Awards and honours are given both at individual and group level as a token of appreciation or recognition for an extraordinary work. Government of India gives several honours every year to those who have achieved outstanding merit in their field.

Awards given by Government of India

Bharat Ratna

  • The title Bharat Ratna literally means ‘Jewel of India’ and it is the highest civilian award bestowed by the Republic of India. Bharat Ratna is awarded to exceptional individuals who have performed in the highest order.
  • It was first given in 1954. Although this award was originally given to those artists who had outstanding achievements in art, science, literature and public service, but in December 2011, the criteria was expanded to include ‘any field of human endeavour’.
  • The Prime Minister of India makes the recommendations to the President of India who chooses not more than three people in a particular year for the award.
  • Although no money is given to the awardees, those who are chosen are given a peepal-leaf shaped medal and a certificate (sanad).
  • According to the Indian Order of Precedence, those who are given Bharat Ratna are ranked seventh.
  • The award cannot be used as a prefix or suffix to the recipients name, in terms of Article 18(1) of the Constitution.
  • Some of the prominent awardees are as follows:
    • 1954 (First Awardees)
      • C. Rajagopalachari – Freedom fighter and last Governor-General of India
      • Dr. C.V Raman – Physicist
      • Dr. S. Radhakrishnan – Philosopher as well as first Vice President and second President of India
    • 1955
      • Jawaharlal Nehru – Freedom fighter, writer and first Prime Minister of India
      • Bhagwan Das – Freedom fighter, philosopher and educationist
      • M. Visvesvaraya – Civil Engineer, Statesman, Diwan of Mysore
    • 1957
      • Govind Ballabh Pant – Freedom fighter, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Home Minister of India
    • 1958
      • Dhondo Keshav Karve – Social reformer and educator
    • 1961
      • Bidhan Chandra Roy – Physician, politician and social worker
      • Purushottam Das Tandon – Titled as “Rajarshi”, independence activist and politician
    • 1962
      • Rajendra Prasad – Jurist, freedom fighter and first President of India
    • 1966 (First Posthumous awardee)
      • Lal Bahadur Shastri – Freedom fighter and second Prime Minister of India
    • 1971
      • Indira Gandhi – Third Prime Minister of India
    • 1980
      • Mother Teresa – Social worker, founder of Missionaries of Charity and a Catholic nun
    • 1987
      • Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan – Known as Frontier Gandhi
    • 1990
      • B.R Ambedkar – Crusader against untouchability, Chief Architect of Indian Constitution
      • Nelson Mandela – Gandhi of South Africa
    • 1997
      • Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam – Scientist and 11th President of India
    • 1999
      • Prof. Amartya Sen – Economist
    • 2014
      • Sachin Tendulkar – Cricketer
      • C.N.R Rao – Chemist and Scientist
    • 2015
      • Madan Mohan Malviya – Scholar and Educational Reformer.
      • Atal Bihari Vajpayee – Prime Minister of India for three terms.
    • 2019
      • Pranab Mukherjee – 13th President of India
      • Bhupen Hazarika – Singer, lyricist, musician, etc. from Assam
      • Nanaji Deshmukh – Social activist.

Padma Awards

  • These awards were introduced in 1954 and are being given to deserving individuals for their exceptional services in their chosen fields like Sports, Art, Social work, Civil Service, Literature and Education, Public Affairs, Science and Technology, Trade and Industry, etc. The names of the awardees are announced every year on Republic Day.
  • The Padma Awards have been given every year except three times:
    • In the year 1977
    • In the year 1980
    • Between 1993-1997
  • There are several rules concerning the Padma awards: for example:
    • if someone is a recipient of a lesser degree of the Padma awards, they can be awarded a higher degree of award only after five or more years since the last conferment.
    • Secondly, the awards are rarely given posthumously, but exceptions can be made, if the case highly deserves.
    • Thirdly, there ought to be an element of public service in the achievements of the person to be selected. It should not be merely on the basis of excellence in any field, but it should be based on excellence plus.
    • Fourthly, Government servants including those working in PSUs, except doctors and scientists, are not eligible for these awards.
  • According to the Government of India, the awards are of three categories:
    • Padma Vibhushan: For exceptional and distinguished service (Second Degree Honour)
    • Padma Bhushan: For distinguished service of a high order (Third Degree Honour)
    • Padma Shri: For distinguished service (Fourth Degree Honour)

Padma Vibhushan

  • It is the second highest civilian award given by the Republic of India.
  • Those privileged to get the award are given a citation certificate and a medal, which has a lotus flower in the middle and the words ‘Desh Seva’, embossed on the obverse.

