Bharat Ratna Award: First Three Recipients of Bharat Ratna, List of Winners [1954-2023]

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India, given to individuals for their exceptional contributions and achievements. The First Recipient of the Bharat Ratna was Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who received this esteemed award in 1954 for his distinguished services as a philosopher, statesman, and academic. The Bharat Ratna Award serves as a symbol of national recognition for those who have made significant contributions to the nation’s progress and welfare.

First Bharat Ratna Award was presented in 1954, setting a tradition of honouring exemplary individuals who have left an indelible mark on society. Since then, this prestigious award has been conferred upon exceptional personalities from various fields, including scientists, artists, social activists, and sports icons. The Bharat Ratna Awards 2023 have not been announced yet. These awards are very important, not just for the people who receive them, but for the whole country. They are given to those who have made outstanding contributions that have had a lasting impact on India’s progress and development. Know more about the First Three Recipients of Bharat Ratna and more in detail below.

What is Bharat Ratna?

The Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award in India. It is given to individuals who have made exceptional contributions in various fields such as art, literature, science, social services, and public affairs. It was instituted in 1954 to honour individuals who have achieved exceptional levels of service or performance, regardless of their race, occupation, status, or gender. The government changed the requirements for the award in December 2011 to include “any sector of human endeavour,” when it had previously only been presented for achievements in the sciences, humanities, and public service.

The Prime Minister recommends the awardees to the President, who then approves them. Each year, three Bharat Ratna awardees may be honoured each year. The awardees receive a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion in the shape of a peepal leaf. The peepal leaf is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, and it is said to represent knowledge and enlightenment.

First Three Recipients of Bharat Ratna

The Bharat Ratna is a prestigious award that recognizes the achievements of some of India’s most outstanding citizens. The first three recipients of the award were all highly accomplished individuals who made significant contributions to India. First Three Recipients of the Bharat Ratna were C. Rajagopalachari, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, and Sir C.V. Raman. Check the information regarding the achievement and contribution of the First Three Recipients of Bharat Ratna in detail below.

  • Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan: He was a politician and philosopher from India who served as the country’s second president from 1962 to 1967 and its first vice president from 1952 to 1962. He was an eminent scholar of comparative philosophy. He was a professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford and the University of Madras. He was also the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Delhi and the University of Andhra. He was also a prolific writer and was the First Recipient of the Bharat Ratna Award, which he received in 1954 for his outstanding contributions to India.
  • Chakravarti Rajagopalachari: He was an Indian statesman, author, lawyer, and forerunner in the Indian struggle for independence. He served as the last Governor-General of the Dominion of India from 1948 to 1950. He also served as the first Chief Minister of Madras State from 1952 to 1954. He was also a prolific writer and a scholar of Indian culture.
  • Sir C.V. Raman: He was a physicist and the first Indian to win a Nobel Prize. He was a professor of physics at the University of Calcutta and the Indian Institute of Science. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930 for his work on the scattering of light. He was the first Asian to win a Nobel Prize in any field of science when he was awarded the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery.

Bharat Ratna Award Winners: Highlights

There have been 48 people who have received the Bharat Ratna award since 1954, including 14 posthumous recipients. Below, the table lists some important facts, like the first Bharat Ratna winners, foreign recipients, etc.

Important Facts about Bharat Ratna Winners
Name of Bharat Ratna Award Recipient Details about Winners Year
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan First Recipient of Bharat Ratna 1954
C. Rajagopalachari Governor-General of the Dominion of India 1954
C. V. Raman Physicist and Nobel Prize winner 1954
Mother Teresa Anglo-Indian Nun 1980
Abdul Ghaffar Khan Pakistani Educationist 1987
Nelson Mandela South African President 1990
Lata Mangeshkar Indian Playback Singer 2001
Sachin Tendulkar Sportsperson/Youngest Recipient on the list 2014

Bharat Ratna Awards List 2022

Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award that the Government of India gives. It has been given to three people every year since its inception in 1954. There have been a few instances where the awards were cancelled. The year 2022 was such an instance as well. No Bharat Ratna awards were given in 2022, but 128 Padma awards were given.

