Civilian Awards and Honours in India

By Avinash Kumar|Updated : January 24th, 2021

This article is about Civilian Awards and Honours in India, which is one of the important topic in UPPSC Mains exam. The aspirants can use this article for both revision and answer writing. Almost all the important points has been covered in this article, which can help the students to fetch more marks in Mains examination.



The Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of India, which was instituted on 2 January 1954.  It is treated on a different footing from the Padma Awards. It is given for exceptional service or performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour. No distinction is made with regard to race, occupation, position, or sex. The award was earlier limited to achievements in the particular fields of arts, literature, science, and public services. However, the government later enhanced the criteria to include "any field of human endeavour" in 2011.

The recommendations for prospective recipients of Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President of India. However, no formal recommendations for Bharat Ratna are mandatory. The number of awards is limited to a maximum of three/year. The recipients receive a Sanad (which is a certificate) signed by the President. They also receive a peepal leaf-shaped medallion. There is no money associated with the award. Bharat Ratna recipients are ranked seventh in the Indian order of precedence.

The award cannot be used as a prefix or suffix to the name of the recipient. However, if necessary, the recipient may use the following expression in their CV/Biodata, letterhead or visiting card etc., to indicate that he or she is a recipient of the Bharat Ratna award, for example- ‘‘Awarded Bharat Ratna by the President’ or ‘Recipient of Bharat Ratna Award’, etc.

The latest recipient of the award is Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh (posthumous) and Bhupen Hazarika (posthumous) in 2019. 


The Padma Vibhushan, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri are other civilian awards given in India.

On 2 January 1954, the President of India announced the creation of two civilian awards—Bharat Ratna, which was the highest civilian award, and the three-tier Padma Vibhushan awards, classified into Pahla Varg (Class I), Dusra Varg(Class II), and Tisra Varg (Class III), which rank below the Bharat Ratna awards. However, on 15 January 1955, the Padma Vibhushan awards were reclassified into three different awards, which were the Padma Vibhushan, the highest of the three, followed by the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri.

The Padma Vibhushan is the second-highest civilian award of India, second only after Bharat Ratna. It was instituted on 2 January 1954. It is given for exceptional and distinguished service and without any distinction of race, or occupation, or position, or sex. The award criteria include ( including service rendered by government servants), including doctors and scientists. But it excludes those working with the public sector undertakings.

An illustrative list of the fields is given as under:

  • Art
  • Social work
  • Public Affairs
  • Science & Engineering
  • Trade & Industry
  • Medicine
  • Literature & Education
  • Civil Service
  • Sports
  • Others (fields not covered under above)

By January 2020, the Padma Vibhushan has been given to 314 individuals, which 16 posthumous and 21 non-citizen recipients.

PROCEDURE- Between 1 May and 15 September of every year, recommendations for the award are submitted to the Padma Awards Committee (PAC), constituted by the Prime Minister of India. The PAC is headed by the Cabinet Secretary and includes the Home Secretary, Secretary to the President of India and four to six eminent persons as members of the PAC.

The recommendations are received from -

  • all the state and the union territory governments,
  • the Ministries of the Government of India,
  • Previous Bharat Ratna recipients,
  • previous Padma Vibhushan award recipients,
  • the Institutes of Excellence,
  • the Ministers, Chief Ministers and Governors of States,
  • the Members of Parliament including private individuals.

The committee then later submits its recommendations to the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic of India for further approval. The announcement is made on Republic Day.

The statutes of 1954 did not allow for posthumous awards. However, this was later modified in the 1955 statute, allowing for posthumous awards. The Padma Vibhushan was briefly suspended twice, first from July 1977 to January 1980 and then from August 1992 to December 1995. Some of the recipients have also refused or returned their conferments.

Latest recipients- On 25 January 2020, the award has been given to seven recipients -

  1. George Fernandes,
  2. Arun Jaitley,
  3. Anerood Jugnauth,
  4. Mary Kom,
  5. Chhannulal Mishra,
  6. Sushma Swaraj and
  7. Vishwesha Teertha.