Padma Bhushan

  • It is the third highest civilian award given by the government of India for those who have contributed to India’s reputation in the global scenario.
  • The President of India confers the award in an elaborate ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in March or April.

Padma Shri

  • It is the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India and is given by the Government of India for distinguished contribution to various subjects like arts, literature, sports, politics, industry, medicine, social service, etc.
  • The awardee is not given cash but is given a certificate and a medallion with a three-leafed flower on one side and on the obverse Padma (lotus) and Shri (Mr. or Ms.) is written in Devanagiri script.

Gallantry Awards

  • Gallantry Awards are given to members of the armed services who have shown bravery and gallantry. These awards are a way to honor and recognize the exceptional courage and selflessness of the awardees in the face of adversity.
  • The following are the gallantry awards bestowed in India (in order of precedence):
    1. Param Vir Chakra
    2. Ashoka Chakra
    3. Mahavir Chakra
    4. Kirti Chakra
    5. Vir Chakra
    6. Shaurya Chakra
  • Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra, and Vir Chakra are the first three prizes in this category that were established following independence.
  • The other three gallantry awards were instituted in 1952. They were given the names Ashok Chakra, Kirti Chakra, and Shaurya Chakra afterwards.
  • On Republic Day and Independence Day, these honours are given out twice a year.
  • In India, the gallantry awards are categorized into two types – War Time Award and Peace time Award.
    • The awards and honours that come under the War Time Award are as follows:
      • Param Vir Chakra: It is India’s highest award for bravery.
      • Mahavir Chakra: It is the second-highest gallantry award.
      • Vir Chakra: It is the third-highest gallantry award.
    • The awards and honours that come under the Piece Time Award are as follows:
      • Ashok Chakra: It is the highest peace-time gallantry award.
      • Kirti Chakra: Kirti Chakra is equivalent to the Maha Vir Chakra award of wartime gallantry awards. This is the second in order of precedence of peacetime gallantry awards.
      • Shauraya Chakra: Shaurya Chakra is a peacetime gallantry award equivalent to Vir Chakra. It is an Indian military decoration award for courageous action or an act of self-sacrifice while not in direct action of combat against the enemy.
Paramvir ChakaraMahavir ChakaraVir Chakara
The Param Vir Chakra is India’s highest military honour awarded to servicemen and women for displaying the highest degree of bravery or self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy in wartime.The Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) is the second-highest military decoration in India and is awarded for acts of conspicuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea, or in the air, and maybe awarded posthumously.The Vir Chakra is awarded for acts of gallantry in the presence of the enemy, whether on land or at sea or in the air. It is the third-highest military decoration in India.
The bronze medal has four replicas of ‘Indra’s Vajra’ embossed on it with the State Emblem in the center.The medal is made of standard silver with a five-pointed heraldic star embossed on it with the points of the star just touching the rim.The medal is 1-3/8 inch circular silver medal. A five-pointed star, with the chakra in the center, and, on this, the domed gilded state emblem.
The words ‘Param Vir Chakra’ is embossed both in Hindi and English on the reverse and the two versions are separated by two lotus flowers. The ribbon is of plain purple color.The words ‘Maha Vir Chakra’ is embossed both in Hindi and English on the reverse, and two lotus flowers separate the two versions.The ribbon is 32 mm, half dark blue and half orange-saffron; dark blue is 16 mm, and saffron 16 mm.
Recipients or families of the recipients if awarded posthumously, receive compensation of rupees 3,000 per month.Recipients or their next of kin receive Rs 2,400/- per month with the same amount if another bar is added to the award.Recipients or their families if awarded posthumously, receive Rs 1,700 per month, with the same amount added to each bar to the decoration.