List of Bharat Ratna Award Recipients (Year Wise)

Below is a tabulated and comprehensive list of Bharat Ratna Awardees, along with their achievements explained briefly.

Bharat Ratna Awardees Brief Description Year
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan 1st Vice President of India as well as First Recipient of Bharat Ratna Award. 1954
C. Rajagopalachari Last Governor-General of India, Indian Politician and Independence Activitist. 1954
C. V. Raman Nobel Laureate (Physics) for path-breaking contribution to the field of light scattering. 1954
Bhagwan Das Member of the Central Legislative Assembly of British India and Indian Theosophist 1955
M. Visvesvaraya Civil Engineer and Statesman 1955
Jawaharlal Nehru First Prime Minister of India 1955
Govind Ballabh Pant Indian freedom fighter and Architect of modern India 1957
Dhondo Keshav Karve Social reformer in India in the field of Women Empowerment and welfare 1958
Bidhan Chandra Roy Indian Physician, Philanthropist, Freedom Fighter and Chief Minister of West Bengal 1961
Purushottam Das Tandon Freedom fighter from Uttar Pradesh, Huge efforts in making Hindi an official language 1961
Rajendra Prasad First President of India 1962
Zakir Husain Third President of India 1963
Pandurang Vaman Kane Indologist and Sanskrit scholar 1963
Lal Bahadur Shastri Second Prime Minister of India 1966
Indira Gandhi First Female Prime Minister of India 1971
V.V. Giri Fourth President of India 1975
K. Kamaraj leader from the Indian National Congress 1976
Mother Teresa Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic missionary and nun 1980
Vinoba Bhave Indian advocate of human rights and nonviolence 1983
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan A Pashtun independence activist 1987
M. G. Ramachandran Indian filmmaker, Politician and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu 1988
B. R. Ambedkar Father of the Indian Constitution 1990
Nelson Mandela President of South Africa, He was inspired by Gandhi’s teachings of Ahimsa 1990
Rajiv Gandhi Sixth Prime Minister of India 1991
Vallabhbhai Patel First Deputy Prime Minister of India 1991
Morarji Desai Fourth Prime Minister of India 1991
Abul Kalam Azad Indian scholar and Freedom Fighter 1992
J. R. D. Tata Chairman of Tata Group 1992
Satyajit Ray Indian filmmaker 1992
Aruna Asaf Ali Indian independence activist and First Mayor of Delhi 1997
Gulzarilal Nanda Indian politician and economist who specialized in labor issues 1997
Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam Missile Man of India 1997
M. S. Subbulakshmi Carnatic singer from Madurai, Tamil Nadu 1998
Chidambaram Subramaniam Indian Independence activist and politician 1998
Jayaprakash Narayan Indian independence activist 1999
Amartya Sen Indian philosopher and economist 1999
Gopinath Bordoloi First Chief Minister of Assam 1999
Ravi Shankar Indian musician and composer of Hindustani classical music 1999
Lata Mangeshkar Indian music director and playback singer 2001
Bismillah Khan Indian musician is known for popularizing the Shehnai 2001
Bhimsen Joshi Indian vocalist from Karnataka 2009
C. N. R. Rao Head of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India 2014
Sachin Tendulkar Prolific cricketer 2014
Madan Mohan Malaviya Indian politician and educationist 2015
Atal Bihari Vajpayee Indian politician, poet, and statesman. He served three terms as the PM of India 2015
Pranab Mukherjee 13th President of India 2019
Nanaji Deshmukh Social Activist 2019
Bhupen Hazarika Indian playback singer from Assam 2019

Which President Got Bharat Ratna?

