 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 also served as the eleventh President of India from 2002 until 2007.
1998 M. S. Subbulakshmi

(16 September 1916 – 11 December 2004)

Carnatic 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 also acted in a few Tamil films in her youth from 1938–1947.
Chidambaram Subramaniam

(30 January 1910 – 7 November 2000)

Independence activist and former Minister of Agriculture of India (1964–66), Subramaniam is known for his contribution towards Green Revolution in India.
1999 Jayaprakash Narayan

(11 October 1902 – 8 October 1979)

Independence activist, social reformer, and commonly referred as “Loknayak” (“People’s Leader”), 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 Sen

(3 November 1933)

Winner 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 Bordoloi

(10 June 1890 – 5 August 1950)

Independence activist Bordoloi was 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 Shankar

(7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012)

Winner 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.
2001 Lata Mangeshkar

(28 September 1929)

Widely 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 Khan

(21 March 1916 – 21 August 2006)

Hindustani 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.
2009 Bhimsen Joshi

(4 February 1922 – 24 January 2011)

Hindustani 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”.
2014 C. N. R. Rao

(30 June 1934)

The 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 Tendulkar

(24 April 1973)

Having debuted in 1989, 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.
2015 Madan Mohan Malaviya

(25 December 1861 – 12 November 1946)

Scholar 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 Vajpayee

(25 December 1924 – 16 August 2018)

Parliamentarian 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.
Bharat Ratna
Pranab Mukherjee

(11 December 1935)

Mukherjee 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 Hazarika

(8 September 1926 – 5 November 2011)

Bharat Ratna
2019 Award winner Bhupen Hazarika 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 Deshmukh

(11 October 1916 – 27 February 2010)

Chandikadas Amritrao Deshmukh also known as Nanaji Deshmukh 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.

Specifications of Bharat Ratna Award

The original 1954 specifications of the award was a circle made of gold 35 mm in diameter with a centered sunburst design on the obverse side. The text “Bharat Ratna”, in Devanagari Script, is inscribed on the upper edge in silver gilt with a wreath set along on the lower edge. A platinum State Emblem of India was placed in the centre of the reverse side with the national motto, “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth alone triumphs) in Devanagari Script, inscribed in silver-gilt on the lower edge.

A year later (In 1955), the design was modified The current medal is in the shape of a peepal leaf, approximately 59 mm long, 48 mm wide and 3.2 mm thick and rimmed in platinum. The embossed sunburst design, made of platinum. The words “Bharat Ratna” on the obverse side remained the same as the 1954 design as did the emblem of India and “Satyameva Jayate” on the reverse side. In 1957, the silver-gilt decoration was changed to burnished bronze.

The Bharat Ratna award medals are produced at Alipore Mint, Kolkata along with the other civilian and military awards like Padma Vibushan, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, and Param Veer Chakra.

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Interesting facts for Bharat Ratna award

  1. The medal looks like a peepul leaf with “Bharat Ratna” written on it in the Devanagari script. An image of sun is also printed on it. The backside of the award carries the state emblem and motto.
  2. The award was started by the former President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad on 2nd January 1954. At that time only the alive people were eligible for their national service. Later these criteria were changed.
  3. The first person to receive Bharat Ratna was scientist C.V. Raman and the first person to receive Bharat Ratna after death is Lal Bahadur Shashtri.
  4. Vallabhbhai Patel is the eldest to receive (after death, at age 116) the award and Gulzarilal Nanda is the eldest alive person to receive (at age 99) the award.
  5. So far only 2 awards were given to foreign citizen-Nelson Mandela (1990), Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1987).
  6. Subhas Chandra Bose was awarded with Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1992. But due to controversy (as there is no evidence of Subhas Chandra Bose’s death) the award was withdrawn. It is the only incident in the history of Bharat Ratna that an award was withdrawn.
  7. There is no formal provision that recipients of the Bharat Ratna should be Indian citizens. Bharat Ratna has been one award to a naturalised Indian citizen, Mother Teresa (1980), and to two non-Indians, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1987) and Nelson Mandela (1990).
  8. Sachin Tendulkar is the youngest person alive at the time of receiving the award (at the age of 40). Dhondo Keshav Karve is the eldest person alive at the time of receiving the award (age 100).
  9. CNR Rao became the third scientist after C V Raman and former President A P J Abdul Kalam to be conferred with the Bharat Ratna.
  10. The Bharat Ratna holders however, come 7th in the Indian order of precedence behind the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, State Governors, former Presidents and the Deputy Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and Chief Justice of India.

The Perks Associated with Bharat Ratna Awards

  1. Free first-class flight journey anywhere in India.
  2. Free first-class train journey.
  3. A pension equal to or 50% of Prime Minister of India’s salary.
  4. Can attend the Parliament meetings and sessions.
  5. Precedence at par with Cabinet Rank.
  6. Eligible for Z category protection, if needed.
  7. Special Guest in Republic Day and Independence Day.
  8. Status equal to VVIP.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who were the first recipients of the Bharat Ratna Award
The first recipients of the Bharat Ratna award were Sarvepalli Radhakrishna, C. Rajagopalachari & C. V. Raman. They were awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1954.

Q. Who is the youngest recipient of Bharat Ratna?
Sachin Tendulkar is the youngest person to get India’s highest civilian honour, overtaking. He won the Bharat Ratna Award at the age of 40 years.

Q. Who is the first female recipient of the Bharat Ratna award?
The first female recipient of Bharat Ratna was Indira Gandhi. She was the sole awardee of it in 1971.

Q. Who started the Bharat Ratna Awards?
The award was started by the former President of India Rajendra Prasad on 2nd January, 1954.

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