National Film Awards

  • These are amongst the most prominent awards given to those who have created cinematic excellence. These are annual awards and had started in 1954.
  • It was in the year 1973 that the Directorate of Film Festivals was made responsible for organising these awards. The Government appoints a national selection panel, which decides the winners. The President of India presents the awards and the films that win are showcased to the public.
  • The awards are not only given to the best amongst Indian Bollywood Cinema but even to the best films from the regional categories.
  • Following are the five major categories, which receive this award:
    • Swarna Kamal Or the Golden Lotus Award (five categories)
      • Best Feature Film
      • Best Direction
      • Best Children’s Film
      • Best Popular film providing wholesome entertainment
      • Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debutant Director
    • Rajat Kamal or Silver Lotus Award – It has 25 major categories like best feature film, etc.
    • Best Feature film in the languages specified in Schedule VIII of the Constitution – 12 Categories including Hindi, Bengali etc.
    • Best Feature film specified in the Languages other than those specified in Schedule VIII of the Constitution – Five categories including English, Bhojpuri, Kokborok, Monpa and Tulu.
  • The National Film Awards also include the very prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Lifetime Achievement Award which is presented to those who have spent their entire career to contribute to the Indian Cinema.

Sahitya Akademi Award

  • This is an honour given to those who achieve brilliance in literature. This award was instituted in 1954 and is given by the ‘Sahitya Akademi’ that is the National Academy of Letters of our country.
  • It is given annually to those who have achieved literary merit and created new trends by publishing their works, prose or poetry, in any of the 24 major languages recognised by the Akademi. Besides the 22 languages enumerated in the Constitution of India, Sahitya Akademi has recognised English and Rajasthani as languages which can be considered for the award.
  • The award comprises a cash prize of ₹1 lakh and a plaque which says ‘Sahitya’ in the Devanagiri script. The very famous Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray designed the plaque.
  • In many occasions, the award has been returned/declined as an act of protest.

Other Important Awards and Honours

Sahitya Akademi Fellowship

  • The Akademi also offers a prestigious fellowship called the ‘Sahitya Akademi Fellowship’. This is the highest honour conferred by the Akademi where they select the ‘Fellows and Honourary fellows’ who are chosen only because of their outstanding contribution to the literary arts.
  • Becoming a fellow of the Sahitya Akademi is a higher honour than even receiving the Sahitya Akademi award.

Bhasha Samman

  • These awards are also given by the Sahitya Akademi. Every year, Akademi chooses writers who have made significant contribution to Indian languages other than the 24 major languages covered under Sahitya Akademi award, and also for contribution to classical and medieval literature.
  • The Bhasha Samman comprises a plaque and a cash prize of ₹1 lakh.

Translation Awards

  • These are also given by the Sahitya Akademi to those who have attempted translation of major works from other languages to the 24 major languages.
  • Special importance is given to those who attempt translation of the ancient and medieval literature. The prize consists of a cash prize of ₹50,000 and a plaque.

Jnanpith Award

  • It is also known as the Gyanpeeth Award (Seat of Knowledge) and is given for outstanding literary achievement. It was instituted in 1961 by the Bharitya Jnanpith, a trust run by the Jain family famous for founding the newspaper The Times of India.
  • It is given to those Indian citizens who compose literature in one of the 22 languages listed in the Schedule VIII of the Indian Constitution and English.
  • Apart from a plaque and a cash prize of ₹11 lakh, the winner is also given a bronze statue of Goddess Saraswati. This award is not given posthumously. To remember, there are 23 languages (22 + English) in which Jnanpith Award is given.

Saraswati Samman

  • The Saraswati Samman is an annual award for outstanding prose or poetry literary works in any of the 22 Indian languages listed in Schedule VIII of the Constitution of India.
  • It is named after an Indian goddess of learning and is consShanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awardsdidered to be among the highest literary awards in India.
  • The Saraswati Samman was instituted in 1991 by the K. K. Birla Foundation. It consists of ₹15 lakh, a citation and a plaque. Candidates are selected from among them whose literary works have been publised in the past 10 years.

