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Bharat Ratna ( , translates to Jewel of India or Gem of India in English) is Indiamarker's highest civilian award, awarded for the highest degrees of national service. This service includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as "recognition of public service of the highest order." Unlike knights, holders of the Bharat Ratna carry no special title nor any other honorifics, but they do have a place in the Indian order of precedence.

The award was established by the first President of India, Rajendra Prasad, on 2 January 1954. Along with other major national honours, such as the Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, the awarding of the Bharat Ratna was suspended from 13 July 1977 to 26 January 1980.

The honour has been awarded to forty one people, a list which includes two non-Indians and a naturalized Indian citizen. Tamil Nadumarker is the state with the highest number of awardees (8) followed closely by Uttar Pradeshmarker (7). Originally, the specifications for the award called for a circular gold medal carrying the state emblem and motto, among other things. It is uncertain if a design in accordance with the original specifications was ever made. The actual award is designed in the shape of a peepul leaf and carries with the words "Bharat Ratna", inscribed in Devanagari script. The reverse side of the medal carries the state emblem and motto. The award is attached to a two-inch wide ribbon, and was designed to be worn around the recipient's neck.


The order was established by Rajendra Prasad, President of India, on 2 January 1954. The original statutes of January 1954 did not make allowance for posthumous awards (and this perhaps explains why the decoration was never awarded to Mahatma Gandhi), though this provision was added in the January 1955 statute. Subsequently, there have been twelve posthumous awards, including the award to Subhash Chandra Bose in 1992, which was later withdrawn due to a legal technicality, the only case of an award being withdrawn. The award was briefly suspended from 13 July 1977 to 26 January 26 1980.
While there was no formal provision that recipients of the Bharat Ratna should be Indian citizens, this seems to have been the general assumption. There has been one award to a naturalized Indian citizen, Mother Teresa (1980), and two to non-Indians, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1987) and Nelson Mandela (1990). The awarding of this honor though, has frequently been the subject of litigation questioning the constitutional basis of such.


Award to Subhas Chandra Bose

Indian freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1992. The award was later withdrawn due to a legal technicality. This is the only case of an award being withdrawn. It was withdrawn in response to a Supreme Court of Indiamarker directive following a Public Interest Litigation filed in the Court against the posthumous nature of the award. The Award Committee could not give conclusive evidence of Bose’s death and thus it invalidated the posthumous award.

Award to Abul Kalam Azad

When the award was offered to freedom fighter and India's first Minister of Education, Abul Kalam Azad, he promptly declined it saying that it should not be given to those who have been on the selection committee. Later he was awarded posthumously in 1992.


The original specifications for the award called for a circular gold medal, 35 mm in diameter, with the sun and the Hindi legend "Bharat Ratna" above and a floral wreath below. The reverse was to carry the state emblem and motto. It was to be worn around the neck from a white ribbon. There is no indication that any specimens of this design were ever produced and one year later the design was altered.

