Bharat Ratna

Bharat Ratna
The Bharat Ratna is India's highest civilian award. This award is conferred for “recognizing exceptional service/performance of the highest order, without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex." There is no provision for the annual mandatory conferral of Bharat Ratna.

As of February 2024, Bharat Ratna has been conferred upon a total of 53 eminent personalities (51 Indians + 2 Foreigners).


The concept of Bharat Ratna was first conceived and instituted by Dr. Rajendra Prasad on January 2, 1954

In the original 1954 edition of the award, there was no statue for the posthumous conferral. It was in January 1966, the government decided to confer the award posthumously. 

The Bharat Ratna was initially given in the fields of Arts, Literature, Science, and Public Services. But later in 2011, the Government of India decided to remove this limitation and extended it to "any field of human endeavor." The award is not restricted to Indian citizens only.

The Prime Minister of India makes recommendations of the Bharat Ratna recipients to the President of India, with a maximum of three nominees being awarded per year. 

There is no monetary benefit for the award and the recipients will receive a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President of India and a peepal leaf-shaped medallion cast in bronze. 

However, according to  Article 18 (1) of the Constitution, the award cannot be used as a ‘prefix or suffix’ to the recipient’s name. He/she may use the following expression in their biodata/letterhead/visiting card, etc. to indicate that he/she is a recipient of the award:

Awarded Bharat Ratna by the President’
Recipient of Bharat Ratna Award’ 

Basic Facts

  • Instituted on January 2, 1954.
  • Max no. of awards per year 3.
  • Presented by – President of India.
  • Shape Peppal Leaf.
  • No. of Posthumous Conferral of Bharat Ratna so far 7.
  • First Indians to receive Bharat Ratna – Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, C. Rajagopalachari, C. V. Raman & Bhagwan Das (1954).
  • First Indian President to receive  Bharat Ratna – Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (1954).
  • First Indian to receive Bharat Ratna Posthumously – Lal Bahadur Shastri (1966).
  • First Woman awarded with Bharat Ratna – Indira Gandhi (1971).
    • First Indian Prime Minister to confer herself the Bharat Ratna  Indira Gandhi (1971).
  • No. of women who got Bharat Ratna – 5.
    • Indira Gandhi, Aruna Asif Ali, Mother Theresa, M.S. Subbhalakshmi & Lata Mangeshkar.
  • First Foreigner to win Bharat Ratna – Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (1987).
    • Two non-Indians to receive  Bharat Ratna – Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (1987) & Nelson Mandela (1990).
  • First person to receive the Bharat Ratna from outside of the Asian continent  Nelson Mandela (1990).
  • First Sportsperson to receive Bharat Ratna  Sachin Tendulkar (2014).
  • First Indian Musician to get Bharat Ratna M.S. Subhalakshmi (1998).
  • First Naturalized Indian citizen to receive Bharat Ratna Mother Theresa (1980).
  • Only Indians who won both the Nobel Prize and Bharat Ratna Amartya Sen, Mother Theresa & C. V. Raman.
    • Nelson Mandela was also conferred with both the Nobel Prize and Bharat Ratna.
  • First & Only Filmmaker who was conferred with Bharat Ratna  Satyajit Ray (1992).
  • First & Only Industrialist to receive Bharat Ratna – JRD Tata (1992).
  • First & the Only Actor to be conferred with Bharat Ratna – M.G. Ramachandran (1988).
    • Only person of Kerala origin to win Bharat Ratna – M.G. Ramachandran (born in a Malayali family which migrated from Palakkad to Srilanka).
  • The Second Malayali to receive Bharat Ratna  Dr. M.S. Swaminathan.
  • First Indian to allegedly nominate himself for Bharat Ratna – Jawaharlal Nehru (1955).
    • Later it proved to be wrong when former president Dr. Rajendra Prasad said it was his decision.
  • Oldest Person to receive Bharat Ratna Dhondo Keshav Karve (100 years-old, 1958).
  • Youngest Person to receive Bharat Ratna – Sachin Tendulkar (40 years-old).
  • Only incident when Bharat Ratna was withdrawn – Subhas Chandra Bose (1992).
  • The family that has been awarded the Bharat Ratna for three generations – Nehru Family.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru (1955)Indira Gandhi (1971) & Rajiv Gandhi (1991).
  • The Indian Presidents who were conferred with Bharat Ratna – Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Zakir Hussain, V.V. Giri, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam & Pranab Mukherjee.
  • The 50th recipient of Bharat Ratna – L.K Advani.
The Bharat Ratna award medallions are manufactured at Alipore Mint, Kolkata.