Vyas Samman

  • The Vyas Samman is a literary award, first awarded in 1991. It is awarded annually again by the K. K. Birla Foundation and includes a cash payout of ₹250,000. To be eligible for the award, the literary work must be in Hindi language and has been published in the past 10 years.

Dada Saheb Phalke Award

  • Introduced in 1969, the Dada Saheb Phalke Award is India’s highest award in cinema to commemorate Dada Saheb Phalke (1870–1944), the legendary film-maker who made India’s first full-length feature film, Raja Harishchandra (1913).
  • It is awarded by the Directorate of Film Festivals, an organisation set up by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. It is given for outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema and is selected by a Committee consisting of eminent personalities from the Indian film industry.
  • The award comprises a Swarna Kamal (Golden Lotus) medallion, and a cash prize of ₹10 lakh.

Indira Gandhi Award For International Peace, Disarmament and Development

  • Presented by Indira Gandhi Memorial Fund in India
  • For specialized contribution in the field of international disarmament and development.

Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards

  • The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology (SSB) is a science award in India given annually by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for notable and outstanding research, applied or fundamental, in biology, chemistry, environmental science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, and physics.
  • The prize recognizes outstanding Indian work (according to the view of CSIR awarding committee) in science and technology. It is the most coveted award in multidisciplinary science in India.
  • The award is named after the founder Director of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar.
  • It was first awarded in 1958.

Dhyan Chand Award

  • Dhyan Chand Award is given for sports and games
  • It was initiated in 2002
  • The first awardee are Ashoka Diwan, Shahuraj Birajdar, and Aparna Ghosh

Arjuna Awards

  • Instituted in 1961
  • Given by Sports Ministry, Government of India.
  • These are given for the special achievements in different types of sports.

Dronacharya Awards

  • Dronacharya Award is given for outstanding coaches in sports and games.
  • It was instituted in 1985.
  • Given by Sports Ministry, Government of India.
  • These are given to sports coaches.
  • The first awardee are Bhalchandra Bhaskar Bhagwat, O.M. Nambiar, and Om Prakash Bhardwaj

Moorti Devi Award

  • Moorti Devi Award is given in the field of literature
  • It was initiated in the year 1983
  • The first awardee was C.K. Nagaraja Rao

Dadasaheb Phalke Award

  • Dadasaheb Phalke Award is given for outstanding contribution to the growth and development of the Indian cinema
  • This award was initiated in 1969
  • The first receiver of this award was Devika Rani

Pritzker Architecture Prize

  • Pritzker Architecture is awarded in the field of Architecture
  • This award started in the year 1979
  • The first awardee was Philip Johnson

Grammy Award

  • Grammy Award is given for outstanding achievement in the music industry
  • This award and honour was initiated in 1959
  • The first receiver of the ‘Record of the Year’ was Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare), first receiver of ‘Album of the Year’ was The Music from Peter Gunn and ‘Song of the Year’ was Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)

Abel Prize

  • Abel prize is given for outstanding scientific work in the field of Mathematics
  • This award was instituted in the year 2002
  • The first Indian awardee was Professor Srinivasa SR Varadhan (2007) whereas at the international level the first awardee was Jean-Pierre Serre (2003)

Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award

  • Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award is given for excellence in academics/ public administration or management.
  • It was initiated in 2000
  • The first awardee was Prof. C.K. Prahalad
The Fukuoka Prize
  • It is an award established by the city of Fukuoka (Japan) to honor the outstanding work of individuals or organisations in preserving or creating Asian culture. There are three prize categories: Grand Prize, Academic Prize, and Arts and Culture Prize.
  • Few prominent Indian winners are Romila Thapar (1997), Amjad Ali Khan (2004), Ramchandra Guha (2015), A.R. Rahman (2016), Teejan Bai (2018), etc.

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