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Dr. Rajendra Prasad ( ) (December 3, 1884 – February 28, 1963) was the first President of the Republic of India .

He was an independence activist and, as a leader of the Congress Party, played a prominent role in the Indian Independence Movement. He served as President of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the constitution of the Republic from 1948 to 1950. He had also served as a Cabinet Minister briefly in the first Government of Independent India.

Personal life and background

Prasad was born in Jiradei village of Siwan Biharmarker. His father, Mahadev Sahai, was the Diwan of Hathwa Raj with whom his family shared a very good relationship; his mother, Kamleshwari Devi, was a devout lady who would tell stories from the Ramayana to her son. At the age of five, the young Rajendra Prasad was sent to a Maulavi for learning Persian. After that he was sent to Chhapramarker Zilla School for further primary studies. He was married at the age of 12 to Rajvanshi Devi. He then went on to study at R.K. Ghosh's Academy in Patnamarker to be with his elder brother Mahendra Prasad. Soon afterward, however, he rejoined the Chhapra Zilla School, and it was from there that he passed the entrance examination of Calcutta University, at the age of 18. He stood first in the first division of that examination. He joined the Presidency College in 1902. His dauntless determination towards the service of nation was joined by Bihar Kesari Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha and Bihar Bibhuti Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha who came under his tutelage.He passed in 1915 with a Gold medal in Masters in Law examination with honors. He went on to complete his Doctorate in Law. Prasad used to practice his Law & studies in Bhagalpurmarker (Bihar),and was a very popular and eminent figure over there during that ceremonius era.


During the Independence Movement

Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhulabhai Desai and Babu Rajendra Prasad (Center) at the AICC Session, April 1939
Rajendra Prasad was drawn into the Indian freedom struggle soon after starting his career as a lawyer. During one of the fact-finding missions at Champaranmarker, Mahatma Gandhi asked him to come with volunteers. Rajendra Prasad was greatly moved by the dedication, courage, and conviction of Mahatma Gandhi and he quit as a Senator of the University in 1921. He also responded to the call by the Mahatma to boycott Western education by asking his son Mrityunjaya Prasad, a brilliant student to drop out of the University and enroll himself in Bihar Vidyapeeth, an institution he had along with his colleagues founded on the traditional Indian model. He wrote articles for Searchlight and the Desh and collected funds for these papers. He toured widely, explaining, lecturing and exhorting. He took an active role in helping the affected people during the 1914 floods that struck Bihar and Bengal. When the earthquake of Bihar occurred on January 15, 1934, Rajendra Prasad was in jail. During that period, he gave the entire responsibility on his behalf to his close colleague and eminent ghandhian Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha. He was released two days later. He set himself for the task of raising funds. The Viceroy had raised an oppositional fund however Rajendra Prasad's fund collected over 38 Lakhs (Rs. 3,800,000), three times what the Viceroy could manage. During the 1935 Quetta earthquake, when he was not allowed to leave the country, he set up relief committees in Sindhmarker and Punjab.

He was elected as the President of Indian National Congress during the Bombay session in October 1934. He again became the President when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose resigned in 1939.

After Indiamarker became Republic in 1950, he was elected the President of India. As the first President, he was independent and unwilling to allow the Prime Minister or the party to usurp his constitutional prerogatives. However, following the tussle over the enactment of the Hindu Code Bill, he moderated his stance. He set several important precedents for later Presidents to follow.

His sister Bhagwati Devi died on the night of 25 January 1950, a day before the Republic Day of India. She doted on her dearly-loved younger brother. It was only on return from the parade that he set about the task of cremation. In 1962, after 12 years as President, he announced his decision to retire. He was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian award.

Further reading

  • Rajendra Prasad, first President of India, by Kewalram Lalchand Panjabi. Published by Macmillan, 1960.
  • Portrait of a president: letters of Dr. Rajendra Prasad written to Mrs. Gyanwati Darbar, by Rajendra Prasad, India. President (1950-1962 : Prasad), Gyanwati Darbar. Published by Vikas Pub. House, 1974.
  • Rajendra Prasad: twelve years of triumph and despair, by Rajendra Lal Handa. Published by Sterling Publishers, 1979.
  • Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Correspondence and Select Documents, by Rajendra Prasad, Valmiki Choudhary. Published by Allied Publishers, 1984. ISBN 8170230020. Excerpts (Vol. 1-Vol. 10)
  • Dr. Rajendra Prasad,Bold textsancharee
by India Parliament. Lok Sabha. Published by Lok Sabha Secretariat, 1990.
  • Rajendra Prasad and the Indian freedom struggle, 1917-1947, by Nirmal Kumar. Published by Patriot Publishers, 1991. ISBN 8170501288.
  • Dr. Rajendra Prasad: Political Thinkers Of Modern India, by V. Grover. Published by Deep & Deep Publications, 1993.
  • First Citizens of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad to Dr. Shanker Dayal Sharma: Profile and Bibliography, by A. B. Kohli. Published by Reliance Pub. House, 1995. ISBN 8185972710.


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