The Padma Bhushan is the 3rd highest award in the civilian sphere in India. In the order of precedence, it comes only after the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Vibhushan. It is awarded for distinguished service of outstanding quality. The procedure for its award is the same as that of the Padma Vibhushan.

Up to 2019, the award had been bestowed on 1254 individuals which included twenty-one posthumous and ninety-six non-citizen recipients. In 2020, it was awarded to 16 recipients.

Winners of the Padma Bhushan award in 2020 include -

  • Mumtaz Ali,
  • Muazzam Ali (posthumously),
  • Muzaffar Hussain Baig,
  • Ajay Chakraborty,
  • Manoj Das,
  • Balakrishna Doshi,
  • Krishnammal Jagannathan,
  • Former Nagaland Chief Minister SC Jamir,
  • Uttarakhand's well-known environmentalist and social worker Dr Anil Prakash Joshi,
  • Tsering Landol,
  • eminent industrialist Anand Mahindra,
  • Neelakanta Ramakrishna Madhava Menon (Posthumous),
  • former Union Minister Manohar Parrikar (Posthumous),
  • Jagdish Seth,
  • Olympian badminton player PV Sindhu and
  • industrialist Venu Srinivasan.

The Padma Shri is the fourth-highest civilian award of India.  It is awarded for distinguished service. The procedure for its award is the same as that of the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan.

In 2020, it was awarded to 118 people. Prominent winners include Guru Shashadhar Acharya, Jai Prakash Agarwal, Jagdish Lal Ahuja Social Work Punjab, Kazi Masum Akhtar, Gloria Arieira, Khan Zaheerkhan Bakhtiyarkhan, Padmavathy Bandopadhyay, Dr Sushovan Banerjee, Dr Digambar Behera, Pawar Popatrao Bhaguji, Himmata Ram Bhambhu, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Gafurbhai M. Bilakhia, Bob Blackman, Indira P. P. Bora, Madan Singh Chauhan among others.

A higher category of Padma award can be awarded to a person when a period of at least five years has since awarding the earlier Padma award.

However, inaptly deserving cases, relaxation can be made by the Awards Committee. The total number of awards to be given in a year should not be more than 120. This number excludes those to be given to posthumously and to NRI/foreigners/OCIs.

There are no specific criteria for withdrawal of Padma awards. However, the President of India, as per the awards statutes, may cancel or annul any award in the case of any misconduct committed by a recipient of the award. In the past, at least three awards of the Padma Shri have been annulled, twice in 1958 and once in 1974.


Gallantry Awards are of 2 types-

  • Gallantry in wartime
  • Gallantry in peacetime.

Gallantry Awards (in wartime ) are of the following types-

  1. The Param Vir Chakra (PVC)
  2. The Mahavir Chakra (MVC)
  3. The Vir Chakra

Gallantry Awards (in peacetime) are of the following types-

  1. The Ashok Chakra
  2. The Kirti Chakra
  3. The Shaurya Chakra

The order of precedence of the above awards is as follows-

  1. the Param Vir Chakra
  2. the Ashoka Chakra
  3. the Mahavir Chakra
  4. the Kirti Chakra
  5. the Vir Chakra
  6. the Shaurya Chakra.

After independence, the wartime gallantry awards- the Param Vir Chakra, the Maha Vir Chakra and the Vir Chakra were created by the Government of India on 26th January in 1950. These were deemed to have effect from the date of independence, ie. 15th August 1947.

Thereafter, the peacetime gallantry awards- the Ashoka Chakra Class-I, the Ashoka Chakra Class-II, the Ashoka Chakra Class-III were created by the Government of India on 4th January in  1952. These were deemed to have an effect also from15th August 1947. These awards were later renamed as the Ashoka Chakra, the Kirti Chakra and the Shaurya Chakra respectively.