List of Bharat Ratna Recipients

Sl. No.NameAwarded In
1.C. Rajagopalachari
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
C.V. Raman
2.Bhagwan Das
M. Visvesvaraya
Jawaharlal Nehru
3.Govind Ballabh Pant1957
4.Dhondo Keshav Karve1958
5.Bidhan Chandra Roy
Purushottam Das Tandon
6.Dr. Rajendra Prasad1962
7.Zakir Husain
Pandurang Vaman Kane
8.Lal Bahadur Shastri1966
9.Indira Gandhi1971
10.VV Giri1975
11.K Kamaraj1976
12.Mother Teresa1980
13.Vinoba Bhave1983
14.Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan1987
15.MG Ramachandran1988
16.Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
Nelson Mandela
17.Rajiv Gandhi
 Vallabhbhai Patel
 Morarji Desai
18.Abul Kalam Azad
JRD Tata
Satyajit Ray
19.Gulzarilal Nanda
Aruna Asaf Ali
APJ Abdul Kalam
20.M.S. Subbulakshmi
Chidambaram Subramaniam
21.Jayaprakash Narayan
Amartya Sen
Gopinath Bordoloi
Ravi Shankar
22.Lata Mangeshkar
Bismillah Khan
23.Bhimsen Joshi2009
24.CNR Rao
Sachin Tendulkar
25.Madan Mohan Malaviya
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
26.Pranab Mukherjee
Nanaji Deshmukh
Bhupen Hazarika
27.L.K. Advani,
P.V. Narasimha Rao,
M.S. Swaminathan
Chaudhary Charan Singh
Karpoori Thakur

There were two periods in history when Bharat Ratna was suspended. They are as follows:
  1. July 1977 – January 1980 – Frequent changes in the central government.
  2. Aug 1992 – December 1995 – Challenging the validity of Bharat Ratna recipients in various courts throughout the country via PILs (Public Interest Litigation).

The guidelines mention a rule no more than three awards every year. This norm was first breached in 1999, when Jayaprakash Narayan, Amartya Sen, Gopinath Bordoloi, and Ravi Shankar received the prize. 

This rule was breached for the second time in 2024, when five people were given the honour.


  • Political Moves
    • In 1976, the Indira Gandhi government posthumously bestowed Bharat Ratna to Kamaraj to placate voters ahead of the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections in 1977.
    • In 1988, when Bharat Ratna was conferred posthumously to M.G. Ramchandran by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. This political move was made to influence the voters of Tamil Nadu prior to the elections of 1989.
    • Similar the Bharat Ratna conferral of B.R. Ambedkar in 1990 by V.P. Singh’s Govt. raised several questions whether it was a move to appease Dalit voters.
    • Similarly, in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also criticized for awarding Bharat Ratna to Madan Mohan Malaviya because he died before the award was instituted and for appeasing the Brahmin community.
  • Awarding Bharat Ratna to Cricketers & Bollywood Idols.
    • In 2014, Sachin Tendulkar became the youngest and the only sportsperson ever to be honored with Bharat Ratna at the age of 40.

      However, people were dissatisfied with this conferral by the UPA (Congress) government because at that time Sachin himself was a member of Rajya Sabha and hasn't participated in any of the debates, didn't raise a single question in the parliament for 3 years, and his attendance rate was less than 6 percent. And he continues to endorse different national and international brands. This raised several questions on his suitability.

      Many cases were filed against Sachin Tendulkar and then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Similarly, a PIL was also filed for ignoring the legendary hockey player Dhyan Chand and chess master Vishwanathan Anand.

    • Lata Mangeshkar was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 2001. Similarly to Sachin, she too had the worst attendance record in Rajya Sabha.
  • The next controversy occurred in 1992 when the central government under Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao decided to bestow Bharat Ratna to Subhash Chandra Bose posthumously.

    But this move sparked country-wide protests since the Government of India hasn't acknowledged his supposed death on August 18, 1945 and his daughter Anita Pfaff refused to accept the award. Later in 1997, the Supreme Court put an end to this controversy based on various PILs, and the award was forced to be withdrawn thereafter.

  • Demand for removal of Mother Theresa's Bharat Ratna raised by RSS citing her alleged proselytizing (religious conversion).

📝 SideNotes:

  • First Mayor of Delhi – Aruna Asaf Ali.
  • First Minister of Education – Abul Kalam Azad.
  • First Chief Minister of Assam – Gopinath Bordoloi.
  • First Vice President of India – Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.
  • First Deputy Prime Minister of India –Vallabhbhai Patel.
  • Last Governor-General of India – Chakravarti Rajagopalachari.
  • Bard of Brahmaputra – Bhupen Hazarika.
  • Missile Man of India – Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
  • Founder of Banaras University – Madan Mohan Malaviya.
  • Engineers' Day in India – September 15, the birthday of Sir Visvesvaraya,
  • Alias of Chandikadas Amritrao Deshmukh – Nanaji Deshmukh.

Thanks for reading!!!