Living recipients

Indian recipients

Foreign recipients

Complete list of awardees

S.No Name Birth / death Awarded Notes Indian state or country of origin
1. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan 1888–1975 1954 Second President, First Vice President, Philosopher. Tamil Nadumarker
2. C. Rajagopalachari 1878–1972 1954 Last Governor-General, independence activist. Tamil Nadumarker
3. C. V. Raman 1888–1970 1954 Nobel-prize winning Physicist Tamil Nadumarker
4. Bhagwan Das 1869–1958 1955 Literature, independence activist Uttar Pradeshmarker
5. Mokshagundam Visvesvarayya 1861–1962 1955 Civil Engineer, Dam Architect, Diwan of Princely state of Mysore Karnatakamarker
6. Jawaharlal Nehru 1889–1964 1955 First Prime Minister, independence activist, Author. Uttar Pradeshmarker
7. Govind Ballabh Pant 1887–1961 1957 independence activist, Home Minister Uttar Pradeshmarker (now Uttarakhandmarker)
8. Dhondo Keshav Karve 1858–1962 1958 Educationist, Social Reformer, Awarded in his birth centenary year. Maharashtramarker
9. Bidhan Chandra Roy 1882–1962 1961 Physician, Politician, Former Chief Minister of West Bengal West Bengalmarker
10. Purushottam Das Tandon 1882–1962 1961 independence activist, Educationist Uttar Pradeshmarker
11. Rajendra Prasad 1884–1963 1962 First President, independence activist, Jurist Biharmarker
12. Zakir Hussain 1897–1969 1963 Former President, Scholar. Andhra Pradeshmarker
13. Pandurang Vaman Kane 1880–1972 1963 Indologist and Sanskrit scholar Maharashtramarker
14. Lal Bahadur Shastri 1904–1966 1966 Posthumous, Second Prime Minister, independence activist Uttar Pradeshmarker
15. Indira Gandhi 1917–1984 1971 Former Prime Minister Uttar Pradeshmarker
16. V. V. Giri 1894–1980 1975 Former President, Trade Unionist. odishamarker
17. K. Kamaraj 1903–1975 1976 Posthumous, independence activist, Chief Minister-Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadumarker
18. Mother Teresa 1910–1997 1980 Nobel Laureate (Peace, 1979). West Bengalmarker
19. Vinoba Bhave 1895–1982 1983 Posthumous, Social Reformer, independence activist. Maharashtramarker
20. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan 1890–1988 1987 First non-citizen, independence activist. Pakistanmarker
21. M. G. Ramachandran 1917–1987 1988 Posthumous, Chief Minister-Tamil Nadu, Actor. Tamil Nadumarker
22. B. R. Ambedkar 1891–1956 1990 Posthumous, Architect-Indian Constitution,Social Reformer, Economist and Scholar Maharashtramarker
23. Nelson Mandela b. 1918 1990 Second non-citizen and first non-Indian, Leader of Anti-Apartheid movement. South Africa
24. Rajiv Gandhi 1944–1991 1991 Posthumous, Former Prime Minister New Delhimarker
25. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel 1875–1950 1991 Posthumous, independence activist, First Home Minister of India. Gujaratmarker
26. Morarji Desai 1896–1995 1991 Former Prime Minister, independence activist. Gujaratmarker
27. Abul Kalam Azad 1888–1958 1992 Posthumous, independence activist, First Education Minister of India West Bengalmarker
28. J. R. D. Tata 1904–1993 1992 Industrialist and philanthropist Maharashtramarker
29. Satyajit Ray 1922–1992 1992 Film director West Bengalmarker
30. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam b. 1931 1997 Former President, scientist. Tamil Nadumarker
31. Gulzarilal Nanda 1898–1998 1997 independence activist, former Prime Minister. Punjab
32. Aruna Asaf Ali 1908–1996 1997 Posthumous, independence activist. West Bengalmarker
33. M. S. Subbulakshmi 1916–2004 1998 Carnatic music vocalist. Tamil Nadumarker
34. Chidambaram Subramaniam 1910–2000 1998 independence activist, Minister of Agriculture. Tamil Nadumarker
35. Jayaprakash Narayan 1902–1979 1999 Posthumous, independence activist, Social Reformer. Biharmarker
36. Ravi Shankar b. 1920 1999 Sitar player United Province
37. Amartya Sen b. 1933 1999 Nobel-prize winning Economist West Bengalmarker
38. Gopinath Bordoloi 1890–1950 1999 Posthumous, independence activist, Chief Minister Assammarker
39. Lata Mangeshkar b. 1929 2001 Singer Maharashtramarker
40. Bismillah Khan 1916–2006 2001 Classical musician, shehnai maestro Biharmarker
41. Bhimsen Joshi b. 1922 2008 Hindustani Classical vocalist Karnatakamarker


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