India’s Highest Civilian Award (Bharat Ratna): Facts at a Glance

Instituted in the year 1954, Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of India. It is awarded in recognition of exceptional service towards any field of human endeavour, without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex. 

Hemant Singh
May 17, 2021, 20:59 IST
Bharat Ratna
Bharat Ratna

Instituted in the year 1954, Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of India. It is awarded in recognition of exceptional service towards any field of human endeavour, without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex. 

A maximum of three Bharat Ratna awards can be given each year upon the recommendations made by the Prime Minister to the President of India. On conferment of the award, the recipient receives a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion. No monetary grant is associated with the award. 

As mentioned in Article 18(1) of the Indian Constitution, the recipients cannot use Bharat Ratna as a prefix or suffix to their names. However, a recipient can use the below-mentioned expression in their biodata, letterhead, visiting card, etc. 

‘Awarded Bharat Ratna by the President’
‘Recipient of Bharat Ratna Award’ 

Bharat Ratna Award Winners: List of Recipients (1954-2021)


The original award was a circular gold medal (35 mm in diameter) with a sun on the obverse side. "Bharat Ratna" was inscribed in Devanagari script above with a floral wreath below. The reverse side carried the National Emblem of India, made of platinum, with the National Motto, 'Satyameva Jayate', inscribed in Devanagari script. 

The aforementioned design was altered after a year. At present, the award is in the shape of a peepal leaf rimmed in platinum. It is approximately 59 mm long, 48 mm wide and 3.2 mm thick. On the obverse side, the embossed sunburst design, made of platinum, has a diameter of 16 mm with rays spreading out from the centre of the Sun. The words "Bharat Ratna" on the obverse side and "Satyameva Jayate" on the reverse side in Devanagari script, and the National Emblem on the reverse side remained the same. A 2-inch-wide white ribbon is attached to the medal so it can be worn around the neck.


The Bharat Ratna medals are produced at Kolkata's Alipore Mint, along with the other prestigious awards such as Padma Vibushan, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, and Param Veer Chakra.

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There is no written provision that Bharat Ratna should be awarded to Indian citizens only. A naturalized Indian citizen, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa (1980), and non-Indians, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Nelson Mandela (1990), were the recipients of this coveted award. 

List of Recipients of Bharat Ratna (1954-2019)

S.No. Name Year
1. C. Rajagopalachari 1954
2. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
3. Dr. C. V. Raman
4. Dr. Bhagwan Das 1955
5. Dr. M. Visvesvaraya
6. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru
7. Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant 1957
8. Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve 1958
9. Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy 1961
10. Purushottam Das Tandon
11. Dr. Rajendra Prasad 1962
12. Dr. Zakir Husain 1963
13. Dr. Pandurang Vaman Kane
14. Lal Bahadur Shastri (Posthumous) 1966
15. Indira Gandhi 1971
16. V. V. Giri 1975
17. K. Kamaraj (Posthumous) 1976
18. Mother Teresa 1980
19. Acharya Vinoba Bhave (Posthumous) 1983
20. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan 1987
21. M. G. Ramachandran (Posthumous) 1988
22. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (Posthumous) 1990
23. Dr. Nelson Mandela
24. Rajiv Gandhi (Posthumous) 1991
25. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (Posthumous)
26. Morarji Desai
27. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (Posthumous) 1992
28. J. R. D. Tata
29. Satyajit Ray
30. Gulzarilal Nanda 1997
31. Aruna Asaf Ali
32. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
33. M. S. Subbulakshmi 1998
34. Chidambaram Subramaniam
35. Jayaprakash Narayan (Posthumous) 1999
36. Professor Amartya Sen
37. Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi (Posthumous)
38. Pandit Ravi Shankar
39. Lata Mangeshkar 2001
40. Ustad Bismillah Khan
41. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi 2009
42. Professor C. N. R. Rao 2014
43. Sachin Tendulkar
44. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (Posthumous) 2015
45. Atal Bihari Vajpayee
46. Pranab Mukherjee 2019
47. Bhupen Hazarika (Posthumous)
48. Nanaji Deshmukh (Posthumous)

Facts about Bharat Ratna Award

1. The award was started by the former President of India Rajendra Prasad on 2nd January 1954.

2. Initially, the award was not conferred posthumously. This criterion was changed in 1966. 

3. Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, Dr. C.V. Raman, and Chakravarti Rajagopalachari were the first recipients of the Bharat Ratna Award in 1954. 

4. Sachin Tendulkar became the first sportsperson and the youngest Bharat Ratna recipient in 2014. 

5. In 1992, the government's decision to confer Bharat Ratna posthumously on Subhas Chandra Bose met with criticism due to controversy over his death. Following a 1997 Supreme Court decision, the award was cancelled. This was the first and to date the only occasion when the award was announced but withdrawn.

6. The year 1999 happens to be the only year when the award was conferred to four people.

Mahavir Chakra: India’s Second Highest Gallantry Award 


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