The gallantry awards along with other Defence Distinguished Service awards and medals are conferred on the awardees or they are next of kin by the President of India at the Defence Investiture Ceremony held annually at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. However, 2 awards ie. The Param Vir Chakra and the Ashoka Chakra are awarded by the President of India to the awardees or they're next of kin in the Republic Day Parade at the Rajpath held on 26th January every year.

  • The Param Vir Chakra - awarded for the most conspicuous bravery and the pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, in the face of the enemy.
  • The Ashoka Chakra - awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice in peacetime.
  • The Maha Vir Chakra - awarded for conspicuous gallantry in the face of the enemy.
  • The Kirti Chakra - awarded for conspicuous gallantry in peacetime.
  • The Vir Chakra - awarded for acts of gallantry in the face of the enemy.
  • The Shaurya Chakra - awarded for gallantry in peacetime.

All of the gallantry awards mentioned above may be awarded posthumously (after the death).


This is a literary honour in India, which the Sahitya Akademi confers every year on writers/authors of the most outstanding books/works/creations of literary merit published in any major Indian languages. (These include the 22 languages contained in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution along with English and Rajasthani ). The Sahitya Academy is the National Academy of Letters of India.

The Sahitya Academy Awards were established in 1954. It comprises a plaque along with a cash prize of ₹ 1,00,000. The purpose of the award is to recognize, honour and promote excellence in the field of Indian writing along with acknowledging new literary trends. The yearly process of selection of awardees goes on for the previous 12 months. The plaque that is awarded by the Sahitya Akademi was originally designed by Satyajit Ray (eminent filmmaker).


Lalit Kala Akademi was established in 1954. It is an autonomous organisation functioning under the Ministry of Culture. Its headquarters are located in New Delhi. The Lalit Kala Akademi

aims to promote, propagate and spread awareness about the understanding of Indian art, within and outside the country, in the fields of visual arts which include painting, graphics and sculpture etc. The Lalit Kala Akademi also works to preserve and protect the glorious traditions of the past and further enrich them with the contemporary works of the modern artist.

Lalit Kala Akademi announces winners at the Annual Academy Awards. The latest such awards were announced in March 2019. The winners are selected by a two-tier jury. The awardees are honoured with a plaque, a shawl and are accompanied by prize money of Rs 1 lakh. The awards are presented during the National Exhibition of Art held every year.


The Jnanpith Award is a literary award presented every year by the organization Bharatiya Jnanpith to an author for his/her outstanding contribution towards the field of literature. The award, which was instituted in 1961, is conferred only on Indian authors writing in languages enumerated in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India and also English. There is no posthumous conferral.

Between 1965 to 1981, the award was bestowed on authors for their most outstanding work and comprised of a citation plaque along with a cash prize of ₹1 lakh and a bronze replica of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom in Hinduism. The first person on whom the award was conferred was G. Sankara Kurup (Malayalam). He was awarded the prize for his collection of poems which was called the Odakkuzhal ( meaning The Bamboo Flute) in 1965. This was published in 1950. The rules were revised in later years to consider only works of literature that had been published during the preceding twenty years. This excluded the year for which the award was to be given. Further,  the cash prize was also increased to ₹1.5 lakh from 1981.

In 2015, the cash prize had been revised to ₹11 lakh. Out of 23 eligible languages, the award has been bestowed for works in 16 languages: Hindi (11), Kannada (8), Bengali and Malayalam (6 each), Gujarati, Marathi, Odiya, and Urdu (4 each), Telugu (2), Assamese, Punjabi, and Tamil (2 each), English, Kashmiri, Konkani, and Sanskrit (1 each). The award has been bestowed on 58 writers out of which 7 have been women. Bengali novelist Ashapoorna Devi was the first woman to be conferred the award in 1976. She was honoured for the novel Pratham Pratishruti (1965) (The First Promise), the first book in a trilogy.

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