There have been 48 awardees of the esteemed Bharat Ratna Awards. There are 6 Indian presidents who have got Bharat Ratna. Check the list of Presidents of India who got the Bharat Ratna in the table below:

President of India Year of Award
Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan 1954
Rajendra Prasad 1962
Zakir Hussain 1963
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam 1997
Dr. V V Giri 1975
Pranab Mukherjee 2019

History of Bharat Ratna Award

The formation of the three-tiered Padma Vibhushan, divided into classes or warg that rank just below Bharat Ratna, was announced in a press release from the President’s office on January 2, 1954. The Padma Vibhushan was split into three awards – the Padma Vibhushan, which is the highest award, followed by the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Shri.

  • Bharat Ratna does not require that awardees be Indian nationals. Mother Teresa, a naturalized Indian citizen, received it in 1980. It has also been given to non-Indians: Pakistan’s Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1987 and South African President Nelson Mandela in 1990.
  • The first musician to get the honour was M. S. Subbulakshmi of Tamil Nadu. At age 40, Sachin Tendulkar became the honour’s youngest recipient and first sportsperson. On April 18, 1958, Dhondo Keshav Karve celebrated his 100th birthday by receiving this honour.
  • Twice throughout its existence, the award’s suspension was only temporary. After Morarji Desai took office as the country’s 4th prime minister in 1977, the first suspension occurred. On January 25, 1980, when Indira Gandhi was elected prime minister, the suspension was lifted.
  • After two Public-Interest Litigations contesting the “constitutional legitimacy” of the awards were filed in the Madhya Pradesh High Court and the Kerala High Court in the middle of 1992, the civilian awards were once more put on hold. After the litigation, the Supreme Court restored the awards in December 1995.

Key Facts about Bharat Ratna Award

These are some key facts about the coveted Bharat Ratna Award;

  • The original statute announced in January 1954 did not include the idea of giving this honour to a deceased recipient.
  • Finally, a provision for posthumous awards was incorporated into the illustrious award’s legislation in January 1966.
  • In 1954, the first Bharat Ratna was given to Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, and Sir C.V. Raman.
  • The first sportsperson and youngest recipient of the Bharat Ratna Award is Sachin Tendulkar.
  • Bronze is used to cast the medallion. It is shaped like a pipal tree leaf with a sunburst in the middle, and Bharat Ratna is inscribed below it.
  • The Indian flag is engraved on the reverse, and Satyameva Jayate is written there in Devanagari script. A white ribbon is used for sashing the medallion around the neck.
  • The prize carries no financial endowment.
  • The award was formerly limited to literature, arts, science, and public service achievements. However, in 2011, the Indian government broadened the criteria to include “any sphere of human endeavour.”
  • There is no specific rule stating that only citizens of India may receive the Bharat Ratna.
  • The Indian government recently changed the requirements for athletes to be eligible for the Bharat Ratna.
  • The Prime Minister recommends candidates for Bharat Ratna to the President.
  • A single year may only have a maximum of three awards given out overall.
  • Subhash Chandra Bose received the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1992. Subhash Chandra Bose’s family refuses to accept the honour because there isn’t any conclusive proof of his passing.

Bharat Ratna Award UPSC

Bharat Ratna is India’s highest civilian award and it is an important topic in the UPSC Syllabus. It is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in different fields, which inspires and brings pride to aspiring candidates.

Bharat Ratna Award UPSC Questions

Studying the Bharat Ratna Award is important as it is an essential part of the UPSC Syllabus. Candidates should practice solving UPSC previous year’s question papers to understand how questions are asked. By doing so, candidates can acquire comprehensive knowledge and detailed information about the topic.

Question: Which of the following individuals is not a recipient of the Bharat Ratna Award? (A) Mahatma Gandhi, (B) Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, (C) Dr. Rajendra Prasad, (D) Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Answer: (A) Mahatma Gandhi

For UPSC Mains:

Question: Discuss the criteria and selection process for awarding the Bharat Ratna, and analyze the role of this prestigious honour in acknowledging outstanding achievements and contributions across various fields in India.

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